Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Fish eyes/Gyotaku

Gyotaku (Japanese 魚拓, from gyo "fish" + taku "rubbing") is the traditional method of Japanese fish printing, dating from the mid-1800s. This form of nature printing may have been used by fishermen to record their catches, but has also become an artform on its own.
So, this is a work in progress. I wanted to share with you what I have done so far with the fish my husband caught a couple weeks ago!!

So this is what I started with:
 One big salmon. We live just three houses and a road away from the Santiam River. You can catch Salmon and Steelhead there!!! YUM!!

 Can you believe my husband let me put paint on the fish!!!! (actually, he was gone for the evening-shhh) I washed it off well when I was done :^) Here's the fish ready for painting!

I put foam pieces down, then covered them with plastic.
Lots of sponge brushes
And my fabric paint

Pins to open the fins up with, that 's why I need the foam underneath. And the cotton swabs to wipe away the paint from the eyeball!!
I painted the entire fish and then laid the fabric on top of it and rubbed the cloth to get as much paint and texture from the fish as possible. I kind of made a mess and the painting is a bit sloppy, I have much practicing to do. This large of a fish was difficult to work with!!!
Then I painted the eyes in. I started with a silver color
I added a smaller dot of gold
Then added the black,
and a little dot of white. I also outlined the eyes lightly with a black  micron pen
And done!!
My husband was a little freaked out by the eyes because they look so real and look 3 dimensional. He said they look like glass eyes. But, of course, they are not. They are just flat and painted on!!!
Now I am drawing out a design. This will become a larger wall quilt with lots of machine quilting!! At least that is the plan. More later :)

Take care everyone, Happy Quilting and keep those scissors sharp!!! Martha


  1. Stunning!!!! I just made some fish from fabric for a quilt; but not like you did...love your method!! Mine are posted on my blog if you want to take a peek. They are pieced with fabrics.....great job on yours.

  2. i've always wanted to try this. Wow, i love what you've done!

  3. Fascinating process! I've been gearing up to do some painting on fabric. Probably won't use a fish, though--they're not my favorite creatures! Around here it's more likely to be a cat's tail that gets into the paint.

  4. Now that's the way to paint fish! Do you have any trouble getting the paint to stick to the fish? Those eyes really do look real, and I love the mouth.

  5. You do beautiful work! Thanks for stopping by to visit me.

  6. Thanks for all the kind comments!!! This is a lot of fun to do, but I seem to be a bit on the messy side of things!!! I am going to try out some fabric ink for my next Gyotaku project!!!

    The paint sticks will to the fish, although I do clean the fish off in the beginning to get rid of any slime. This fish was smoked once I was done with it. We have shared it with friends and neighbors!!! :)

    You should give it a try!!! You can also buy life like rubber fish if you don't want to use the real thing!!! Martha

  7. What a fabulous tutorial and those eyes are magnificent!
    Your fish are beautiful!


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