Friday, April 5, 2013

Gyotaku Prints!

When I saw gyotaku on Dali's Moustache, I knew that it HAD to be done! I have been looking forward to trying this project for months!

I opted to do this with my third graders--a moronic brave choice, considering how wild some of my third grade classes can be. But the appeal of working with fake rubbery fish won out over poor choices, and this ended up being a very successful project!

Very little introduction needs to be done for the kids to get excited about this project. I show them the following video to get them hyped!

For your reference, the above artist, Naoki, has a website with a lot of his gyotaku prints featured:

And the following video is pretty cool, too, and is set to some neat music!

After discussing the art of gyotaku, or "fish rubbing," I had the kids paint their background paper. I experimented with a few papers but ultimately prefer using watercolor paper, as it isn't terribly thick but still holds up to the weight of watercolors and tempera combined. Our paper was 8 x 18".

The kids were allowed to choose the palette they used for the watercolored background, as well as choose whether they wanted an abstract cloudy/blob look, or a more organized pattern.

This underpainting took a full 45-minute class, which was perfect to move us into the second day, the big printing extravaganza!

I fully took advantage of Ren's fantastic idea to have extra gyotaku assignments prepared for the kids who weren't printing (as we couldn't do all prints at once). Kiddos designed their own funky fish and personalized stamp design, as per the worksheet you can find on Dali's Moustache:

Some of my early finishers wrote a few facts about their fish. My favorites include:

"This is Elvis Fish. He wants me to say, 'thank you, thank you very much' for reading about him."

"My fish makes man prints. He won first place for his man printing."

The third graders were absolutely nuts for this project. And, as with their Trapeze Artists, all of the other grade levels were totally jealous! For just two 45-minute classes, I am thrilled with the work that the students produced! These precious smiles prove that I'm not the only happy one:

This is such a cool job.


  1. Great prints! My third grades did Gyotaku this year also and absolutely loved it!!! :)

    1. I just checked yours out--they look great!

  2. I love Gyotaku! I'm doing a printmaking unit with 2nd grade and the final project in the unit is Gyotaku prints. We will be starting those when we get back! I think I'm going to have them watercolor paint the background and then do bubble wrap prints over the top for the water. Then we'll print the fish on separate pieces of paper, cut them out and glue them to the background. Haven't' decided completely yet but I might have them make seaweed and plants out of tissue paper to glue on as well.

    1. I eagerly await your gyotaku post! I like the idea of the bubble wrap overlay. The watercolor is a little boring behind these, so I might try that or come up with another method of jazzing up the background. I'm torn--I really love the simplicity of the prints, too.

  3. Thanks for sharing the Youtubes. I have used the second one in the past and couldn't locate it for my lesson tomorrow. I am using the bubble wrap for the water also! Have a great week.

    1. I hope you'll share your projects on your blog! :)