On the Printing of Fish

I am a beautiful print and a delicious dish!
I have continued with my gyotaku experiments. This tilapia is probably my most successful attempt at making one of these prints to date. It’s pretty big at about 14 or 15 inches and the scales are really prominent. That has been a problem for me with the smaller fish like bluegills because the scales are so small that I have had trouble getting them to register as scales. This is only a problem with my technique as I have seen plenty of examples of other artists getting very fine scales to print beautifully. I’m getting better! 
I used water based relief printing ink on this one for a couple of reasons. Number one, it was done in-class and I wanted easy clean up. Number two, water based ink is very easy to dilute with water. I mixed a little Daniel Smith water based burt umber relief ink (which takes forEVER to dry) with some speedball water based black relief ink and went to town using a 1 inch flat brush to apply the ink. It all went very quickly, the ink was easy to apply and clean-up was a breeze. And that’s really saying something for any printmaking project.
There is a very large plecostaomus in my freezer right now that is begging to be printed. I tried to print it over the summer but failed miserably! I’m not sure why it was such a disaster, but I have a few guesses. First of all, I was using an oil based relief ink that was undiluted. It did not want to adhere to the fish at all and I think it was too thick – not juicy enough – to really get in between the scales. The scales are the other issue. The pleco has skin like sandpaper. Very, very coarse sandpaper. (In fact, I caught the fish with my bare hands in a little stream by my house. It was so rough that I had no difficulty just grabbing hold and dropping it in a bucket. A very large bucket.) I think these scales somehow repelled the ink; or maybe they held on to the ink. Whatever, the actual prints were terrible and even I, the man who keeps everything, threw them out in disgust. This was a shame since I had even set up the camera and was shooting a time-lapse video of inking and printing this monster. I deleted the movie because I was so disappointed with the prints. 

I think the success of the tilapia print has encouraged me to give the pleco another shot. Look for more gyotaku in the coming weeks!
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  1. Is that a new logo at the bottom right?

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