TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Guest Artist: Barry Singer of Fish Fanatic

Pennsylvania artist Barry Singer contacted me through my Etsy store, asking a question about my molas. I took a look at his store and was intrigued by his fish. I had not heard of Gyotaku before and really liked what I saw. The translucent result of imprinting the fish makes the image almost seem like an x-ray.

Barry was kind enough to submit an article for Fiber Focus, explaining the technique. He uses fabric paints or acrylics when printing on fabric, and both are permanent when heat set. I can see a fish quilt in the making! Barry is also an accomplished painter, showing off more of his fish in brilliant oils and watercolor. Visit his Etsy store for a whole range of fish products on fabric and paper. His website has a more extensive step-by-step illustrated guide on how to master the Gyotaku technique.

GYOTAKU on Fabric

GYOTAKU with its origins in Japan, is the process of rubbing the image of a real fish onto paper or fabric. Fabric is actually the easier of the two.

Can anyone do it? Of course, just like anyone can draw or paint. Some folks are better at it and everyone has their own style. I recently did a GYOTAKU class at the state park and 25 people attended. Ages ranged from 10 years to retired and everyone had a blast. The results were amazing. Some people just made fish-shaped blobs while others looked quite professional. One teen aged girl knocked out a dozen beauties, signed them all and proclaimed “I’ve got gifts for all my friends!”

"Barry Singer is an old man who truly enjoys life.
He has worked as an artist, teacher, and a printer." (Barry Singer)

Here’s a quick how-to:

  • First you will need a fish. There are over 30,000 species in the world, so take your pick.
  • Next rinse it off thoroughly with salt or mild detergent.
  • You may want to prop up the fins with blocks of wood or the like.
  • Use some fabric paint available at the craft store to paint the fish everywhere except the eye.

  • Choose a tight knit fabric, dark fabric for light paint and light fabric for dark paint.
  • Memorize the anatomy of the fish; because once you lay the cloth on top, you’ll be like a blind man touching all of the parts. If you miss an area, well, the image won’t transfer.
  • Carefully peel back the fabric and reveal a mirror image.

  • Now you must use a fine brush to paint the eye. Study the actual eye because if you don’t do it correctly, it just won’t look right.

  • Finally you can set the image with a hot iron using no steam.

For more details and step by step pictures, visit my web site www.gyotakuartist.com

Or buy an actual original from www.fishfanatic.etsy.com

Barry Singer paints in the eye of a striped bass made on black fabric.
The small GYOTAKU in the background are also made on cloth.


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