If someone out there is making something or being even vaguely creative, there’s a better-than-average chance that I’ll be stupidly excited about it. When that something is blisteringly awesome in the extreme, I generally flop around in paroxysms of joy for a while before telling everyone I know about it. I encountered the Ukiyo-e Heroes project being done by Jed Henry and David Bull a while back, and I still haven’t fully recovered.
Jed Henry is an illustrator and shameless geek who combined his love of video games with his knowledge of Japanese traditional woodblock prints to create a series of pieces depicting familiar video game characters in a classic Japanese style. You can tell an immense amount of passion went into this project – the designs are gorgeous, intricate, and, gloriously subtle (if that’s possible) in their interpretations.
The woman in the gold and red scale armor looks familiar, and then suddenly you realize why she has a streak of green paint across her eyes. You’re looking at Samus Aran, battling a cluster of metroids. Or Mario, in a flowing red and blue hakama, faces off against Donkey Kong, who poises, ready to hurl a sake cask. Brilliant stuff.
The icing on the already kickass cake is the fact that Henry is collaborating with Tokyo printmaker David Bull to carve woodblocks, and hand print the series. It’s fascinating to see a master artisan at work, especially doing things in such an ancient method, using traditional tools. There is a series of videos Bull has made, documenting the carving and printing process of the Ukiyo-e Heroes series, and they’re well worth watching, if you have any interest whatsoever in the project. Here’s one to check out: