Definitions

Gyotaku

Gyotaku

Gyotaku (Japanese 魚拓, from gyo "fish" + taku "rubbing") is a traditional form of Japanese fish printing, dating from the mid 1800s, a form of nature printing used by fishermen to record their catches.

There are two methods used in gyotaku. The direct approach is similar to block printing or linocut. In order to make a gyotaku print, one places the subject (e.g. fish, crab, scallop shell) on a flat surface and paints one side with sumi ink. Modern gyotaku artists often substitute watercolor, india ink or other painting material for the traditional sumi. Once the pigment is applied to the subject, a piece of rice paper is then carefully applied on top of the fish and then pulled off with a mirror image of the fish having been created on the substrate. The indirect approach requires that the subject is firmly secured into a cradle or mounted onto a firm backing, then a very fine piece of fabric, either silk or polyester, is attached to the subject with a glue that will release (e.g. spray adhesive or a water-based glue that can later be washed out). The artist carefully applies ink to the fabric using a tool called a tampo. The tampo is constructed from a piece of fine silk bound around a soft, rounded ball of cotton. Very thin layers of ink are successively laid onto the fabric, and the textures of the subject transfer through the fabric, creating textures in the print.

There are many professional masters of the gyotaku method, particularly Boshu Nagase whose work is featured in the book, Antarctic Fishes (ISBN 0801886104).

Gyotaku is also practiced as a form of art, and is very popular among young children both in Japan and Western countries. Sometimes, rubber fish replicas are used.

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