Wednesday, August 04, 2010
Prepping a fish for printing
When presented with a challenge you sometimes have to just face it head on and do it.
That was the case today with me and a sculpin. I was given a short horn sculpin caught last night and have to say that I found it pretty daunting to consider for printing. These are strange, prehistoric looking fish that most people toss back in horror when they catch one. The sculpins have a defense mechanism of nasty barbs and spines on their dorsal fins that inflict a very painful sting. Protective gloves and careful handling were a must.
So here I am, faced with this fish. I figured I'd have a go at printing it and use the opportunity to do a little view of how I prep a fish for printing.
Fish are covered in slippery mucus. This helps them glide through the water and protects them against disease. The sculpin seemed to have an excess of this so the first step was to wash it off. Salt acts as an abrasive and helps get the mucus off the fish with the help of a scrubbing brush. Not too roughly as I don't want to break the skin.
Rinsing off the fish under cold water brought back its colours, but another couple of layers of salt and scrubbing were required to get all the mucus off the fish.
Because these fish are voracious feeders, they always have distended stomachs. That, combined with the large bony head made it a candidate for a sand bed for printing. This means that the fish is embedded in sand that has been covered with plastic wrap. It makes the fish more level for printing and allows the fins to be splayed out as they would be when the fish is swimming.
I ink the fish using a brush, then even out the coating of ink with a foam brush or piece of kitchen towel to make sure there isn't too heavy a layer of ink.
Once inked, I insert paper under the tail and fins to get a clean print and prevent any excess ink that was on the film from transferring to the paper.
Next I lightly dampen the paper I'm using and lay it over the fish, molding and patting it so it fits the contours and gives a good print.
Then its the moment of truth and I peel back the paper to see if the print has worked well or not. There are usually three or four prints taken before I get one that I'm happy with. Wrinkles in the paper are irrelevant and shouldn't be worried about. They will be eliminated once the piece is wet or dry mounted later.