Fishing: the beloved pastime of many Alaskans. An abundant amount of lazy summer afternoons are spent casting reels, waiting for ‘the big one,’ and then taking your newly captured fish, covering it with ink and imprinting it on paper to create a piece of art… Wait, what?

The stated technique is referred to as Gyotaku (gee-o-ta-coo). It is a traditional Japanese form of nature printing originally used by fisherman to accurately record their prized catches. The Anchorage Visitors Center recently showcased the works of Jerelyn Miyashiro and Linda Warford during its First Friday event. There were over twenty pieces on display, and all of them had been created using this Japanese art of fish printing.

According to their information pamphlet, Jerelyn and Linda “work to create distinguishable, full-scale renderings of a fish rather than precise replicas. We strive to capture the essence and individual elements of each subject. The final fish print is a result of the artists passion for the beauty of nature and Alaska’s fish which continually inspires our art.” Think of it as a call back to Romanticism, minus the poetry and recognition of everything else in nature except fish. Fish truly are the pinnacle of romance. The Old Man and the Sea can attest. Also, Alaskans love fish, such as salmon, and Americans love tuna, as is evidenced in the fact that one-fourth of the tuna catch of the world is consumed in the U.S., but maybe that’s because Americans consume everything like there is no tomorrow, or like there is no African child who doesn’t have access to clean water. That’s why I am calling for the genocide of all of earth’s dolphins. The dolphins’ meat would be given to African communities in need. They could then sell the meat at inflated prices, using the copious amounts of profits gained to buy Ipads and Calvin Klein apparel. The Romantics would be proud, I’m sure. Nothing could be more passionate, except maybe fish covered with black ink.

No, this is not an article on the Gulf of Mexico. So, to create the best prints, the fish need to be cleaned and prepped before they are covered with ink, or—on occasions—with certain paints. “It is possible to do a print with a frozen fish, but it doesn’t come out as detailed,” Miyashrio said. In most cases, both of the artists start with an initial record print. A record print uses black ink resulting in the simplest print. The two artists stated that generally no embellishments are added unless the fisherman, or whoever is paying for the print, requests it. There are cases where embellishments are added, however.

Wondering to myself who would want a fish print above their living room mantle, I glanced at the visitors around the room and it suddenly became as clear as a polished pair of shoes made from Red Snapper skin. They truly were visitors, most of them wearing bright windbreakers and fanny packs. The gallery was packed with tourists filling the room with their gasps of enjoyment. The market was booming. I can see a market for fishermen as well. Who wouldn’t want their prize catch on permanent display? I myself have never caught a fish in Alaska waters, so my piece would be a blank parchment spread across my bedroom wall. I will be sure to save a single dolphin from the inevitable genocide that will take place specifically for this reason.

At the exhibit, most of the prints on display were plain record prints while others featured shimmering greens and pinks that accompany Alaska salmon. Most of the prints stuck to a realistic fashion, capturing nature in its most raw form. One print by Linda that emphasized a more mystic, whimsical feeling was titled “Story Fish,” as if the printed fish illustration were going to be placed in a storybook.

And so goes the story of Gyotaku. If you find the practice intriguing call Laughing Fish Designs, which both of the artists are part of. By the time of my next post you can expect a think tank to have erected for my dolphin genocide. Our campaign slogan will be “make the third world a little chipper, please kill flipper.” Until next time, arigato.

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