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Faux Gyotaku

Looking for a project with "sole"? Introduce the Japanese art of Gyotaku while experimenting with creative coloring techniques.

  • Grade 3
    Grade 4
    Grade 5
  • 60 to 90 Minutes
  • Directions

    1. "Gyo" means fish and "taku" means rubbing in Japanese. Gyotaku is the Japanese art of making prints with fish. This technique was originally created by fisherman in the 1800’s to record their prized catches and over time has evolved into a unique art form.
    2. Show examples of Gyotaku prints to the class. Students research the techniques, colors and variations. What makes each one unique?
    3. Creating authentic Gyotaku uses real fish and paint to make the print. This "scaled" back version lets you create a fun facsimile of this technique with construction paper and crayons. To create the body of the fish, place a piece of construction paper over the bottom of your shoe. Sneakers are the best choice for this project. Take a crayon with the label off and rub it back and forth over the tread of the sneaker. Watch the texture and pattern of the sneaker’s tread appear on the paper. Experiment with different colors and by applying different amounts of pressure with the crayons. This crayon rubbing will become the scales on body of the fish.
    4. Using authentic Gyotaku prints for inspiration, add details like a fish eyes, fins and a tail to the body of the fish with crayons.
  • Standards

    LA: Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

    LA: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.

    LA: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade level topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    SCI: Ask questions about the natural and human-built worlds.

    SCI: Construct drawings or diagrams as representations of events or systems.

    SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.

    VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

    VA: Describe a variety of art objects in historical and cultural contexts.

  • Adaptations

    Students use the Internet to research and collect photographs of Gyotaku fish prints. In small groups, students discuss the individuality of each print and brainstorm the processes used to create each print.

    Students compose original directions for another to follow in producing a Gyotaku print. These directions can be shared and critiqued or used to see if the student writing is clear.

    Students explore other forms of Japanese art forms such as origami, the art of paper folding. Students write a summary of their findings and create an example to share with classmates.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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