Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Gyotaku Fish Printing from Japan

Continuing our study of Japan, 2nd grade artists learned about a traditional Japanese method of fish printing called gyotaku, which began in the mid 1800's. In Japanese, "gyo" means "fish" and "taku" means "rubbing." We watched a TED video that explains the history of gyotaku, as well as the techniques.
Gyotaku allowed fisherman to keep a record of their catch, both the size of the fish and the species, before cameras existed. Eventually, it became its own art form and is practiced today both in and outside of Japan. For our own gyotaku printing experience, we used rubber fish, instead of real ones -- they smell a lot better! We watched a demonstration to understand the steps involved and then each table made prints of their rubber 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 in Japan. 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 and capture the textural details.
Then we lifted the paper off to reveal the fish print! We put our finished prints in the drying rack. Everyone printed one 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 blooms and different textures.
For our last class, we selected our best gyotaku 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. Below are examples of our finished gyotaku projects!
Andrew, 2nd grade (O'Leary)
CJ, 2nd grade (O'Leary)
Jayrelin, 2nd grade (O'Connor)
Lenna, 2nd grade (O'Leary)
Maria Clara, 2nd grade (Pearse)
Mariam, 2nd grade (Pearse)
Michael S., 2nd grade (O'Connor)
Zarisha, 2nd grade (Pearse)

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