Gyotaku (gyo=fish, taku=rubbing) (pronounced gio-TA-koo) is a Japanese art form that creates an image of a fish or other object in nature with astonishing detail.  Using ink or paint the image of a fish is transferred to paper or fabric.  This technique may be used to print shells, seaweed, rocks, flowers, and other marine life or objects in nature.  


Whether using the Direct or Indirect method preparation of the fish is the most important step to ensure you have an excellent print.  The finishing touch to bring the fish alive is to paint the eye with a small brush.  Prints may be completed using a variety of methods, mounted on oriental papers or canvas, stained with watercolor, or printed on again adding other fish prints/seaweed/shells to enhance the finished piece.  Many nature printers sign their artwork with a chop (seal).  Lori’s chop is from China and is called “Double Happiness”, and she also is a Pisces and uses a signature of two fish along with her initial “L”.

Direct Method

The surface of the fish is covered with ink or paint.  A piece of paper or fabric is then placed over this inked surface and gently rubbed, thus transferring the raised surfaces of the scales and fins showing the fine detail.  These images are always reversed by the process and cannot be controlled as well as with the “indirect method”. 

Indirect Method

Paper or fabric is dampened and pressed over the body of a fish.  When dry ink is applied with a tampo (piece of cotton ball wrapped in a piece of silk), which is dipped in ink and dabbed on to the paper or fabric.  Layers of ink from light to dark create a luminous effect.  

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