5th grade Gyotaku

Wow… what an awesome and fun project. The energy level has not been higher in my classroom all year! I was so excited to do this project, and my excitement may have worn off on the kids. 🙂 So, gyotaku is the ancient Japanese form of printmaking where fishermen would record their catch! I explained to the kids: instead of being able to text their buddies what a huge catch they just caught, they would pin the fins, paint ink on the fish, place rice paper over top of the fish, and peel the rice paper off. Then some would go back and paint details in to their prints. I showed students this awesome video where a father and son go to Florida, go catch a fish, and complete the full gyotaku printing process. It’s really a cool video! 🙂 Then I showed them my two demonstration videos that I recorded for them, you can view them here and here. Here is the breakdown of our project’s timeline:

  • Week 1: The first week we worked on the collage aspect (texture rubbing for the background in cool colors only, sand, seaweed, and other details for an underwater scene).
  • Week 2: The second week everyone printed 4 fish – this took awhile! But was crazy, messy, chaotic FUN! Students had to keep the larger fish using all warm colors (I gave them red, magenta, yellow, and orange – their color combination choices), and the smaller fish got cool colors (I gave them turquoise, purple, green, and blue to choose from)
  • Week 3 & 4: Then the last 2 weeks we took some time to cut the fish out, glue them down, we added eyes, gold paper for coins, and the final touch: we added a Japanese chop. In Japanese culture, instead of signing with multiple letters to form their name like we do, they have a symbol that they sign their art and formal documents with. An amazing Little Bennett mom made me my very own chop to use with the kids! Our symbol means “fish” in Japanese language.

I recently was thinking that maybe parents and (perhaps other teachers that may read this?) may be interested in the objectives, and concepts/topics for the project, so I’m going to try to do that each time I post.


  • Students will be able to create a printmaking collage incorporating Gyotaku, the Japanese fish printmaking form.


  • Artists’ style: expression and human experience
  • Evaluation of artwork (We will be doing a fun critique at the end of the project!:))

Before showing you their masterpieces, I should add: we used a rubber fish kit that is made for this exact art form. We did not go fishing in Little Bennett Park, nor did we go on a field trip to Florida (though I had MANY ask if we could!). Here is an example of a Gyotaku printing kit (but not the exact one we have).

Drum roll pleeeeeease:

IMG_6398 IMG_6399

IMG_6400 IMG_6401 IMG_6403

IMG_6519 IMG_6520 IMG_6521 IMG_6522 IMG_6523 IMG_6524 IMG_6525

I really loved this project. This art is actually already up in the art hallway, where I took these pics. So the lighting isn’t great but I was just so excited to write about the project. I am probably going to update this post with more pics soon (so stay tuned!). I just couldn’t hold onto this post! Had to share! 🙂

Edit: Like my new signature? 🙂

Edit x2: I added more! 🙂



One thought on “5th grade Gyotaku

  1. Mrs. Prin says:

    Mrs. McCormick, the students did a fantastic job with this project. I was fortunate to be with Mrs. Jung’s class during week one when students made the background with you. The final projects are beautiful. Great work!


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