In the spring of 2009 I’m sitting on a couch admiring a wall hanging a friend of mine had on his office wall. At the time I thought it was an impressionistic painting of a large fish in bold strokes of orange, blue and gold on three large sheets of newsprint. The great thing about it was that you could see every little scale and fin in detail and the caudal fin almost looked like it could tail slap the wall. He said a friend of ours had given it to him and it was a print lifted directly from the fish. I thought it was absolutely incredible and would be a perfect trophy for a kayak fishing tourney I was running later that summer. Best of all it looked really simple to do, at least simple enough for a guy who graduated from art school and loved to fish. I knew the guys that would walk away with these prints would cherish these fine one of kind works of art.
The first print I ever created was of a red snapper (Whole Foods variety) and the print was surprisingly pretty good. So good in fact that I thought making a striped bass print would be no sweat and I’d be able to create dozens of them in time for the fishing tourney event. I caught my first striper candidate in early June. I rushed it home and went to town. All I can say is controlled chaos. Someone dropped a fish in the printing press, ink, paper and fish scales were everywhere, on my clothing, on our tile floor, on the dog and I even got some on the fish. The first few prints I made looked a bit like a striped bass. The next few were great except I rubbed a little hard on the stomach and the fish decided to relieve itself all over the print. After the fourth and fifth print I started to panic that the meat was going to go bad and began to have doubts about meeting my goal. I cleaned the ink off the fish and put the filets in the fridge. Okay so maybe this isn’t that easy.
I tried another fish a couple weeks later and had a much more successful outing. I took my time, I was delicate not frantic. The prints I pulled actually looked like a striped bass. After getting a few good striper prints, my confidence grew, my obsessive-compulsive behavior kicked into overdrive, and I needed to do more. I made green stripers, blue stripers, purple stripers, rainbow stripers, metallic ink stripers, and even pink ones on black paper. I’d post a few photos of them on some online fishing forums to see what people thought of them, get their comments (pink stripers did not go over well) and then try to do better ones. I experimented with different inks and rubbing techniques and would eventually get a few nice ones done and auctioned them off for charity at the fishing tourney. I gave my best print to my father for his birthday, I think he liked it. It sits in an antique frame above my parents’ mantle.
With my limited success I wanted to try some other species. I was celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary in Hawaii and spent the early mornings fishing and catching some gorgeous reef fish and could only think of what great fish prints they would make. Fortunately for my wife I did not have any paper or ink packed. We did however spend a lot of time in a little art gallery perusing the native gyotaku prints that gave me some ideas for when I got back home.
Well five months after I attempted my first fish print, I never finished the striper prints in time for the award ceremony, I was trying to get an ink stains out of our new carpet, my wife wants me to build a studio, my conference room table at my office has become a wasteland for reference materials, I’ve got scup in the freezer, stray pelvic fins in a jar, and I’m bribing people to catch me fish. What started off, as an experiment has become an obsession.
This evolved from experiment, to obsession, to a professional endeavor. I was working full-time in advertising as an artistic and creative director, but found I was spending more and more time printing, and taking up more and more of my home/office/backyard with inks, paper, and dead fish.