Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Gyotaku: Fish Printing
Last week I took a class in fish printing, the Japanese term is Gyotaku. Living near the water and having a husband and friends who fish, I have wanted to learn how to do this for a long time. It's really quite simple, all you need are some smelly dead fish from the local fish or grocery store, acrylic paints and rice paper or white practice paper.
We started by rinsing and drying the fish with paper towels and then lying it on newspaper to brush on the paints. Our instructor gave us palettes and our choice of acrylic paints to mix or use pure. We used soft brushes and sponges to paint our fish from head to tail, spreading out the fins and painting them also. I found that if the fish was still wet or applying too much paint would make it run or smear when I printed the fish onto the paper. Our instructor suggested that we use paint colors that were similar to the fish's natural colors but I chose to think out of the box and my favorite turned out to be the red fish.
After the paint is applied, the paper is put down onto the fish and gently with our hands, we pressed the paper starting at the center and pressing out to the head and tail. We also carefully pressed around all edges in order to print the fins. This has to be done carefully so the paper doesn't slide and quickly so the paint doesn't dry. If I took too long, the paint would stick and tear the paper, especially the rice paper because it is soft and fibrious.
This was just a basic fish printing class but there are other techniques and ways to prepare. Some artists will lay the fish on a soft concave surface and pin the fins open or stuff material under the gills to keep the body from caving in.
Afterwards I painted the eye on each fish with acrylic paint and where I needed more color, I touched up with watercolor paint.