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Editor's Introduction to the Traditional Haiga Section
Bette Wappner [email]

As with any art form, whether the artist is amateur or professional, as long as their desire is to create in the spirit of the masters-striving for truth, beauty, and quality, only then is a truly successful piece of art born. In woodblock printing, brush painting, calligraphy, photography, computer art, haiku, or the combination of any of these, mastering a skill is more than just learning techniques; it's about realizing the philosophy and aesthetics involved.

In this section of traditional haiga, may we sit back together, relax, and enjoy our focus on two beautiful categories of classical art techniques-Japanese Woodblock Printmaking and Brush and Ink Painting. If some art here has a somewhat modern subject matter, it is our intent to promote the traditional art techniques mentioned.

Japanese Woodblock Printmaking is specifically described as Moku Hanga (moku-wood); (hanga-print). A non-toxic, water-based technique distinguished from other printmaking techniques by the simplicity of material involved-wood, water, paper, pigment, rice paste- and by carving/cutting, and hand burnished printing. We will be featuring artists who use the Moku Hanga technique, so to familiarize you, here is a brief history of two popular Japanese print forms that used this tradition.

Ukiyo-e is a genre of Japanese woodblock prints produced during the 17th and 18th centuries in the Classical Edo Period. Ukiyo-e literally means 'floating world picture.' Referring to the merchant class flourishing on worldly pleasures, it was considered commercial art, used mainly for advertising theaters, actors, and pleasure quarters.

Surimono is a Japanese word for 'a printed thing' that included short poetry written in old Japanese characters. Surimono dates back as early as 1760 to its prime time in the first half of the 19th century. These moku hanga woodblock prints, deluxe with luxurious features of gold and silver pigments and embossing, were considered fine art. Surimono were sold privately, given as gifts or announcements, or exchanged within poetry groups.

Haiga is the traditional Japanese term for a painting, a poem, and calligraphy together, using brush and ink (Hai-humorous; Ga-painting). Originating around the 17th century in Japan, it actually evolved from an earlier Chinese form of painting called Nanga. Brush paintings with haiku were used on scrolls, screens, and fans and were also an important part of the tea ceremony. The qualities of haiga are simple, everyday ordinary elements with a flair of humor that together portray truth and beauty. The strokes of the brush should come alive with rhythm. A traditional haiga should contain balance, movement, essential white space, quality composition, signature, and a seal. Whether created by a beginning or experienced painter, a true haiga painting depicts an expression of nature's impression on the soul of the artist.

Some woodblock prints and brush paintings we feature may or may not incorporate haiku within the piece. As in our Modern Haiga Section, haiku may be shown separate from the art. I welcome your comments and contributions and hope you have been inspired!

Bette Wappner, Email

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