Sunday, February 24, 2013

New Gyotaku Lesson

2nd graders are in the midst of making Gyotaku (Japanese fish prints) and multi-media collaged ocean backgrounds. 5th graders made Gyotaku a few weeks back and the printing process was the same for both grade levels, so you can check it out HERE.
Even though I told each group that our fish were not real, but made from rubber, I got a lot of suspicious looks as kids approached the "fish table." I heard several students asking their neighbor, "Are these REAL fish?"

I loved when one little girl, who was rubbing her fish print paper, looked up and said,"This is like giving the fish a massage!!" I'm still chuckling at the image!!

We started with a short Smartboard introduction and then kids had some images of underwater plants to refer to as they collaged their ocean scene.

They cut grasses, coral and kelp first, gluing it all on with dots of Elmer's Glue All. Taught students to use little dots instead of spreading on the glue like peanut butter!

The last step was to add fingerprint texturing to the coral and fingerprints for the round parts of their kelp. **In the lower corner of the above photo you can see the glue cups and sticks we use for almost all gluing in the art room. The board is white foam core with layers of wax paper glued or stapled on. (When the top layer gets too yucky I just peel it off and the underneath layer is already there and ready to go.) We let the glue dry in the portion cups and just add more glue on top of the dried stuff until the cup is pretty full. Then you can just pop the dried glue out and start all over again! The sticks are sandwich sticks from Smart & Final and we reuse them for quite awhile, too. I find that this method encourages using the glue very sparingly, dot by dot.
 They painted bubble wrap and printed bubbles, experimenting with color.

The illustration boards that students were using were a variety of light and dark blues and greens. We talked about which paint colors were more likely to produce contrast on the light or dark backgrounds. I heard kids talking a lot about which colors would "show up" best -- LOVE those purposeful conversations!!  There was also talk about line directions, overlapping and texture. When we cut out the fish prints and glue them I'll post the results.


  1. Hi Christie,
    This is a great project - can you tell me where you get the rubber fish from?
    I use the same method for glue - I find it saves a lot of wastage! I hadn't thought of letting the glue dry in the bottom and just topping up - I've been cleaning my glue pots out at the end of each week which is a HUGE pain! I'm going to try your method instead, thanks :) Elizabeth

    1. Thanks. I got my fish from SAX here:
      I think I have seen them advertised other places, too -- maybe Blick??
      I did this lesson years ago using real fish, and I must say, the rubber is much easier!!!

  2. Thank you for this. The rubber fish are a fantastic idea. Nobody needs to be using real fish for this project any more. I think to use real fish is macabre and awful. We wouldn't make prints from any other dead animal.