Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Gyotaku is the Japanese art of fish printing.  Older toad's actual birthday was on a weekday this week and daddy took some time off work to do this project with him.  My husband lives to fish so of course fish art is a perfect fit.  These fish were in the freezer left over from fish printing I taught at an art camp earlier this summer so there was some variety - Lookdown (above), a Glassnosed Skate and a Lane Snapper is what they chose.

Here are the steps:
First make sure your fish is very dry.  Once you've decided which side to print, remember prints are always reverse, paint it on top of a scrap paper.  This initial painting is messy so scrap paper keeps things cleaner.  It's traditional to use only black.  We like to use colors.  This day involved printing on shirts and rice paper so we used fabric paints and regular acrylics.

Next do a scrap print.  It helps to warm up, figure out the tricky parts on the fish you're printing, and gauge the right amount of paint to apply.

Sometimes it takes a couple scrap prints.

When you're ready for ones you might keep, paint your fish again.  It can be neat to do the fins in a different color.  The eye is always done last with a brush.

Now carefully move your painted fish to your clean printing space.  Spread out it's fins so they will print distinctly.  We like to use old baby diapers or other rags for a printing space because you can gently push the spines on the fins into the fabric to hold them in place. 

Now put your paper or shirt on top of your fish gently.  Rub gently over the entire area to be printed.  Like putting on stickers, start in one spot and gently move across.  Pay special attention to the fins and the edges of its body.

Now gently peel up your paper or shirt from one corner.  Hopefully you're thrilled with your results.  If not, that's ok, just try another one. 

If you don't have access to live fish several companies sell rubber replicas for prints.  I like Acorn Naturalists in CA.

Their work for the day.

Here are some resources if you want more information.

Allen Memorial Art Museum
Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
Kennedy Center

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