A Life Among Fishes: The Art of Gyotaku Review by Ralph Kiggell
As we learn more about the vast mysteries of the oceans, with a growing awareness of our abuse of marine resources, Christopher M Dewees’ charming book, A Life Among Fishes: The Art of Gyotaku, invites printmaking to enter the realms of science and conservation.
Dewees learned to print fish, a form of nature printing, while studying for a masters in fisheries in San Francisco in 1968. In the ensuing years he has built up great expertise in the method, originally developed in Japan as a way to record an interesting catch before it was eaten. Through lively anecdote from predominantly Pacific coasts and waters, Dewees shows how gyotaku spans fishing, science, eating and adventure.
The gist of gyotaku is either to cover an inked fish with a receptive surface (paper or fabric) and apply pressure by hand, or wrap a fish and dab ink onto the paper or fabric surface to get a recto image. This is by no means easy, for the nature, size and state of the fish (or shellfish, octopus etc.) determine the process and its timing. Dewees gives wise, step-by-step advice on how to do all this.
The attractive layout and illustrations of A Life Among Fishes make it as much a handsome picture book about printmaking adventures, as an excellent description of the gyotaku technique.
Ralph Kiggell ARE