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Art: Japanese Line Drawings


Here is an article from New Scientist on the subject. There are more articles with better pictures on the subject. Just search “japanese line drawings” in the search bar.

Article: To see the original go here.

Implied motion
To investigate why line drawings by Japanese artist Hokusai Katsushika (1760-1849) convey such vivid motion, Naoyuki Osaka of Kyoto University in Japan scanned the brains of students while they looked at examples of his work.
The drawings depict humans in positions that imply motion (left) or show little or no motion (centre), and stationary objects (right).
They found that only the images on the left activated the extrastriate visual cortex – the same region which lights up when humans view real-life motion in photos (NeuroReport, vol 21, p 264)
(Image: Naoyuki Osaka/NeuroReport)

Moving faces
This man jumping in the air – also by Hokusai – is a classic example of how unstable bodily positions, even when drawn without the aid of other visual cues such as action lines or environmental context, can depict movement. According to Patrick Johnston, a cognitive scientist at Swinburne University of Technology in Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia, “static images depicting facial emotion may also be thought of as involving a kind of implied motion.” In such images, artists use our familiarity with how people dynamically produce facial expressions to create a feeling of movement, he says.
(Image: Hokusai Katsushika (1878), reproduced on microfilm by Adam Matthew Publications/Bodleian Photographic Service/National Library of Australia)
Wind
Hokusai depicts motion using not only unstable bodily positions, but also context. Here the dust in the air, fallen umbrellas and the cowering man all help show that the wind is creating movement.
(Image: Hokusai Katsushika (1878), reproduced on microfilm by Adam Matthew Publications/Bodleian Photographic Service/National Library of Australia)
Precarious motion
The man on the left, standing on one leg, is in a highly precarious position. According to Naoyuki Osaka, humans naturally correct this instability to make him stable, “filling in” where gravity would act. In this picture, Hokusai exploits this to show movement. He also employs this technique by placing the woman in the air.
(Image: Hokusai Katsushika (1878), reproduced on microfilm by Adam Matthew Publications/Bodleian Photographic Service/National Library of Australia)
Grain throwers
Look at the man dropping grains: again, our brains fill in gravity’s action so we understand the grains are falling.
Now compare that with the standing man on his right, or the woman sitting below. Both these images are interpreted as static, because of their stable body positions.
(Image: Hokusai Katsushika (1878), reproduced on microfilm by Adam Matthew Publications/Bodleian Photographic Service/National Library of Australia)
Rickety structure
This wood engraving by Taiso Yoshitoshi (1839–1892) shows the ruler Takeda Shingen as a young boy, fighting a raccoon by moonlight. The unstable and rickety wooden structure is used to show that the fight is in motion.
(Image: Taiso Yoshitoshi, from the series New Forms of Thirty-six Ghosts/National Library of Australia)
Moving water
A young man is praying under a waterfall in this woodblock print by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861). Unlike Hokusai, Kuniyoshi uses action lines as a visual cue to represent motion in the water.
(Image: from a set of 24 images inspired by Japanese myths and legends/National Library of Australia)
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