Art of the Game: Ukiyo-E Heroes
“Art of the Game” takes a highly enjoyable, fascinating look at an unlikely melding of two seemingly incompatible forms: the ancient Japanese woodcut art called ukiyo-e and illustrations inspired by modern video games. Jed Henry, a skilled American illustrator, became fascinated by ukiyo-e — the gorgeous prints that were produced by Japanese woodblock artists, primarily during the 17th to 19th centuries — and he first intended to learn the laborious and difficult-to-master techniques himself to produce prints of his video-game-inspired artwork. Instead, he discovered a Canadian, David Bull, who has long lived in Japan and has become one of a relative handful of artists/craftsmen still capable of working in the ukiyo-e style. Because no master would take him on as an apprentice, Bull is largely self-taught, but his work is now considered the equal of Japanese practitioners. Henry recruited the initially reluctant Bull to collaborate with him, transforming his illustrations into woodblock prints. The film explores their collaboration, using the production of a new print as a means of leading viewers through the full process, which is insanely labor-intensive and necessitates using an array of highly specialized handmade items.