Monthly Archives: February 2008


Gyotaku (gyo=fish, taku=rubbing) was invented in the early 1800’s in Japan by the fishermen to record their catch. This was their livelihood (not sport fishing as we have today) and they could document the size and types of fish caught and still take it back to be sold or eaten. Also, certain fish in Japan are revered and they would take rubbings of these fish and then place them back in the water. Japanese fishermen took newsprint, ink and brush out to sea with them. On occasion, old newspapers printed with water-soluble ink were also used as the ink would bleed with the moisture from the fish and record its shape (a print) on the newspaper. Prints were brought back and displayed in the homes of the fishermen either on walls or in journals to be used as conversation pieces and to relate proud and heroic stories of the catch. Japanese fishing magazines still hold contests where the judging is done from Gyotaku’s. It has also developed into an art form; many created prints for their beauty, and added artistic elements.

-the above info taken from Artsedge (see link in sidebar)

Since we are doing printing through March I thought we might explore gyotaku. One of the most important things that has to be done in preparation of a lesson such as this is it has to be tried out at home first. Work out the bugs and figure out the pitfalls before you have 30 4th graders, some smelly fish, and a disaster on your hands!
So, it begins with a trip to the fish market. We are lucky to have a new market in the neighborhood that just opened up so off we went to Zam’s Seafood on the corner of Orange and Carson in Long Beach Ca.
Zam's seafood - 12

a wide selection of fresh fish to choose from….looking for something that has some good textures and interesting
I choose a tilapia and a moon fish-cost about $3.50

my tilapia- washed and dried

gyotaku prep
supplies collected-brush, rice paper, sumi stick and stone
paint the fish with the ink and press on the paper. the rice paper easily forms over the fish’s body
there it is! i think we will try a round with tempera paint and maybe some cheap paint rollers
but it looks like a “go” for printmaking month.
If you don’t have access to fresh fish Dick Blick has some plastic ones that you can order.


Filed under artists teaching art, elementary art education, LBUSD, Long Beach art, teaching kids art

Printmaking in the 4th grade classroom

Today we started a 4 week section on printing. Penny introduced the class to a historical overview of printing from the invention of paper making to the printing on t-shirts they were wearing. Starting out, she asked the class what they thought of when they thought of printing. The first student to respond answered, “The PRINT button on the computer printer.”. Perhaps 10-15 years ago they might have thought about the daily newspaper but these days, I wonder how many of them ever see a daily newspaper! How things change!

We talked about the first books made with vellum and then plant fibers such as papyrus. We talked about monoprints, wood block prints, etchings, lithographs, silkscreens, & offset printing. They saw examples of early German lithographs, Japanese woodblock prints, and even comic books, and fingerprints!


Penny has kept a set of handmade stamps that were used when our kids were in the 4th grade-they’re graduating from high school this year! They were made with thin foam cut into shapes and glued onto a block of florist foam. They are deteriorating now but I think we got our money’s worth out of them! We handed out trays (recycled styrofoam meat trays) with 2 colors of tempera paint and asked them to experiment with the stamps and create a pattern.


We let them just practice with the stamps for about 40 minutes creating 4-5 prints per student. They were allowed to trade stamps and paint trays with each new paper. The kids really enjoyed just being allowed to explore these simple materials and experiment. It was a welcome relief from the test preparation they are going through right now. Teachers are stressed trying to get their classes prepared as results are published in the papers and schools are given money based on the results. Even home prices around schools with higher scores are affected! As if the results of one test on one day can tell the whole story here.

Meanwhile, the LBUSD plans on a 40 million dollar budget cut for the 2008-2009 year and the LAUSD looks at a 600 million dollar cut.Governor's Budget Sounds more like a mortal wound than a cut. I am happy to report that Art in the 4th grade classroom won’t be affected one bit! (since we don’t have any $ to start with!) Exposing kids to art doesn’t take a lot of money, it just takes some simple materials, a little time, and the desire to work with them.

One of the kids in the class was home sick today and his mom said he spent the day folding paper cranes from the YouTube video I sent him. I started a collection of videos on my YouTube channel that relate to elementary art. My aim is to create some “how to” videos for the shibori ribbon. I threw up a test video just to check it out and will be producing some better quality ones as soon as time permits. I have a few musicians around here to provide the background music. I also was able to organize my channel into topics which is helpful. Learning the ins and outs of YouTube. Bet some of those fourth graders could teach me a thing or two!

I laugh every time I think about the print button!

Next week: monoprints with oil based ink and water. Also still waiting on an answer regarding the museum trip. Keep your fingers crossed…….

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Filed under artists teaching art, elementary art education, LBUSD, Long Beach art, shiborigirl, teaching kids art

art project materials

buckets of ribbon roll cores waiting for a project to be born. perhaps a printing project?


Filed under artists teaching art, LBUSD, Long Beach art, teaching kids art

more portraits

I was able to make it down to the LBMA for the portrait class with artist Dan McCleary on Sunday. Unfortunately, none of the students in the class were able (or remembered) to get their parents to take them down there. There was a roomful and parents and kids (about 15) and we all participated in the drawing exercises. Dan brought a couple of his students from an LA area HS (charter or magnet-can’t remember the name of the school) who were patient enough to sit as models for the group.
My main reason for being there was to see if I could pick up on any ideas we could use in our classroom by watching someone else teach this subject. Dan used a lot of the same ideas we do ( explaining the layout of the face and placement of features) but the main difference was the pace of the class. We did about 8 10-15 minute sketches over the course of the 2 hours. I think that moving along a little faster would help the kids draw better- just the repetition would help. Also having a life model was something we haven’t done with the kids yet.
some of things the kids learned from Dan:
-a hand is about the size of a face
-most people draw eyes too high on the face
-a hand is one of the most difficult things to draw
-models take a break every 10 minutes or so
-your visual memory stays with you for about an hour

In the end we all were given free passes to see the current exhibit “About Face” in the main gallery. It was nice to see a collection of diverse portraits and I hope we can get the kids down there to see this. I know that after all the work on portraits they will really benefit from seeing this show.

So, this past Monday we put the 4th grade teacher (we had a sub) Mrs. B to work as our life model and went to work practicing our portrait skills again. I brought my good drawing pencils for the kids to borrow along with good art erasers and we went to town! When it was time for Mrs.B’s break, we had the kids model for each other.
Again, stressing that half of learning to draw is in the practice of observation. Several of the students started to get some real likenesses going- exciting to see!

We also had a really good discussion on portraits and made some connections to our lessons on photography from last month and how artists often use photography to help them in their painting and drawing. The kids were really into talking about all this and we had to cut off the conversation so we could get started drawing.
I guess the next two Mondays are dark due to holidays so we’ll have to start on the transparency portraits then.

And March is textile month!
I do have a few photos but will add later…..

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Filed under artists teaching art, LBUSD, Long Beach art, shibori girl, teaching kids art