Jed Henry, a BYU graduate in animation, combines his skill as an artist with his love for Japan and games to create stunning woodblock prints that are both modern and traditional.

PROVO, Utah (February 12, 2019)—As a kid growing up in rural Indiana, Jed Henry said it was there he got into gaming, which originated in Japan. He later served a mission in the Tokyo area, where he consequently fell in love with Japan and the people there. While at BYU, Henry studied Japanese culture and history in addition to his primary major—animation. From a desire to combine all the interests that he loves—Japan, the people, the culture, and the games—sprung the creation of these woodblock prints.

Woodblock printing is a time consuming activity based on relief carvings and conscious color application. To create a carving, an artist will normally draw an image on washi paper, a very thin yet durable type of paper. The washi paper is then glued onto a block of wood and is carved along the drawing’s outline to etch an image on the block’s surface. It has a similarity to old western printing.

Dave Bull is an amazing Ukiyo-e woodblock printer and carver who has worked with Jed Henry to create this collection of new modern prints. Jed approached Dave in 2010, and with Jed’s overall vision of the artwork combined with Dave’s skill as a master craftsman and his knowledge of traditional woodblock printing, the two embarked on a project to create these fun and detailed modern prints.

The prints are reminiscent of the Ukiyo-e 浮世, or “floating world” culture in Japan. In the 17th century, Japan’s rising middle class began to create paintings that expressed their own pleasures, interests, and activities. With Kabuki, a form of Japanese drama performed with stylized singing and dancing being prominent at the time, there was a high demand for stoic Kabuki actors and beautiful women. Ukiyo-e painters focused on capturing close up interactions of social activities that were conducted in an outdoor setting, generally paying special attention to fashion and contemporary affairs. The genre expanded in later centuries to include birds-and-flowers, scenery, legendary heroes, and even horrific scenes. A famous example of a Ukiyo-e woodblock painting is Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji. Due to the nature of woodblock printing, this printing is characterized by less depth and perspective; focusing instead on strong shapes and bold lines.

Jed Henry also celebrated Japan’s contribution to the gaming industry by drawing his favorite videogame characters in this style. In his woodblock paintings, reminiscent of the Ukiyo-e style, modern clothing is exchanged for a more traditional look while still preserving the essence of the characters. Not only are these works beautiful, they are portrayed in a way that gives them their own life and at times, humor. Henry’s collection features his legendary loot series (featuring tropes in video games), a Yokai Faceoff series, his Ukiyo-e heroes woodblock prints, and even his Giclée Prints. From Darth Vader to Naruto, he presents a broad range of art that is beautiful and meticulous.The combination of rich Japanese history and modern day movies and games is something you won’t want to miss. This exhibit will run in the library until May 24th. As Jed Henry stated, “Our goal is to pump vitality back into this art form, by giving it modern appeal, while maintaining its ancient traditions. And it’s working!”

Jessica Mellor (B.A. English ’19)