How to print a fish (and other useful skills you didn’t know you’d been missing)

Have you ever heard of Gyotaku?

Gyotaku fish printing DIY

It’s the ancient Japanese art of printing beautiful pictures from fish, and artists devote years – lifetimes, even – to refining the skill.  I stumbled across this by accident, and came across a myriad of sites which explain how to catch and then carefully cleanse and fillet your fish, before stuffing its every nook and cranny with absorbent tissue  and gently pinning its fins into a delicate, aesthetically pleasing fan shape before beginning your print.

Or. Or. You could do what I did and choose two sardines from the supermarket for the princely sum of 75p, and use those instead.  Yes; with apologies to the Gyotaku community of practice, here is the simpleton’s guide to achieving an acceptably pleasing print within a morning, and then being able to cook and eat your fish for lunch afterwards.  Just rinse it first, would be my insider tip.

gyotaku (Japanese fish printing) materials from Katescreativespace.com

You’ll need;

  • A fish.  Two if you can afford a spare.
  • Rubber gloves.  Because it is a dead fish after all, and remember that you have a fresh manicure that it is not worth sacrificing for this project.
  • A piece of foam board or polystyrene that you can carve out for your fish
  • Pins, if you are keen to arrange your fish.  Skip this bit if your constitution is even remotely delicate.
  • Paint; I used silver, black and grey for my prints
  • A piece of silk or thin cotton, or super-light silk paper like this or this (try art and craft shops; it’s often sold with giftwrap or in small, single sheets).

First, rinse and pat dry your fish.  Oh, put the gloves on first.  Sorry.  Start with those.

Let’s try again.  Put the gloves on and then rinse and pat dry the fish.  Do not look it in the eye; it will only make it harder.

Then, draw around the shape of your fish on your foam board/polystyrene and cut out a shallow hollow for your fish to fit into.  This will stop it rolling around when you paint it and make prints.  Then, place your fish in the hollow you’ve made and daub colour all over your fish.  I used silver paint, and then added grey and black in the areas of the fish that looked the darkest.  I peeled off my gloves and took this single picture to help.  Then it just got too messy to take pictures of anything.  Too many fish scales; too much paint.

Gyotaku fish on board

Once you’ve painted your fish, you need to act quickly before it dries.  Pick up your piece of silk or silk paper and place it over the fish, and then pat it all over, making sure you press the shape of the fish and its fins into the paper.  Peel the paper off and place it aside to dry; you might get a second print, but usually you’ll need to reapply the paint to get a good second print.  Practice makes perfect; my first print looked like this….

Gyotaku fish printing DIY project

Recognisably a fish, but only just.  So next time I added more paint, including a good splash of black over the eyeball, and got a much better set of prints…

Gyozo fish print 3

Once you’ve made a print that you’re happy with, wait for it to dry and use your brush and paints to add any further detail or highlights that you want to.  I then cut out my fish print and glued it to a piece of white card so that the print stood out more clearly..

Gyotaku fish printing simple DIP project

 

Gyotaku printing project - make beautiful prints of fish!

 

Gyotaku printing onto silk paper

Once you’ve made your prints, you could scan them and print them onto different surfaces or make patterns.  Or use the originals for cards, as I did.  It’s a great project to try with kids, because it’s messy, involves dead things and paint (cool combination!), and the results are instant and gratifying. Just allow a bit of time for clearing up….

Have a great week!

handbag logo

Olympic Fever!

Are you following the Olympics?  It is the highlight of the year as far as my husband is concerned, and so we’ve been glued to the TV and radio, following the inevitable highs and lows and moments of glory and dashed hopes that characterise every single day in Rio.  Lord knows what we’ll do next weekend when it’s all over.  Olympic fever peaked four years ago when London actually hosted the Olympics and we …
Continue Reading

Fat-Free Ice-cream Cupcakes! (*Okay, they’re not fat-free at all. Not even slightly).

Ice-cream or cake?  Cake or ice-cream?  Which to choose?  Debate no further; have it all.  Have both!  Well, almost…

ice4

Last week I was inspired by this divine-looking recipe from Waitrose for cupcakes baked in an ice-cream cone and laced with marshmallow-style icing, with a hidden chocolate treat at the bottom – so we gave it a go.  Surprisingly, flat-based wafer cones (we used
Continue Reading

The Making of the Moon

Space fever has gripped our household and refuses to let go.  Ever since British astronaut Tim Peake went into space recently and begun sending back reports of the challenges of zero gravity, the peculiarities of space food and the challenges of showering, fascination with the planetary system has been all-consuming.

So we made our own moon…

papier mache moon

The beauty of this one is that it doesn’t …
Continue Reading

A Pause.

IMG_8277

 

For those who check in regularly; I’ll be taking a pause from the blog until later in July, as life and work continue at a hectic pace.

There are bicycles to be ridden, beaches to explore, deadlines to meet, and a million small moments to observe as Harry grows steadily upwards at an ever-increasing rate of knots.  Time to lean in to the moment and enjoy …
Continue Reading

DIY Projects: The Book Vase

DIY Vintage Book Vase

Our village has an extraordinary supply of second-hand bookshops, including one that gives away books for free that have been rescued from landfill.  Every weekend we have a browse, and usually come back with new treasures.  As a result, my shelves are creaking and my supply grows faster than I can read or repurpose them. I used a vintage graphic atlas bought …
Continue Reading

Simple Pleasures: A Boy and a Box

DIY Play Castle

Harry and I have a new weekend tradition.  Each Saturday we have breakfast and then head for our local garden centre, where I browse the plants and choose a bunch of flowers for my studio desk.  Then after we’re through the checkout, we head for the huge supply of discarded cardboard boxes that the centre offers free to customers.  Harry studies them carefully; …
Continue Reading

Appleseeds and Sunshine

It’s 7.30am on Sunday morning, and we’ve been up for ages.  It’s wonderful.

We were woken by brilliant shafts of sunlight through the cracks in the curtains, and it was too irresistable to ignore.  So we began the day with a picnic on the terrace before the rest of the world woke up; sipping coffee as the birds sang, revelling in the day.  We’ve needed this sunshine for so long, and it feels amazing.  The …
Continue Reading