Gyotaku often has the cachet of a crafty artform, something that kids do in school or in summer camp. It certainly is an excellent way for young persons to learn about fish biology, morpholgy, and taxonomy in the printing process. But gyotaku is much more than a childs art form.
In Japan Gyotaku is both a fine art form and a method to honor a certain tackle or bait. A tradition is to present a simple gyotaku print to the tackle shop of fish caught with the store's merchandise. Tackle shops are wall papered with simple gyotaku images from happy customers.
In the following pages I've selected images that illustrate a particular aspect of fish printing. The elements of design, compositon, shading, drama, tone, shadows, color, and balance all contribute to an effective image.
A print of a single fish is often called the "portrait print". but printing more than one fish, or a combination of several types of fish allows you to create an entire underwater scene. You can add watercolor, marbled, or or monoprinted backgrounds, add other fish or marine life, overlay with seaweeds or water plants, add a target such as a baitfish to denote to denote action.
You can print parts of a fish, or many parts of a single, such as all heads or all tails. You can print a fish coming onto the paper and swimming off again. Gyotaku and nature printing truly allow you to capture the world underwater.You can print on rice paper (washi), black or colored papers, on silk, on polyesters, on muslim and sheeting fabrics, even on canvas. Although the traditional surface are the beautiful washi (Japanese handmade papers), many contemporary printers use the less costly papers made in Thailand and Asia.