Month: December 2017

Japan: Modern exhibition

Today I reflect on a few aspects of a catalogue that accompanied the exhibition Japan: Modern. Japanese prints from the Elise Wessels Collection.

Even though I didn’t have the time to see the original prints at the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam last year, I did manage to buy the catalogue from the museum store. (Museum stores are great places to find all manner of superb books).

I have been a fan of Japanese aesthetic and culture for quite some time and I was delighted to read (and see) during my research that Jon McNaught, an illustrator of whose work I became fond of and have outlined in a different post, talks about his early fascination with Japanese printmaking. But of course, it goes without saying that Japan has been an important source of inspiration for many people.

The show introduces Japanese printmaking from the first half of the twentieth century, with the emphasis on the first three decades. The experienced rapid growth of industrialization and modernization, caused great changes in landscapes and social relations. Artistic expression of the emotional responses is represented by two movements: sosaku hanga (creative prints) and shin hanga (new prints; contrary to the name they are basically a continuation of the classical tradition of ukiyo-e printmaking)


Some examples from the collection:


Onshi Koshiro, ‘Diving’, 1932


Kawanishi Hide, ‘Towa road’


Henmi Takashi. From the series ‘One Hundred Views of New Tokyo’


Uehara Konen, DŌTONBORI


Both movements used the same medium but had very different ideas about application, artistic practice and choice of theme. The more conservative shin hanga artists would work under a publisher’s supervision, rendering highly refined products and depicting traditional themes such as the female portrait and atmospheric landscapes. Sosuka hanga artists promoted the idea of an artist as being in charge of the print’s production steps, which often resulted in a more crude outcome with less details. They focused on their immediate surroundings and daily life as motifs.

In reality the distinction between both movements was not as strict. Often artists would create templates for a publisher and would then also be responsible for the printing process.

My reading up about this part of art history and about artists’ sources of inspiration is like tracing back a dynamic chain reaction being in constant movement. It is fascinating to actually see the influences of Japanese “art”, seen as it wasn’t even considered as art in Japan when these prints became hugely popular in the Western world. One of the most famous and obvious examples on how influential these Japanese visual techniques were, is some of Vincent van Gogh’s work.

The van Gogh museum’s website renders this aspect beautifully: Meet Vincent. Inspiration from Japan

Van Gogh Museum (2017) Meet Vincent. Inspiration from Japan. [Online] Available at: [Accessed: 11 December 2017]


Jansen, M. (2016) Japan: Modern. Elise Wessels Collection published on the occasion of the exhibition at the Rijks Museum, Amsterdam: June 24 – September 11, 2016. Amsterdam: Rijks Museum

Rijksmuseum (2017) Japan: Modern. Elise Wessels Collection [Online] September 2016. Available at: [Accessed: 11 December 2017]


To illustrate is to make decisions

I can’t think of anything, A. Shemilt


In this post I reflect on a paragraph I read the other day and that is still resonating with me. It is an excerpt from the book Illustration – 100 ways to draw a bird by Felix Scheinberger. Unfortunately it is currently only available in German, but I will do my best to translate the mentioned paragraph.


“Ruminating and hesitating does not make you a better Illustrator. Take risks when you work. The time wasted with indecision can be used to create two bold images instead of a single, timid one. (…)

Creating means making decisions and illustrating means making one decision after another – confidently until you have reached your final result.”

Felix Scheinberger (p. 34)


Yes. True. However, it does require knowledge of the desired goal, namely what message I want to communicate, something that Scheinberger states in the previous chapter. So: What is my message, who am I as an illustrator, where do I want to get with my practice and how? Questions, that I am still in the process of answering as I proceed in my studies.

Felix Scheinberg is a contemporary German illustrator, artist, designer and professor for illustration. He is the author and illustrator of Urban Watercolour Sketching as well as several books in German on illustration, and he has illustrated more than fifty children’s books in the last decade. His work has appeared in magazines including Harvard Business Manager and Psychology Today. He teaches at the University of Applied Sciences in Münster, Germany.


Felix Scheinberger: 100 Wege einen Vogel zu malen (english:”100 ways to paint a bird”)


Scheinberger, F. (2013) Illustration. 100 Wege einen Vogel zu malen. Mainz: Verlag Hermann Schmidt


Taarika John

Taarika John is an illustrator based in Mumbai, India. I came across her work during my visual keyword research on behance.

The project that caught my eye was her Final Diploma project, where she worked with the ‘Art in Transit’ project. Art in Transit is a multifaceted public art initiative facilitated by the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology and the city of Bangalore.


Storyboard. Taarika John
Storyboard sketch. Taarika John
‘The abandoned plot’ Taarika John


It is fascinating to see how she visually explored the themes of monotony and routine in context of space, narratives and experiences. After mapping the area surrounding the ‘Art in Transit’ location she combined her mapping results with a fictional narrative of the non-fictional space. I think the comic convey her message very well using a multidimensional layout, depicting different perspectives and a balanced composition.


behance (2017) Manifestations of Monotomy [Online] 2014. Available at: [Accessed: 21 November 2017]

John, Taarika (2017) Taarika John [Online] 2017. Available from:  [Accessed: 21 November 2017]

John, T. (2015) Art in Transit [Online] Jan 02, 2015. Available from: [Accessed: 21 November 2017]

Art in Transit Bangalore (2017) Connecting people and city through art [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 21 November 2017]


Keyword outcome

Coming across Jon McNaught’s work and his creative approach inspired me to look closer into the field of ‘silent comics’. It is impressive what you can achieve in terms of mood and intimacy without a dialogue or even a plot.

Encouraged to apply this to my chosen keyword I picked a daily routine (making tea) and structured the activity as a silent comic by breaking down the different steps.


Sketch: daily routine of making tea – A. Shemilt


Color 1. Daily routine of making tea – A. Shemilt


Color 3. Daily routine of making tea – A. Shemilt


There is still room for experimenting, not only with the theme but also with form and style. The idea that is growing slowly in the back of my mind is to combine the aspects from Taarika John’s approach with artists portrayed in Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. Possible outcomes could be book illustrations or a series of posters. Work in progress!

I learned that even with the absence of words or a preset storyline in comics there are different ways of suggesting subtle narratives. By providing just enough visual information through colour and composition I can evoke potential narrative layers and have the viewer fill in the (visual) gaps. To my own surprise I discovered that I don’t have to have a meaningful meassage as a starting point. This was and still is a bit of a learning curve for me to trust the ongoing process enough that some way or the other an idea will develop.

I benefited from researching other artists and their works and by doing so I began developing an interest for silent comics; something that was not on my horizon before and something that I would like to explore further in the future.



On Silent Comics

In this post I reflect on silent comics. This was triggered by my visual research for my keyword project. I found a well researched blog entry by Thal Sneddon, that I will re-blog here (in parts). Sneddon is a freelance writer with a Master in Comic Studies.

From: The Silent and the Sequential: Wordless Comics (Sneddon, 2015)

“When we go with Scott McCloud’s definition of what makes a comic – “Juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer” – we see that words are not required, though the distinction between “pictorial” and “other images” does imply a perceived hierarchy. Eisner requires only that a comic is “sequential art”, acknowledging that a comic without words is possible but cautioning that “sophistication” on the part of the reader is required.

In wordless comics dialogue is absent but narration is not. The lack of words means that the reader has to piece together the story, and even then, much is subjective and open to interpretation.

Unlike film or television where we simply receive the visual and audio communication, or even a book where we supplement what we are given with what we imagine, a comic actively requires us to move the characters, backgrounds, action or inaction, between what we are shown. In a wordless comic further clues are removed, making the read even more of a subjective and personal experience.”

Some examples:

Marc Antoine Mathieu: 3″


Masashi Tanaka: Gon

In the article “Silent Comics” (Postema, 2016) the Barbara Postema, argues that the “wordless genre allows the comic to create a space that pushes the visual register to communicate in more intricate and varied ways. Wordlessness can allow the image to push beyond representing the visual diegesis in some kind of mimetic way: in addition to the visible world, the imagery is expanded to represent other sensations, including sound and its qualities and dynamics.”


Great examples for representation of sound in a ‘soundless’ comic:

Joseph Lambert: ‘Keep it steady, turtle.’


“Due to the absence of dialogue, often the narratives of silent comics remain somewhat indeterminate, or lean towards the symbolic.”

This really resonates with me. Often I don’t have the confidence to make up a story or I would feel too embarrassed about it. Learning to develop pictorial narratives without relying on words can be just as powerful. This also leaves enough room for the reader’s own interpretation and frees me from the pressure of having to pick a specific message.


SNEDDON, T. (2017) The Silent and the Sequential: Wordless Comics [Online] January 20th 2015. Available from: [Accessed: 28 November 2017].


Postema, B. (2016) Silent Comics. In: Bramlett, F., Cook, R. & Meskin, A. The Routledge Companion to Comics. London: Taylor and Francis.