5.5 x 7 ink
Last week Robyn Sinclair sent me a link about fish printing. I'd never heard of it before and was fascinated by the process. This Japanese method of creating prints from a real fish is called gyotoku. Gyotaku basically means 'fish rubbing' in Japanese. The fish prints (commonly called fish rubbings) are the mirror image of one side of the fish, each characteristic of the fish is recorded - every scale and fin's reflection is transferred to the paper.
The most popular form of Gyotaku fish art is called the direct method. The fish print is created by rubbing a piece paper on the side of an inked fish. The fish eye is painted by hand after the rubbing is made. Only a few high quality prints can be made from each fish and each fish prints is unique.
Living on an island you'd think it would be easy to find a fish, wouldn't you? Not quite so, at least on a Sunday. You can read about that on my blog.
Despite not having the appropriate fish to hand, I made do with what I did have and tried a couple of prints tonight and have to say that, even though there is a distinct fishy smell in my studio, I love the results and the possibilities are endless for this process.
Here is the little capelin having been inked. I used a brush to apply the ink and I figured a brayer would just squash him into oblivion. I then experimented with a few types of paper. I had a lightweight print paper, almost translucent but found that it absorbed too much moisture and blurred the belly of the fish. The secret seems to be to wrap or gently mold the paper around the fish to get a print. Perhaps I was a little heavy handed on the first couple of tries.
Next I used Somerset printing paper and that worked beautifully, if not a little difficult to press against the fish as it was much heavier.
My final paper was a scrap of yupo which turned out better than I anticipated, but a little paler than the others.
Despite the lack of fish quality, it worked in my favour in some ways. The fish curves make it alive even in death, mimicking the movement through water.
Its ice fishing season and I'd like to get a little trout to experiment with and once I can get the time to get to the market, I'll find some other fish to practice with. Meanwhile I will be adding other mediums and colours to some of these prints to see what I can come up with. A lovely mottled watercolour background perhaps or one of the sheets of that lovely handmade journal that I bought.
Experiments are such fun, even if The Other One thinks that I've lost it when he asked what on earth I was doing to the fish.