Have you ever been looking at ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock prints from the Edo period) and thought to yourself, “What would Japan under shogunate rule have been like if basketball had already been invented?” If this is the sort hypothetical that tends to occupy your thoughts, you’re in luck, because a like-minded artist, Andrew Archer, has an awesome series of paintings entitled Edo Ball. He combines his love of the game and passion for Japanese woodblock prints to create tomahawk dunking yokai and tattooed geishas that could break your ankles with a sick crossover dribble.
“I'm inspired by both individually, in a big way. I've played basketball my entire life, and I am a huge fan of basketball and Japanese art.” Archer explained to Creators. “I lived in Asia previously and the culture of Japan and their approach to arts have always amazed me. The dedication to the craft, the storytelling, and the stylistic values of ukiyo-e are so inspiring to me."
Edo Ball consists of 10 paintings, which feature modernized ukiyo-e style figures who are decked out in sweat bands, jerseys, and Jordans. Archer bases many of them on Hall of Famers and depicts them in athletic poses — dribbling down the court, passing the rock, throwing elbows, and catching hang time. The incredible sense of energy in each of the paintings makes them exciting to take in, but it’s the concepts they embody that truly make them a spectacle to behold. He doesn’t just paint a basketball, he illustrates how it is an object of desire.
We’re used to seeing players in the NBA who are covered in tattoos, and these ukiyo-e inspired characters are no different. But instead of featuring just the style preferred among the pros, Archer gives a shout-out to his homeland by prominently featuring Maori designs on his characters, which makes his compositions reflect our increasingly cross-cultural age and how both basketball and art have the power to bring us all together in a playful way.
To see the rest of Archer’s Edo Ball, make a fast break to his website, where you can also read more about the stories behind each of the paintings and even buy awesome apparel and prints based on them. Until next time, keep practicing those free throws, you ukiyo-e loving sports fans.