Printer Friendly

Go fish!

Fishprinting had never been high on my list of must-do's. In fact, the idea of covering a dead fish with ink never really entered my mind. It wasn't until I first tried it and afterwards helped curate an exhibit of fishprints by the artist Esther Krichevsky that I realized that if you can print a fish you can print just about anything.

In conjunction with Esther's exhibit at the Al Oliver Museum of New York City's Louis Armstrong Middle School, I assumed the responsibility of introducing the Japanese art of fishprinting to the students as well as other interested teachers. Exploring fishprinting and beyond, I used the museum as a motivating tool to develop a series of activities that proved to be some of the most creative and worthwhile experiences I have been involved with. Fishprinting not only served as a unique art experience, but also as an introduction into printmaking, as well as collage and painting. It involved working with ideas on anatomy, ecology, history, social studies, creative writing and music.

The first question most students and teachers alike asked was, "Why print a fish?" We examined how fishprints originated historically (Japanese fishermen used them to keep a record of their catch), and their pleasing aesthetic quality as exemplified by Esther's prints. Since using fish for art still seemed repulsive--if not wasteful--to some of the children, we encouraged them to talk about ways of using the fish such as for bait or for dinner. It seemed important to establish a respect for the life-cycle and for replenishment of the environment.

We asked the children to examine the fish, touch them, identify the parts and describe the purpose of certain fins and scales. Then we demonstrated how a fishprint can be a more accurate anatomical representation than even a scientist's drawing.

Quickly we learned that printing is not as easy as Esther made it look. The term "pull a second print" became a standard part of the children's vocabulary. They explored different ways of printing, as well as different objects to print and print on. Some children combined prints of leaves and branches with their fishprints, other children handpainted their prints, and still others made collages and printed. After they were done, the products were quite impressive. We created a follow up display that would rival those of the Coney Island Aquarium.

Another aspect of our work was geared towards using Japanese fishprints to explore other Japanese arts, primarily haiku poetry and music. Teaching intern Stan Sochaki set up a performance in which he would bring a class into the darkened museum and then spotlight one print at a time. Meanwhile, haiku poetry was recited and Japanese wind and string instruments were played in the background. Afterwards, we discussed the prints, poetry and music, and the special way the Japanese relate to nature and life through their art. Then it was up to the children to create their own performance. Using a traveling fish as the theme, the children created drawings, wrote poems and made collaborative sound effects. When they were all ready, we turned out the lights, spotlighted their drawings as they read their poems, and recreated the sounds.

Working with fishprinting, I learned that teaching is not just giving the answers, but having children ask questions and find their own answers. The most important thing one can do is create and foster the type of environment where this can occur. There was not just one way to approach the problem, and children had the freedom to experiment and involve themselves with a number of different activities. Making different materials available to the children and giving them a sense of freedom along with responsibility are essential for a child's creative growth.

When I overheard Dionne tell her friend, "See how the music and the pictures connect;" when Carlow began to pick up his fish and gently drop it on his paper until he had created a montage of fish parts; when Monica began to paint the insides of her print with the delicate care of a master craftsperson; when Ozzie brought in tissue paper from the bathroom and showed us how it was more effective than the drawing paper we were using ... that's when I realized what it means to see children grow. To see the transfer of ideas, the use of analytical as well as intuitive thought and to see people act out on those thoughts and ideas was more than worth all the setting up, cleaning up and janitorial grumblings that came along with this project. And I thought a fish was just ... a fish!

Mario Asaro teaches art at JHS III in Brooklyn, New York.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Davis Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Asaro, Mario
Publication:School Arts
Date:Mar 1, 1990
Previous Article:Rug-tail critters.
Next Article:Clayheads in Arizona.

Related Articles
Life in the Turner family.
Bedrooms and cameras.
Go fish, GloFish.
The gamblers: Guinevere Turner and Kevin Smith on the long, strange decade it's been since the premiere of Go Fish and Clerks.
Fishy politics.
Vachon's fresh kill.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters