The ancient art of Gyotaku, or fish rubbing, dates back to the mid-1800s, when fishermen “printed” the fish they caught to record their catches. By coating both sides of a fish in ink and pressing it between folded pieces of paper, the fisherman could capture a picture-perfect image of both sides of the fish.
No longer needed as a recording tool, Gyotaku has since become an art form unto itself, used to capture the delicate details of a variety of natural objects, from leaves to flowers. In some cases, artists supplement the ink printings with additional hand drawings and color. In other cases, the same object is used to make a repeating pattern, with the saturation and ink color fading with multiple uses and the artist filling the color in by hand.
We’ve put a modern spin on this ages-old printing technique with this Iridescent Ocean Textiles Prints art lesson – available for free! Using Gyotaku fish print models, fabric inks, and metallic paint pigments, students can create spectacular, shimmering prints that can be matted and mounted as masterpieces. Students simply coat a roller in ink, roll their object with the roller, and press a paper down on top of the object. Personalization comes into play with repeats, patterns, and additional colors and shimmering dusts and powders on the same object.
Download a complete lesson plan for this project, including images, step-by-step directions, and material list today!
For Grades 3-12.