Gyotaku is a traditional Japanese printing method. It was a way for the Japanese to both honor and record their catches while fishing. Before cleaning and butchering their catches, the japanese would make these prints of the fish right there on the boat/ beach. Its a pretty simple process, that has some awesome results. Heres a step by step of the Largemouth I made this week.
First, you want to catch a fish, this is the funnest part. Keep in mind that fish w/ larger scales are easier, and make cooler looking prints, so Carp, Bass, Cod, ETC all look awesome. But, you can print any fish. even minnows!
Next you want to make sure the fish is clean, wash with soap to get all the fishy slime off, and let it dry. an EXTREMELY dry fish is key to making good prints!
After the fish is dry, I like to cut a whole in some foam so that half of the fish will lay flat( youre only printing on one half, and as flat as you can get it will help mold the paper around without tearing/ wrinkling as much)
Lay the fish in the hole you made and spread the fins out how you like them to look. I use pins to hold the fins down. Give it some time to dry and the fins will stay like that even after you pull the pins.
Next get your printing supplies ready. A really subtle handmade Paper is needed for molding around the fish. I used a real thin handmade Paper from Japan, to stay true to tradition. as far as ink. you can use just acrylic paint, and you can use color as well ( to try and match the colors of the actual fish, or however you want it to look) for these prints though, I used a water based block printing ink and a large (sz 14) watercolor brush.
Now, Just paint the fish. keep in mind that naturally fish are darker on top, and lighter on the bottom. try and mimic the natural colorations of the fish, I.e. parr marks, lateral lines, etc. and I like to brush against the grain of the scales.. i feel like this puts the ink under the scales a bit and ads to the cool texture of the finished print.
after your’e done painting the ink on, you simply make a rubbing of the fish with the paper. I like to print the fish like im putting on a sticker. lay the paper down, press in the middle of the fish and rub back from the head to the tail, then you can mold the paper around the head, body, etc. I used a spoon to rub the fins to get the details of those printed well.
once you have rubbed the fish onto the paper.. your print is done, remove the paper from the fish and wah lah! you have printed your fish!
to stay true to tradition, I made a manny chee logo stamp / rubber block. quick carving of his logo, and rolled w/ red printing ink. just press down on the block where you want the signature ( stamp) to be. ( remember, this will print in mirror.. so make your signature accordingly)
sign and number your prints if you like.. and youre all set!
I put 5 of these prints up for sale in the store. they are 12’x24″ and are $40 shipped. go grab one!