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1834 / Japan

Practice Makes Perfect

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Ever since I was six I’ve been obsessed by drawing the form of things. By the time I was fifty I had published an endless number of drawings, but everything I produced before the age of seventy is not worth counting. Not until I was seventy-three did I begin to understand the structure of real nature, animals, plants, trees, birds, fish, and insects.

Consequently, by the time I am eighty-six, I will have made even more progress; at ninety I will have probed the mystery of things; at a hundred I will undoubtedly have attained a marvelous pinnacle, and when I’m a hundred and ten, everything I do, be it a dot or a line, will be alive.

I would ask anyone living as long as I to see if my word holds true.

© 2006 by University of Hawai‘i Press. Used with permission of University of Hawai‘i Press.

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  • Heard it before?

    Posted by Caroline on Thu 18 Mar 2010

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Arts & Letters
About the Author

Hokusai, from Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. At the age of eighteen, Hokusai became apprentice to the leading master of ukiyo-e (“pictures of the floating world”). Famous for his illustrations and prints, among them “The Great Wave off Kanagawa,” he also enjoyed making art in public, executing 2,000 square-foot paintings at festivals in Edo and Nagoya. He died at the age of eighty-nine in 1849.

Art is a jealous mistress, and if a man have a genius for painting, poetry, music, architecture, or philosophy, he makes a bad husband and an ill provider.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1860
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