Learn about the ancient Japanese form of fish rubbings along the shores of the St. Lawrence River


I discovered the art form of Gyotaku fish rubbings in 2012, being an avid fisherman and a lover of the arts, I found this to be very intriguing.

I read on different methods of fish rubbings and studied several artists. I also studied their styles of rubbings and framing methods. It has taken me several rubbings to develop the styles that I use. The styles that I use consist of, single and multiple color rubbings on several different textured cloth. I have also done rubbings on maps, and would like to venture onto different mediums as well. When my rubbings are complete I then frame them in a rustic driftwood frame. I am not only limited to this style of framing, I have also used old window frames and would be interested in custom framework, to the best of my ability.

I, like many other artists, like to use a non-toxic transfer method (i.e. non-toxic Sumi ink, or a non-toxic acrylic paint). When using a non-toxic transfer method, the fish meat is unharmed and may still be consumed. In order to produce an accurate replica of the fish, it is best to keep the fish unharmed and on ice until the rubbing commences. You will want to keep all the scales and fins intact and most importantly wait to filet the fish until after the rubbing or rubbings are complete. I have completed rubbings of my own catches, and also the catches of other people.

The method of fish rubbing that I use is called the “direct method”. First I take my fish and wash it to get all of the natural slime off. The next step is to dry the fish so that the subject is tacky and clean of blood and slime. I then remove the eye, and place paper towel in the socket. I place paper towel in the mouth, gill slits, and anus as well. I do this so that no fluid will cause my paint to become thin and bleed out. After this is done, I pin my fins where I want them to stay. I then place cardboard underneath the tail and fins, so that I have a sturdy fin to press against. Now it’s time to add the paint. You can use any color you desire, but the traditional Gyotaku style is black sumi-ink on white rice paper.

To get the paint underneath the scales really well, it’s best to paint from the tail to the head. After all the paint is applied, obtain the medium you are choosing to transfer the image on. Line the fish over the medium so that you will get the image exactly where you want it to be. Then it’s time to rub. Make sure you cover the entire body of the fish, as you don’t want to lose any detail. When you lift your medium off of the fish’s body make sure to remove it quickly but with precision to avoid paint smears, or pick up any additional paint from your working station. You can then hang your fish rubbing(s) to dry. I can usually get 7-8 rubbings per fish before the paint begins to dry and bead up. You can always rewash your fish and start over, if you desire. As long as I am using an edible fish, I then wash the non-toxic acrylic paint off and filet my future diner. After I am done fileting my fish I bury it in my back yard and it becomes fertilizer for my lawn. The eyes and teeth are then hand painted when necessary.

Gyotaku, is a Japanese word which translates from gyo, meaning fish and taku, meaning rubbing. Gyotaku is an art form originally practiced by the Japanese in the mid 1800’s. Gyotaku was produced to capture accurate records of fisherman’s catches. As there were no, or a limited amount of cameras at this time, it was the only way to obtain long lasting records of the fish they caught.

You can use any color you desire, but the traditional Gyotaku style is black sumi-ink on white rice paper. To get the paint underneath the scales really well, it’s best to paint from the tail to the head. After all the paint is applied, obtain the medium you are choosing to transfer the image on. Line the fish over the medium so that you will get the image exactly where you want it to be. And then it’s time to rub. Make sure you cover the entire body of the fish, as you don’t want to lose any detail. When you lift your medium off of the fish’s body make sure to remove it quickly but with precision as you don’t want to have any of your paint smear, or pick up any additional paint from your working station. You can then hang your fish rubbing(s) to dry. I can usually get 7-8 rubbings per fish before the paint begins to dry and bead up. You can always rewash your fish and start over, if you desire. As long as I am using an edible fish, I then wash the non-toxic acrylic paint off and fillet my future diner. After I am done filleting my fish I then bury it in my back yard and it becomes fertilizer for my lawn. When your rubbing is completely dry you then hand paint your eye in, and teeth when necessary.

I do rubbings of my own catches, but will also do any of your catches that you want to remember. Have a son, daughter, or grandchild catch their first fish. I could rub it and they would have the memory for many years to come. And it’s much cheaper than taxidermy. All you need to do is put the fish on ice and contact me as soon as possible. Do not fillet or alter the fish in any way. My prices fluctuate on the size of the final painting.

CONTACT THE ARTIST

I sell my finished rubbings, out of my home, at craft fairs, and art shows.

You can see updates of my rubbings at
facebook.com/stlawrencegyotaku

Phone: (315) 276-1159
Email: [email protected]