The Barnacle team will be away at sea for the month of July, check back in August for our next print issue!

Some Fish Print Better Than Others

(Illustration by Charles Weiss)

On a creative moment on a day in July, I wanted to catch a fish and make an impression of it on paper. Not a drawing or photo. An actual print. 

I wanted an exact image of the fish, and not just to prevent the wild lying that goes on with fishers everywhere. This printing method (fish rubbing,  also called gyotaku) was invented over a century ago by artful Japanese fishers.

I planned to catch a few tiny fish at a local roadside waterway, a naturally productive spot to gather my subjects. 

Research in books and on the internet indicated larger scale yellow perch, bass, and perhaps chain pickerel are good for fish printing. Also , I needed rice paper in pieces of a size to fit a small fish, as well as dark coloured paint or ink.

With some luck I hooked several slime covered fish and took them to my art studio. I washed their bodies and dried them. Then I posed the dead fish on a piece of styrofoam and pinned the fins in place. I brushed blue paint in a thin wash across the edges of the fins and body towards the tail.  

I gently laid the rice paper on the fish. Gently pressing the rice paper with my fingers repeatedly over the fish.

I  pulled off the paper and saw, with some relief, that the scales and shapes on my print were crisp and clean. “Thanks for the arty fishful mission!” I exclaimed. 

I used black pen to sketch details of the eye and body.

 I repeated this process using different fish and colours.

Thinking about this artistic fishy statement, I know the images will live on and inspire me. 

Saturday morning, July 15 I will be demonstrating this fish printing technique at Bridgewater’s Farmers Market.


One response to “Some Fish Print Better Than Others”

  1. Daniel

    The day after reading this article I met another Lunenburg County artist that practices gyotaku. What a coincidence.

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