Taking inspiration from early Edo Japanese landscapes

Taking inspiration from early Edo Japanese landscapes

Capturing perspective in a landscape is a difficult thing. In the foreground details are sharp and clear, with the background fading to increasing levels of abstraction. Finally nothing but simple shapes hint at mountains and skylines.

In Japan a different approach was taken during the early Edo period. Perhaps influenced by the mountainous terrain, distant objects were placed higher on the page. It created a simple language where the higher an object, the further away it was.

For the viewer this created an interesting perspective. The point of view wasn’t at normal eye level, but elevated to an almost god-like position above the unfolding scene. It’s like looking down on a stage where the fore, middle and background have been carefully set out.

Breaking Western Ties

Much of my work has used the “traditional” Western approach. My landscapes often feature abstract forms in the background, hiding much detail and letting the viewer decide what should exist there instead.


Nihon” is an experiment to use the Japanese layering technique to create a landscape. I used the idea of distant objects being higher up the page to capture the idea of islands rising out of the sea. Objects that are closer have more detail, those further away are less well defined. Both are clear and crisp.

The River

The same effect was carried over into “The River“, albeit with a more cartoonish style of illustration.

Could it go further?

I like this layered style, although I’m not sure if I’d make wider use of it. Perhaps it’ll remain an interesting diversion.

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