~Iliamna's Quest~

The Arts

Growing up with an artist (of quite eclectic tastes), I spent a lot of time with pads of paper, crayons and markers and inks and paints and clays ... learning to draw, print, mold and create. None of my efforts were ever ridiculed (even the really bad ones), as my Mom really felt that creativity was unique to each person.

I've played with a variety of mediums, but most recently my artistic tendencies have been in either graphic design or fish prints. As I have a page devoted to graphic design already, I'll take this area to talk about my fish prints.

Fish Print Full Fish

This is a king salmon .. roughly 45-50 pounds ..
click on the picture to see it enlarged.

I live in an area that abounds with salmon, which are great fish for printing. The style is based on the ancient Japanese art form called "gyotaku". The technique is basic: take a fish with well-defined scales, gill covers, fins and eye .. clean off the slime .. cover the fish with paint or ink, and press down a piece of paper over the entire length, lifting it off to reveal an exact print of the fish.

Sounds simple, hmmm?

Well, it's not quite that easy. These fish range in size from a red or silver (8-13 pounds) to a king (my biggest print was from a 72 pound king). They tend to produce quite a bit of mucous which has to be carefully scraped off. In addition, the paint needs to be mixed as to be just the right consistency - too thick and you have no definition in the scales .. too thin and it just makes the paper soggy. Much care has to be taken in order to keep the surroundings clean so as not to get additional marks on the paper (for the kings the sheets of paper are nearly five feet long). I use different thicknesses of rice paper, depending on the effect I want to get.

Once you have all the basics set up, you have a small window of time to get the paint on and the print made before the paint starts to dry. On a large fish, getting a nice even layer of paint clear to the tail is sometimes difficult to do before the head area starts to dry out. Places where the paint tends to collect more thickly (such as the eye, gills, etc.) need to be touched up with a paper towel before the print is done. If you don't, you end up with large black areas.

The paper must be gently placed down over the fish, and then pressed into all the rounded areas. Each fin must be carefully supported from underneath, and the paper pressed down over it to get the definition of the fin lines. The mouth is especially difficult - if you're not careful you get a double print from the paper touching down in the wrong place.

When it all comes together, you get a very unique and impressive print. These are a favorite of tourists and some of my prints grace the walls of homes and offices throughout the U.S.

I have one large print of a head scanned for viewing. Click on this thumbnail to view it.

Fish Print Head

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