Star Wars as traditional Japanese ukiyo-e?

  • Star Wars is arguably one of the most famous film franchises in the world since its release in 1977. This popularity is growing even more so now that new films are being shot. Many people can become completely obsessed with the films, and with owning any collectables and paraphernalia. People even spend thousands of dollars on action figures that were worth only a couple of dollars when they came out. Ukiyo-e, on the other hand, is a very ancient and traditional form of Japanese woodblock art. Many people who enjoy art of Japan may be familiar with some iconic wood block prints.

    What is Ukiyo-e?

    Ukiyo-e, directly translated as “pictures of the floating world” are a set of woodblock printings and paintings that were very popular in Japan from the 17th to the 19th century and are still revered today. Ukiyo-e were not just done for the sake or art but were often aimed at the merchant class of Edo who, with the economic growth of the capital, found themselves better off than they were before. Like most art ukiyo-e displayed many different scenes, from erotic artwork to iconic Japanese scenes, famous actors and nature. One of the most recognisable prints is by Hokusai in his series Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji which was produced around 1830. Originally woodblock prints were just black and white, but over time these developed into colourful and intricate works. Unusually the production of a woodblock print was not done by just one artist, but rather a series of craftsmen. The artist would design the picture, a carver would carve the block and then a printer would produce the finished piece.

    Star Wars!

    So what does Ukiyo-e have to do with Star Wars? Well, some ingenious artists have decided to combine the historic practice of 17th century Japan with the modern phenomenon that is the Star Wars universe.

    A Japanese artist started a crowd funding page to produce three original prints of Star Wars ukiyo-e, and has so far raised over 800% of his original target! This artist is not just producing fan art, these are officially licensed products too! Due to the authenticity of the prints, and the length of labour required to produce them, they are not that cheap. Each print costs are $425, although you can get the set of three.

    You can see the process that the artist has gone through the produce these prints, the woodwork is painstakingly intricate, and must have taken a long time to produce. Traditionally all ukiyo-e were handmade, no machines were used in the process which allowed for the blending of inks to produce more stunning works, this is the same of the Star Wars ones too.
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