Keeping Art Alive — Katsushika Hokusai

Took up a Facebook offer to join an art game — Keeping Art Alive. Players get an artist’s name, check out their work, report back to the group. It’s not a game like Monopoly or Scrabble. It’s more like the old TV show Mission Impossible, where you get an assignment and decide if you want to accept it or it’s like blow drying your hair. You get hot ideas and fluff up your art appreciation style, show it off. I guess the point of the game is the chance to amaze friends and family, as well as yourself and in the process, Keep Art Alive. My artistic game piece: Katsushika Hokusai

Some years before Japanese artist Hokusai’s death in 1849 at the age of 89, he reportedly said: “At the age of five years I had the habit of sketching things. At the age of fifty I had produced a large number of pictures, but for all that, none of them had any merit until the age of seventy.

“At seventy-three finally I learned something about the true nature of things, birds, animals, insects, fish, the grasses and the trees. So at the age of eighty years I will have made some progress, at ninety I will have penetrated the deepest significance of things, at a hundred I will make real wonders and at a hundred and ten, every point, every line, will have a life of its own.”

Although Hokusai did not reach 110, his vision has endured and 165 years after his death his art is continually being adapted by contemporary artists — notably tattoos, photography, movies and graphic arts, including posters and clothing. That’s particularly evident in modern iterations of “The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife,” created when he was 60 years old.

I ran across artist Hokusai recently while writing a flash fiction piece that ended in the stealing of an erotic ivory netsuke, which Hokusai created in his youth, but in wood-block carvings, as far as I can tell. Netsuke are sexual images or sculptures, produced for hundreds of years by both Chinese and Japanese artists. They’re sometimes called “pillow art.”

I think the game highlights art history as essential to understanding our culture. Buying a pair of jeans with an image on the pockets may be cool, but chances are the purchaser has no idea of the fascinating history behind the pocket art.

I guess that since I now know more about this master Japanese artist and the art form than before, I’ve won the satisfaction of helping Keep Art Alive.

Originally published at

Published by Kate Campbell

Writer, editor, photographer, novelist, short story writer, poet.

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