Oregon Coast Council for the Arts presents “Below the Surface,” a series of gyotaku prints by Heather Fortner in the Upstairs Gallery during March. Gyotaku is a printmaking technique that uses the body of a fish as the printing plate. Ink is applied to the fish; Asian rice paper laid against the fish receives the inked image in a transfer that replicates the details and texture of the fish in amazing detail.
Since 1976, Fortner has been printing and studying with printmakers in both Japan and the US. Although not schooled in art, when she saw a gyotaku print of red squirrelfish in Hawaii in 1976, she knew that she had found her medium.
“Gyotaku also offered a valuable life lesson,” Fortner explained. “By being able to express myself artistically through the body of a fish, I discovered that I am instinctively creative. Gyotaku opened the door into my creative world, and I encourage my students to discover and explore their own innate artistry with fish, ink, and paper. I have been teaching workshops in gyotaku since 1987, from Alaska to Hawaii, and now in Toledo, Ore.”
She returned to Japan in May 2010 for additional study with her gyotaku sensei, Mineo Yamamoto, in his International Fish Printing Studio outside Tokyo.
Now retired from the merchant marine service, she works out of her studio, Orchid Street Studio West in Toledo, with the bounty of the Pacific Ocean as her printing subjects. Additional work can be seen at her website, www.heatherfortner.com.