A few weeks ago I was able to watch a member of our senior guide staff, Mark "Smitty" Smith, engage in one of his other life passions...painting. His artwork can be found throughout our fly shop and I sell many of his pieces to clients and other customers who browse our shop. However, it was a neat experience to finally see how one of these pieces of artwork is created. Smitty explains regarding his artwork...
It begins with the fish itself. The artist applies paint to an actual fish, and then presses rice paper over it, creating a direct relief print. It’s called Gyotaku or “fish rubbing.” Think of it like a woodblock but made from fish, plants, leaves and other specimens from nature.
These images on rice paper can then be used in hand cast paper pieces, made from cotton pulp and cast from a plaster mold. The paper piece is composed in reverse. Fish prints are placed face down on a plaster mold and layers of cotton pulp are then placed on top of them. The fibers in the cotton pulp realign with the fibers in the rice paper and once dry, they become one. This process allows the artist to introduce sculptural elements such as relief and surface texture into his work.
The artwork of Mark Smith is done in his studio in Brawley, California. Mark has been printing fish since 1980 and is an active member of the Nature Printing Society. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History from Humboldt State University in 1984. Mark's artwork is showcased and can be purchased where he works as a fly fishing guide during the summer months at the Henry's Fork Anglers fly shop.