Wildlife in Art

Wildlife in Art: Fish Prints (Gyotaku)

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One activity our family enjoys doing with fish we have caught and are preparing for dinner is using them
to make prints. Fish printing, or gyotaku, is a traditional form of Japanese art that originated as a way for
fishermen to keep accurate records of their catches (Smithsonian 2023).

This art can be incredibly intricate, depending on the amount of time and patience of the person doing the printing. Our kids don’t
have a ton of patience, but they learn a lot about the anatomy of the fishes we use while creating our
prints. The needed equipment includes a fish, non-toxic ink, rice paper, and paintbrushes or sponge.
Our family generally uses Alma Gourmet Cuttlefish Ink and paintbrushes that are used only for cuttlefish
ink.


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The process is simple, but if you’re doing this activity with young children be aware that cuttlefish ink
will stain clothing and upholstery; however, it is edible and traditionally used to color and flavor many
different foods. The steps for printing include:


1) Lay down news paper, or complete the activity on a surface you are comfortable getting ink
onto and prep the area for painting.


2) Gather a small bowl for cuttlefish ink, paintbrushes, and rice paper – pull one sheet out to have
ready for pressing.


3) Mix the ink to your preferred consistency, you can adjust the thickness of the ink by adding
water, but rice paper is fragile and too much water can cause the paper to rip when it is pulled
from the fish.


4) Paint the ink directly onto the fish. Shoot for an even coating that does not show the brush
strokes. Sponges hide the brush strokes and can turn out more even. Ensure that all the fins and
delicate pieces of the fish are covered.


5) Lay the rice paper over top of fish and gently press down on the paper to capture the image of
the fish. Gently lift and press fins as well.


6) When the paper has been pressed to all of the fish you want to capture, pull it gently away.


7) Place it on an even place to dry.


8) Rinse the ink from your fish and enjoy a post-art project snack:

Smoked Trout Grilled Cheese by Lindsey Bartosh

Tera Stoddard

Tera is a wildlife biologist who lives in Northern California with her husband, two children, and Chesapeake Bay retriever Maple. She grew up in Colorado camping, boating, and backpacking with her family. She was introduced to hunting when she met her husband and together the two are raising their children to hunt, fish, and enjoy everything nature has to offer.

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