As the saying goes “I”m hard to shop for.” This Christmas, my wife was creative and very thoughtful when she arranged for a Gyotaku art class — with a world class artist who happens to live very close to us.
I’ve always really enjoyed the look of Gyotaku art and admired the prints during my many trips to Japan. In October 2022, we visited the Four Seasons Sensei resort in Lanai and they had some wonderful prints between the kitchen and the dining area. Here are few photos that my wife took:
The person who created those prints is Dwight Hwang. He is a world renowned artist who has created covers for magazines and has been contracted for pieces in hotels, restaurants, and galleries all over the world. Imagine my surprise when I got the gift of a one-on-one class with him!
He also has his own “twist” on Gyotaku and has started branching out into plants, people, and mixed creations such as the very interesting (and very hard to do) top-down print of a koi with an insect and the flowers:
We saw this print in his studio and I was amazed. Think about how hard it is to do that print with the fish “vertical” instead of “horizontal.” True magic, artistry, and creativity.
Like many art forms from Japan, it is a relatively simple concept with only three components (fish, ink, paper) but there is complexity in the methods. So simple, yet so complex.
We started out with very simple fish and then progressed along until we got to the octopus. My wife and I would work together on a specific subject with each of us working on applying ink, dabbing it, pressing the paper, and holding the paper taught to avoid “wrinkles” or “lightning strikes” across the print.
The photos below are from Dwight:
You can see how we got better in some of the progressions below — both in general and on a specific fish.
Finally, we went to work on making a print of an octopus.
I had mixed feelings about working on an octopus since I’m such a big fan of them. Working with an octopus presents a few challenges. The head area doesn’t have any texture so it is easy to use too much ink and just get a big “blob” of ink without features and then you also want to put it in a pose that looks “natural” like it is moving through the water.
After we practiced a few times, we created a print on thicker, better paper which had its own challenge because the paper was stiffer and it wasn’t as easy to form to the contours of the octopus. Here is the final print:
Spending 3 or so hours with Dwight made me realize just how talented he is and how hard a “simple” art form like Gyotaku can be.
My wife and I are planning to return at some point and do another lesson using plants, seaweed and other materials. What a thoughtful and fantastic gift it was.