This has to be the most grisly ukiyo-e print I’ve ever seen:
It’s from Tsukioka Yoshitoshi’s ’28 Famous Murders with Verse’ and the others are suitably gruesome. Yoshitoshi is regarded as the last great master of Ukiyo-e (he died 1892) and his work was brought to my attention by the quite wonderful Saladin Ahmed (he’s well worth a follow and his book is pretty damn good too, though that’s a post for another time).
He was a student of Kuniyoshi (who we’ve covered once or twice before). To my knowledge Kuniyoshi never produced anything as gruesome (though he did plenty of body horror and genital demons, including one series showcasing the versatility of an ample scrotum) but you can see influences in some of Yoshitoshi’s earlier work; his Battle of Cats and Mice (above) chimes with Kuniyoshi’s cat prints and they both have a fondness for comedic animal prints.
(Left: Yoshitoshi’s A giant octopus takes on all comers at the fish market at Nihombashi; Right: Kuniyoshi’s Octopus Games)
Just in case anyone’s interested the original sketch went a little something like this (complete with hot chocolate stain):
I can’t actually remember which way round the inspiration worked but the idea was to essentially combine these two images:
(By Maurice Sendak and Katsushika Hokusai respectively)
More specifically the idea was to render the first in the style of the second, or insert the characters of the first into the second. My original intention was also to recreate the scene in an ink & wash style but in the end I decided I wouldn’t be able to get the fine detail and the homage itself would be lost so I went for manipulating the Hokusai image rather than recreating it.
The main difference between my original sketch and the final (lined paper and stain aside) is the positioning of Max and the Wild Thing. Originally I’d pictured Max in the nearest boat (which I’d incorrectly remembered as breaking through the near wave) with the Wild Thing emerging from between the rear wave but in the end I opted to switch them. Firstly to echo Sendak’s original spread (Wild Thing left; Max right) and I also didn’t want the sail on Max’s boat obscuring any of the waves themselves (though i didn’t mind it obscuring Mt Fuji as I like that it stops this image being a view of Mt Fuji).
So with the two nearer boats shopped out and Max’s mast, sail and self added in I was just left with the Wild Thing. The first attempt was pretty awful, I was trying to construct it from various flat elements and then stealing bits of texture from the original (as I had with the sail and Max) but it looked too out of place. Then the obvious hit me: drop in a sea creature/dragon from an existing japanese woodblock. A bit of scouting around found this little gem:
So with a little help from Utagawa Kuniyoshi and some recolouring so the dragon isn’t lost in the wave we have our final picture:
Hopefully Glen’s tattoo went well this afternoon – chatting about tattoos with both Glen and Alexis has made me think a bit more about whether I want a tattoo (which I’m pretty sure I do) and if so what I would want (which I am fairly clueless on).
Whilst scouting around for ideas I came across this interview with Horiyoshi III:
I think if I was to get a tattoo I wouldn’t quite have the balls to:
Have it done with what appears to be a large screwdriver
Have a full body irezumi
That aside his work is pretty amazing – reminds me of a guy I once saw in a Kyoto bathhouse.