Damp red fish print drying
One of my goals for 2010 was to apply for a grant, which I did and was successful in receiving it. Grants are approved through the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council (NLAC) and not everyone who applies receives their grant or gets the full amount that they requested. I was lucky on both counts. My grant project period began on May 15th and will end in April 2011. I applied for a longer period of time, rather than a short project period, as I work a day job and need all the time I can get to produce quality work.
My project is to produce a body of work (10 - 15 pieces) in gyotaku, using fish that are local to the province. I'll be experimenting with different types of Japanese papers as well as ones traditionally used in art. I will also experiment with different backgrounds and presentation methods. I will offer a workshop on gyotaku next spring, to share the knowledge that I've accumulated over the grant period with other artists.
I won't be sharing much of my grant project work with you online, as it will be offered to a gallery for exhibition after the project is completed and I don't want to spoil the surprises.
However, I can share some of my findings with you. Today, I did a little experimentation with some Japanese papers that I have on hand as well as newsprint and masa. I used an ocean perch, also known as red fish, that was lurking in the freezer, well past its best by date, so it was a little 'high'. However a fish is a fish when it comes to gyotaku and fish odours are one thing that you need to get used to, as well as any queasiness about anatomy in preparing the fish. I love the gill plates of this fish with their patterned edges and the large eye space provides lots of scope for painting.
Speaking of which preparation is likely the most lengthy part of gyotaku, if you want good quality prints from your fish. It can take an hour or more to prepare the fish for printing, choose the print paper and ink, prep your worksurface, then get down to printing.
I've found that dampening the papers by spraying with water makes it much easier to mold around the fish's body, though it does make the process trickier as the paper is much more fragile then, especially if the fish is bony,, such as this one is. I've commandeered some shelving to dry my prints initially and after drying completely, the eye of the fish will be recreated and any additions made in colour or touchups before it goes into a board press for storage.