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Monday, September 15, 2014

Katsushika Hokusai

Great Wave of Kanagawa

"I have been in love with painting ever since I became conscious of it at the age of six. I drew some pictures I thought fairly good when I was fifty, but really nothing I did before the age of seventy was of any value at all. At seventy-three I have at last caught every aspect of nature — birds, fish, animals, insects, trees, grasses, all. When I am eighty I shall have developed still further, and I will really master the secrets of art at ninety. When I reach a hundred my work will be truly sublime, and my final goal will be attained around the age of one hundred and ten, when every line and dot I draw will be imbued with life."

Japanese Artist
1760 - 1849

Humility is a trait that many creative leaders do not possess, yet is is a behavior we all should cultivate.  In fact, the lack of humility has caused the downfall of many creative leaders.  They start believing what their admirers say and acting in accordance with what is said.  In the words of my childhood:  they grow too big for their britches.  They begin to believe their own press.

Learn to cultivate the trait of humility.  None of us are perfect.  We all make mistakes — both in our personal lives and our artistic creations.  It takes a lifetime to become a master and even then we may not achieve that designation.  Be thankful for what you have been given and seek to be humble.

Sometimes we become so caught up in the day to day activities of living that we forget how short life is. We are here today and gone tomorrow.  In the eons of time, we live for only a second.  That fact alone should make us humble.  And if you look at our place in the universe, we shrink even more.  Practice humility.

Hokusai began painting at the age of six.  He probably was inspired to pick up the brush by his father who painted designs on mirrors.  At twelve, Hokusai's father sent him to work at a bookshop and lending library, a popular institution for middle and upper class Japanese.  The bookshop contained books made from wood-cut blocks.  From the ages of 14 to 18, Hokusai was an apprentice of a wood-carver.

At 18, Hokusai found work in the studio of Katsukawa Shunsho who was an artist of wood block prints and paintings called ukiyo-e.  Hokusai became a master of the form.  He spent 10 years working for Shunsho.

Hokusai had two wives and five children.  Both wives died young.  His youngest daughter, Oyei, became an artist like him.  Hokusai changed his name at least thirty times throughout his career as he changed art forms.

Hokusai had a long career and he produced most of his important work after the age of 60. One of his most famous works, Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, was created between the ages of 66 and 73.

Here is a short biography of Hokusai.