Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Gyotaku: Japanese Fish Printing

Continuing our study of texture, 2nd grade artists learned about gyotaku, a traditional method of Japanese fish printing that dates from the mid 1800's. In Japanese, "gyo" means "fish" and "taku" means "rubbing." We began by watching a TED video that explains the history of gyotaku, as well as the techniques. 
We discussed how gyotaku allowed fisherman to keep a record of their catch, both the size of the fish and the species, before cameras were invented. Eventually, it became its own art form and is practiced today.
For our gyotaku printing experience, we used rubber fish, instead of real ones! We watched a demonstration as a class to understand the steps involved and then we took turns at each table with printing our fish. 

First, we painted tempera paint onto the fish using a brush. We began with black paint, to mimic the sumi ink that is traditionally used. 
After brushing paint all over the fish, you take paper -- we used newsprint paper, to mimic traditional rice paper -- and place it on top of the fish. We pressed the paper down to get all the different parts of the fish, as well as to capture the textural details.
Then we lifted the paper off to reveal the fish print! We put our prints in the drying rack and everyone printed once with black paint, and then another with color. We experimented with different colors to emphasize the shape and different parts of the fish.   
Next class, we learned about three different watercolor painting techniques to create the background for our fish print. The first technique we learned about was wet-on-wet, which involves painting the paper with water first and then dropping or painting with watercolor on top for a blurry effect. The second technique was blotting, which involves dabbing and removing some of the paint with a paper towel. The last technique, which was the most popular, was using salt! After painting an area, students sprinkled some salt on top and watched as the salt absorbed the water in the paint to create texture.
For our last class, we selected our best print, cut out the fish and glued it on top of the painted paper. The final step was to add a chop or signature, using red marker. Some students used their initials while others used symbols to represent their signature. We got to keep the other print, as well. Below are examples of our finished gyotaku projects!
Miah, 2nd Grade
Pirada, 2nd Grade
Zachary, 2nd Grade
Anna, 2nd Grade

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