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.


Anonymous said...

This is so cool! Thanks for taking the time and effort to show all the steps. I'm just a little confused with the next to last photo. Was that taken with the dampened paper laid over the fish?
I think you're an outstanding artist and enjoy seeing your work on your blog and also at WC!
All the best,

RH Carpenter said...

Very scary looking fish - but very interesting technique. Thanks for taking the time to share the steps.

Billie Crain said...

Great photo demo, Jeanette. I wondered how you were going to handle a fish with so many lumps and bumps. I didn't know about sand bedding. I'm very anxious to see a completed print!

Unknown said...

Fascinating Jeanette. I have to say I'd probably be one who threw it back in horror.

Tracy Hall said...

That was absolutely fascinating jeanette, these prints look just beautiful. They remind me of the fossil fish you see in stones. And what an incredible looking fish.

Jennifer Rose said...

thanks for doing this :D very neat to have pictures of how its done

Anonymous said...

I use to do this with kids in the classroom. Many who had never touched a fish before. Now I know the feeling, as I think I might have difficulty with a sculpin. Love the prints though. Beware of what that friend brings you next.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for sharing your process. I look forward to seeing what else you do with this guy.
Stay inspired!
Brain Angles - Invisible Ink

Jeanette Jobson said...

Dondi, thank you. Yes, that second to last image was the dampened paper over the fish. You can see the impression of the fish coming through.

Rhonda, this fish creeped me out initially, but I got over it and found the beauty in its shape and colours.

Billie, this one is hard to get a good print from, but some that I took are passable. I've frozen the sculpin for another day...

Gayle, they're pretty aggressive fish and the spines don't help. I was of two minds what I should do with it.

Tracy, I like the plain prints. They remind me of fossils too. Once I put colour on them they transform into something entirely different.

This is a glimpse into the process Jennifer. Come over to my workshop in March and get a lot more information. :)

Lots of people are squeamish about fish Robin. I find with kids, its something passed on from their parents in most cases. But the fascination kicks in quite quickly.

There is beauty in everything, even a sculpin.

Thanks Michelle, glad you're enjoying it.

olivia said...

Thank you Jeanette for showing us the process! This fish seems to be wonderful!
I will try with a french fish. Bises.

Jan said...

Thanks for showing the process - I wondered how you did it.

That fish might be a nightmare to work with but I think it's a very interesting looking fish. Glad you were able to get some halfway decent prints from it!

Leslie Hawes said...

Wonderful process series!