Gyotaku or fish stone impression (direct translation) is taking off amongst the creative type spearo.
Basically you spear a fish (without making messy wounds although that could be a feature), clean it thoroughly and then apply ink before pressing thin paper onto the fish. It (can) end up looking something like this piece by Taka. (https://www.instagram.com/p/BYGB-UOB3Ef/ )
Or this one from @SaltyBonesGyotaku (https://www.instagram.com/p/BxSP3NYF_Vp/ )
Chokusetsu-ho Gyotaku is the Japanese method used most commonly and sometimes artists will colour in or provide further detail to the print after impressing the paper with fish.
I became interested in learning more about this art form after chatting with Eric Keener on the Noob Spearo Podcast. It’s also got me curious to give it a go so I thought I’d ask the Gyotaku guru Taka for some tips, here is the Q&A.
Shrek “How did you get interested in Gyotaku and how did you learn?”
Taka “Hahaha let's get the facts straight first, I am no Gyotaku Guru! By far the best I've come across is Desmond Thain's (www.desmondthainfineart.com) work from Hawaii, while he is a master at the traditional print, his "Premium Gyotaku" prints can be hard to tell they are even painted.
I got started doing Gyotaku after seeing people like Desmond's work, I've always been a "collector" wether it is fish jaws or shells etc. It was just another cool way to keep something else other than photos & fillets.“
Shrek “Did you make any mistakes starting out? and how do I avoid them?”
Taka “Of course, I'm still making mistakes lol. One thing I learned quickly is that most problems will stem from moisture, whether that be from not drying the fish properly or using too much ink, you have to keep the fish dry and use as little ink as possible. On bigger fish four hands are better than two, Jess has been handy helping laying down the paper our bigger fish.“
Shrek “Are there any other resources or places to learn how to do it?”
Taka “As with everything these days the internet is your friend, Google, YouTube, there's hours of good and bad stuff to sift through, combine that with some trial and error and you'll be down the rabbit hole in no time.“
Shrek “Where can people find you and see some of your Gyotaku Artwork?”
Taka “Under my bed, some rolled up in the garage, pegged on a clothes line in the spare room. Otherwise if you don't have access to my house you can find all my ocean tinkering on Instagram @underwaterallyoceanart“
Here is a bit of the process on one of our YouTube Video Series:
If you love spearing and everyone in your family and friends are aware of your penchant for holding your breath in the bathtub and sneaking down to the beach every chance you get to plug dinner, then maybe you could try Gyotaku as you could be handing out unique prints for gifts instead of shitty old Target vouchers. Thanks to Taka for the answers!