Ukiyo-e Heroes: Donkey Kong Visits 17th-Century Japan
Mario racing a rickshaw, Kirby wielding a katana, and Donkey Kong bounding past cherry blossoms. In his fantastical Ukiyo-e Heroes series, 29-year-old illustrator Jed Henry reimagines classic video game characters in the style, setting, and medium of traditional Japanese woodblock prints (ukiyo-e). Growing up in Indiana in the 1980s, Henry learned to draw by copying the art in his video game manuals. It was an exciting time to be a gamer, as companies like Nintendo and Sega raced to create the best systems and graphics. A decade later, with a degree in animation and living in Utah, the illustrator and children’s book author is working with Canadian (by way of Tokyo) printmaking master Dave Bull to to create fine art prints of his characters. With the help of a Kickstarter campaign — Henry raised $290,000 more than his original goal — his illustrations are celebrating Japan’s vibrant pop culture, both then and now. We talked to him about his craft.
How do you choose which video games to feature?
I’m a big retro gamer. I played a lot of games as a kid, and my heart is really stuck on those games — a lot of Nintendo, Konami, and Capcom titles. So, that’s how I choose, it’s just my favorites from when I was a kid.