Friday, August 06, 2010

Fish box

I found this long slim box awhile ago and thought it could be useful to decorate at some point but I wasn't sure with what. Inspiration hits me at the most ungodly hours sometimes.  Today it was at 5am.  Tripod was outside, it being a very warm night and he decided that there was an cat intruder he should see off.  The sounds of hissing and spitting and growling woke me and I had to get up to sort him out and haul him inside.

Once I get up, I can't go back to sleep, no matter what the time.  So at 5am, armed with coffee and a box sitting in front of me this little capelin appeared on the box.  It is the perfect size and shape for this fish and with the seeming lack of capelin on the beaches this year, it may be all I see of them or it can preserve the one fish that I get!

Tonight I added some colour to it.  I am using watercolour.  On wood you say?  Yes, I like how it stains the wood instead of painting it and gives it an antique feel.  The initial layers are down along with a little silver gild for fishy sheen. Tomorrow I'll add some details and deepen the colours.  The box is 8 1/4 x 2 x 2".

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Fish wrapped in newspaper

In my quest for interesting supports for my gyotaku prints, I had an idea of using Japanese language newspapers.  That sent me on a quest to find an accessible newspaper that would fit the bill.  Vancouver Shinpo contacted me and provided me with some back issues of its papers which are perfect for what I want.

I promised them a fish print on their newspaper as a thank you for sending their papers to me.  So tonight I printed a yellowtail flounder on it using Prussian Blue Caligo ink.  Caligo make lovely oil based inks (Safe Wash) that are water soluble, making clean up so much easier.

I know newsprint does not age well and there are a few things I can do to try to preserve it as talked about in this article.  However, I look at this as a temporary and interesting support that should look even better when the paper ages under glass.

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.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010


I'm nearly back to the point where I can work on some fish printing and painting, having caught up on commissions and sales.  It really is quite a lot of work keeping on top of the non creative side of art, but the benefits let me sleep at night and not worry that I've forgotten something.

Printing keeps me busy, but I also do other pieces to keep my interest level high and to ensure that I don't get too rusty in other techniques.

Elaine of Cedar Knoll Farm has some beautiful horses that I always admire.  One of the horses was frolicking in a new pasture and  the image caught my eye so I asked if I could try my hand at him.  I'm considering a watercolour, but drawing also seems to be pulling me.  I hope to decide tomorrow what direction it will take.   I may not be quick on this, depending on what else I have to accomplish but I wanted to make a start.

Here is the line drawing of the handsome Lincoln.  The shadow patterns from his mane onto his body interested me.  I can see a bit of masking fluid in my future if I go with watercolour.  Or a bit of indenting if I try graphite.  Decisions, decisions...

Monday, August 02, 2010

Slow Herring

Time has gotten away with me this week and there are lots of pieces waiting in my head to go onto paper.  Unfortunately having the available chunks of time to make a start on this is the challenge.

However, this herring is determined to make its presence known to me.  The sleek shape and amazing shine and colours in the fish keep pulling me back to it and giving me inspiration for different media and sizes.

I played around with this simple sketch of the fish in pen, blocking in shapes and values to get an idea of where I'm going with it.  I find more and more how preliminary studies of a subject help me problem solve and save me so much time on a full piece.  I know we often rush ahead, wanting to get into the 'meat' of the piece and sometimes then get stuck in composition or value or colour palette which can all be worked out in a small piece that often has a lot of merit as a painting or drawing in its own right.