Angling Art: An Old-School Method for Printing Fish

“Brown Trout,” ink and pain on Hand Dyed Thai Kozo Chiri paper.
by Michael Reimer

Editor’s note: Here’s the latest installment of a new series on angling art. We’ll try to post a new painting, drawing, or sculpture every Wednesday. If you have any suggestions for artists we might feature, let us know below.

A few years ago, on a cold winter Saturday in Eastern Pennsylvania, Michael Reimer was searching online for some fish art to decorate his office when he came across a Web site dedicated to Gyotaku (pronounced GHEE-OH-TAH-KOO), the Japanese art of fish printing. A software engineer by day, Reimer was also an avid fisherman and amateur artist, and something about the impressionistic yet precise fish images intrigued him enough that he spent months researching the Gyotaku process. When spring rolled around, he caught a bluegill and attempted to do a rubbing, but ended up with little more than “fish-shaped blobs of ink.” Undaunted, he worked on perfecting the process, and he now displays his work at galleries and art shows.

“Bluegill,” ink and pain on Hand Dyed Ma.
by Michael Reimer

Reimer practices the “direct method” of Gyotaku, which involves covering the surface of the fish with block printing ink, laying a piece of rice paper on top, and rubbing the back of the paper to created a mirror image of the fish. Once the ink has dried, he paints the details of the eye and markings, and then he signs the work with his “chop,” or artist’s stamp. The resulting artworks feature remarkable detail, especially in the fins and the silhouette, yet the artist’s hand makes the image more than just a copy of the fish.

The list of fish Reimer has printed includes rainbow, brook, and brown trout, as well as largemouth bass, pickerel, flounder, and even a piranha. Because he uses water-soluble ink, he can even eat the fish when he’s done. All of the fish he uses are caught by him or one of his fishing buddies.

For more information and to see pictures of prints for sale, visit his website.

6 thoughts on “Angling Art: An Old-School Method for Printing Fish”

  1. I have some wooden fishing flies you might want to check out. Not sure where to summit pictures but you can check them out on my web site. Joe Wuts

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