Monday, May 24, 2010

Gyotaku project

 Damp red fish print drying
Kitakata paper 

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.


Margaret Ryall said...

I'm so pleased for you Jeanette. You're just beginning your explorations and mine are ready for the gallery wall. We are very lucky to have access to such granting opportunities and yes it is hard work writing applications but well worth the effort when you are successful.

Billie Crain said...

Congratulations again on the grant, Jeanette and I'd love nothing better than to take part in your workshop. Wish you lived nearer.:(

Jeanette said...

Margaret, it must be exciting to be at the end of your project and now able to reveal it to the world. I will look forward to seeing your exhibition.

Thanks Billie. If I have time and technology, I may try to find a way to show some of the workshop on video.

Lolli072 said...

Ooo! Jeanette this is so cool! I have seen this type of work before and I have always been curious about it. Can't wait to see more! :-)

Elizabeth Seaver said...

This is a very exciting project. I have never heard of this process and I appreciate your sharing some of it, though I know you want to save details and specifics for the show. Congratulations on this achievement, Jeanette!

Jennifer Rose said...

they way the gill looks printed is very cool, looks almost carved. I am really happy for you that the grant was approved :D its a really great idea for a project using local fish

Jeanette said...

Its really fascinating to do Lori and the results always amaze me as each print is different from the last.

Thanks Elizabeth. I've worked on gyotaku off and on for the past year or so and am hooked. This project allows me to really get into it and explore all elements and use lots of different supports and techniques.

Aren't the gill plates on this fish amazing Jennifer? Its a pretty bony fish with spiky fins that you don't want to poke yourself on.

I should have a great record of local fish at the end of the project.

Tracy Hall said...

Well done on securing the grant Jeanette - the fish look absolutely amazing and the technique fascinating - can't wait to see the final work at the end of the year.

jane minter said...

congratulations on the grant jeanette ..all the best with your research many prints can you get from one fish ?

Jeanette said...

Thanks Tracy. I'm looking forward to the work for this project.

Its great to get a grant Jane, thank you.

The number of prints I can get with one fish vary with the type of fish, its freshness and how well I've prepared it. I usually get 5 - 10 prints from one fish, perhaps more, before it starts to decline both in printability and smell! :)