Gyotaku (pronounced GHEE-OH-TAH-KOO) is the art and technique of Japanese Fish Printing. Gyo means ‘Fish’ and Taku means 'Rubbing' or 'Impression'. The earliest known gyotaku were made in the 1860’s to preserve a true record of the size and species of fish caught by Japanese anglers. It later evolved into an art form.
There are two methods of creating gyotaku – the direct method (similar to a thumb print) and the indirect method (similar to a grave stone rubbing).
I practice the direct method. After cleaning and positioning a freshly caught fish, I cover the surface of the fish with relief printing ink. I then put rice paper on the fish and rub the back of the paper. Once the paper is lifted, a mirror image of the fish is revealed. Sometime later, I wet mount the paper to another piece of paper. Finally, I paint in the detail of the eye.
Although I can make several prints from the same fish, each print is an original. I use several different types of paper - each one produces slightly different results. Also, for some prints I use just one color of ink, while other times I use multiple colors, trying to capture the fish as it appears in nature. For a fish with multiple colors, all the color is added to the fish before the paper is placed on the fish. If all turns out well, the only painting done after the print is lifted is the painting of the eye with watercolor.
I've printed bluegill, pumpkinseed sunfish, red breasted sunfish, rock bass, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, carp, koi, catfish, striped bass, rainbow trout, brook trout, brown trout, walleye, yellow perch, black crappie, chain pickerel, snapper bluefish, flounder, black sea bass, crevalle jack, pompano, ladyfish and even a piranha! I recently started printing octopus.
Click on the Gyotaku For Sale to see matted rubbings for sale. Other Gyotaku examples contain gyotaku that have already been sold, but it gives you an idea of the kind of work I've done. All rubbings are originals - I don't make any reproductions. I hope you enjoy looking at them. Stop back often as I add pictures of new rubbings as I make them. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want me to let you know via email when I add new pictures to the gallery