HTDF Gyotaku – The Art of Fish Rubbing


[:30]Beauty shots of Florida’s lakes and oceans

Old photos of Chad fishing with his father

Newer photos of Chad fishing with his kids

VO: One of the great things about living in Florida is the abundance of fishing opportunities available all year around. The experience of fishing is like no other, and there’s no better way to spend it than with your child. I remember how great it was fishing with my dad, and how I couldn’t wait to share new memories with my kids. Of course, I thought cameras were the only way to capture these treasured moments in time. Then, I discovered…Gyotaku.
[:30]B-roll of Gyotaku artwork and/or graphics with Japanese words: GYO TAKU coming together with English translations underneath

B&W photos (or video reinactment) of fishermen painting and rubbing fish.

Color shots of Gyotaku artwork

[Japanese music sting or SFX]VO: This form of Japanese traditional folk art means “fish rubbing” and started in the mid-19th century as a way to record fishermen’s catches.   Fish were caught and painted with sumi ink. Rice paper then covered the fish and was rubbed by hand until the image of the fish appeared, preserving its exact size and features. Today, Gyotaku is a recognized form of fine art that is practiced all over the world. It’s also a cool way to show off your catch without having to stuff and mount it.
[:20]Beauty shots of Sarasota

Chase and Chad walk to the back of Jim’s home

VO: My son and I travelled to Sarasota, the heart of both Florida’s arts mecca and sports fishing, to meet up with Jim Roberts. Jim combines his background in graphic arts with his passion for fishing through the form of Gyotaku. His incredible artistry is shown in at galleries and art festivals throughout South Florida.
[:52] 00:00:03 – 00:00:55Chad and Chase with Jim in his backyard

B-roll of Jim’s artwork

CHAD: “Oh, man look at this, Chase. Jim?”JIM: “Hey, Chad.”

CHAD: “ How you doing, sir?”

JIM: “Thanks for stopping by.”

CHAD: “Oh, this is absolutely gorgeous back here.”

JIM: “Thank you.”

CHAD: “So this is Chase.”

JIM: “Nice to meet you. Y’all ready to go try and catch a big one?”

CHAD: “He is. He is so excited about this.”

JIM: “Well let me tell you, I first saw this after moving to Sarasota FL. I saw it at a fishing lodge and I wanted to learn to catch Tarpon.   I found this has been a wonderful way to express the beauty of each fish here in Florida.”

CHAD: “I mean, the fact that you’re catching these fish, bringing them home, painting them, pressing them on paper, and walking away with just this beautiful artwork is just absolutely spectacular.   Look at this…what is that…grouper?”

JIM: “This is a popular fish in Florida, the grouper.”

[:12]   00:01:04 – 00:01:16Chad and Chase checking out a large Gyotaku grouper

[:17]   00:01:22 – 00:01:39

Chad lifts Chase to compare him to grouper

CHAD: “That is just amazing. Absolutely amazing.”JIM: “Fish weighed over 181 lbs. Better than a picture.”

CHAD: “Is this what we’re going to catch today?”

JIM: “No, not one that big.


CHAD: “Let me see something, let me see something.   That fish is almost….”

[Chad picks up Chase]

JIM: “He’s bigger than you are!”

CHAD: “That fish is bigger than you, dude.   You would fit right in that fish’s stomach. Well I am so excited to get this day going!”

JIM: “Well alright. Let’s out and get on the water. Whattya say?”

CHAD: “Let’s do it.”

[:05]   Graphics:Gyotaku Step 1: GET A FISH VO: So, inspired by Jim’s wonderful artwork, it was time to start with the art of Gyotaku. Step One: Get a fish.
[:25] 00:01:48 – 00:02:13B-ROLL Chad and Chase walk to dock and get on boat

[:16]   00:02:16 – 00:02:33

Chad and Chase fishing on boat out in open water

[:06] 00:02:41 – 00:02:47

Chad shows camera lizard fish

[:23]   00:02:51 – 00:03:14

Chad and Chase looking at lizard fish

[quick music montage]

CHAD: Reel, reel, reel, reel…whattya got? Oh, man! What is that?

CHASE: A lizard?

CHAD: Jim? Can we do gyotaku on this guy?

JIM: It’s not the most favorites as far as favorites.

CHASE: But can we?

CHAD: Jim says no.


CHAD: You wanna talk about a weird, weird fish? The lizard fish. Look at this thing.

JIM: Not exactly a trophy.


CHAD: He won’t open his mouth for me but he’s got some wicked teeth. That guy can get big and prehistoric. Look at that.

CHASE: Whoa. Don’t you dare….

CHAD: You wanna put him in your pocket or do you want to let him go? Let him go?

CHASE: Yeah.

CHAD: Bye, bye, lizard fish.

CHASE: He looks like a snake.

[:23]   00:05:08 – 00:05:31Chad helping Chase fish CHASE: So it’s just like this?CHAD: There you go. Perfect. Ok, let’s try to throw it out there again. There you go. Good cast, buddy. When you’re fishing with kids, key word is being patient and every child learns at their own pace.
[:24] 00:05:34 – 00:56:58Chase catches reels in a small fish

[:07] 00:06:06 – 00:06:13

Chad and Jim measure fish

[:04] 00:06:18 – 00:06:22

B-roll Chase throwing fish back into water

CHAD: Oh, Chase, Chase, Chase…here ya go, buddy. Here ya go. Whattya got?CHASE: What if it was a dolphin?

CHAD: Bring it in, bring it in. Alright!

CHASE: Is that good…for gyotaku-ing?

CHAD: It is good, but I think it’s a little too small. Captain’s gonna measure it for us.


CHAD: Let’s see. Gotta be 15. Do you wanna let him go or do you want me to let him go?

VO: Like some fishing trips, there can be some disappointments, but it’s always important to just have a good time.

CHAD: “Grab him right there and throw him in the water. There you go. Good job. High five.”

VO: We weren’t ready to give up yet.

[:19] 00:06:55 – 00:07:14Chase catches a good fish

[:11] 00:07:45 – 00:07:56

Chad holds fish, then almost loses him

CHAD: Oooh, ooh…here ya go. Reel it in. Whattya ya got?   Oooh! Ooh, Chase it’s a big trout. Nice and slow, buddy. Nice little trout. Yeah, you gotta net? Hold it. It’s too late.CHASE: That’s a good size.


CHAD: This is a gyotaku trout.

CHASE: Wait….

CHAD: We got our gyotaku trout, buddy. Gimme five, buddy [fumbles] I’m gonna lose this fish. I better put him in the cooler.

[:07]00:08:49 – 00:10:48

B-roll of boat heading back to land, tying boat to dock

00:12:32 – 00:12:35

Chad to camera

[music montage]

CHAD: Alright, we got our fish. Now, it’s time to go from the bay to the studio.


Gyotaku Step 2: Prep and Paint Fish


[:22] 00:14:17 – 00:14:39Jim with Chad and Chase back in studio

[:03] 00:14:48 – 00:14:51

[:02] 00:14:53 – 00:14:55

[:02] 00:14:58 – 00:15:00

[:03] 00:15:12 – 00:15:15


B-roll of Chase pinning fins to board

JIM: Hey, guys. How’s it going?CHAD: It’s going good.

JIM: Let’s see what we got here.

CHAD: Voila. There it is, Chase.   You ready? You ready to do some Gyotaku?

JIM: What we did first was wash the fish off and wash the slime coat off and now we’re going to pin him and get him ready to print.

CHAD: Alright, let’s do it.


JIM: So we’re going to use these nails…


…and put something under them.


CHAD: So, we’re pinning the fins back. Why, Jim?


JIM: We’re going to pin the fins open so we can get a full picture.

CHAD: Okay.

[:07]   00:23:19 – 00:23:26B-roll of Chase and Jim placing paper under the fins VO: Fins pinned to foam core stop them from curling as they dry. Jim also slides sheets of paper under the fins to catch any excess paint when the fins are painted. The paper is then removed right before the rubbing to give a nice, clean impression.
[:28]   00:16:00 – 00:16:28Chad talking to Jim as he pins fish to board CHAD: So, Jim, tell me a little bit about Gyotaku. Where did this originate?

JIM: Back in Japan, it was handed down from fishermen, there was a method to record their catch. I think over time, you know how fish gets bigger? I think they got tired of people telling lies so they decided to lay rice paper on the fish….

CHAD: So rice paper doesn’t lie?

JIM: No. It’s the actual size.

CHAD: A fish imprint doesn’t lie.

[:31] 00:31:07 – 00:31:38Chad asks Jim a series of questions

[:02] 00:32:01 – 00:32:03

Chad asks Jim one last question

CHAD: So, can you gyotaku a…possum?JIM: I think you can. Uh, the master from Tokyo has done a Shetland pony….

CHAD: A Shetland pony?

JIM: …a Siberian tiger….

CHAD: What about armadillo?

JIM: I don’t think that’s a popular one in his country but…the killer whale.

CHAD: Hmmm…what about a squirrel.

JIM: I would like to do a squirrel. They’re very popular.

CHAD: Aardvark?

JIM: I haven’t seen one.

CHAD: Turtle?

JIM: Of course I’ve done it.

CHAD: Owl? Pelican?

JIM: Uh, no. Parrot, I’ve done.

CHAD: You’ve done a parrot.

JIM: Yep.


CHAD: So, there’s pretty much nothing you can’t Gyotaku?

JIM: I don’t think so.

[:45] 00:19:42 – 00:20:27Jim and Chase mix paint, dries fish with paper towels

CHAD: Okay, so what’s the next step, Jim?JIM: Well, we’re going to apply the paint to the fish. Actually, going to dry him up first with paper towels.   Right now we’re just mixing some colors.

CHAD: And these are colors, you pulled these ‘cause you feel these are indicative of species?

JIM: Yeah. Browns. The trout lives closer to the bottom of the grass beds and his spots and dark top is camouflage.   So the next step is to dry the fish. And I do this by placing paper towels and you can put light pressure and rub the fish.

[:03]B-roll of Jim mixing paint
VO: Now it was time to paint.
[:09] 00:24:13 – 00:24:22Jim starts to paint fish

[:05] 00:24:28 – 00:24:33

Jim hands Chase the paintbrush

[:15] 00:24:43 – 00:24:58

Chad watches Chase paint

[:16] 00:25:49 – 00:26:05

JIM: I like these sponge pads ‘cause they glide over the shape of the fish.CHAD: Oh, nice.

JIM: You can come back the other way, but kinda likes to go on better, smoother this way.


Now, what do we want to do? Do you wanna put some green on?


CHAD: Go that way with the scales, buddy.   Just go that way. There you go.

JIM: How’s that look?

CHAD: I like it. Rainbow trout.

JIM: I always see, like a yellow in the belly. So, let’s switch colors. That’s nice.


JIM: I’m gonna blend his gold with beautiful there colors.

CHAD: Absolutely, just gorgeous.

CHASE: Look, Daddy….

CHAD: I know, look at all those colors coming together.

JIM: Let’s get that top dark again.


[:08] 00:27:13 – 00:27:21Chad talks to Jim


00:27:21 – 00:27:37

B-roll Jim cleaning up paint around fish

CHAD: You done, Chase? Alright. I think our trout is painted.JIM: Okay.

CHAD: It’s ready to go.

JIM: Let’s start pulling out these dirty pieces of paper.

[short music montage]

[:15] 00:17:56 – 00:18:11Chad talks to Jim

CHAD: Jim can we eat this after we’re done?JIM: Certainly. It’s water…indelible ink that can be washed off and won’t hurt the meat at all. It flakes the skin right off.

CHAD: So, we can make art with it, filet it, eat it. Edible art. Gotta love that.

[:03] 00:28:15 – 00:28:18Jim lays paper down on fish

[:06] 00:28:21 – 00:28:27

Jim presses down on paper

[:14] 00:28:34 – 00:28:48

Jim uses water bottle






JIM: Now we’re going to lay the paper over the fish…[edit]

…and start to do a rub…and take your time. I like to use my palms on the body…


…fingertips and a little more pressure on the fins.

CHAD: So, I noticed you moistened the paper a little bit before you set it down?

JIM: If it looked dry…it’s actually by dampening the paper that you get the paper to mold to the shape of the fish.

[:11] 00:37:17 – 00:37:28Chase pulls off paper JIM: Let’s see what we got guys.CHAD: Ready to pull it up, Chase? Pull it up. From that way, over there.

[Chase pulls it up]

CHAD: Ba-dowwww! Look at it, Chase!   Now that looks cool.

[:03]B-roll of Chad and Chase smiling at his new Gyotaku VO: So, now we just needed to wait for the paint to dry and then add the final touches.
[:03]   Graphics:Gyotaku Step 3: Final touches


[:15] 00:39:59 – 00:40:14Jim, Chad and Chase look at dried Gyotaku

[:03] 00:40:17 – 00:40:20

B-roll of Chad and Chase adding speckles

[:12] 00:44:24 – 00:44:36

Chase adds final touches

[:03] 00:44:43 – 00:44:47

Chad thanking Jim

[:11] 00:44:53 – 00:45:04

Chad holds Gyotaku





CHAD: So, Jim our print has dried and you mounted it to a piece of foam core. So, what’s next?JIM: We’ve gotten it flat and now we can see the shape and we can add the details.

CHAD: Okay. So, speckled trout gets…speckles.


CHAD: There’s a lot of speckles there, buddy….


JIM: Now, put the finishing touch in. Put a dot in his eye.

CHAD: That’s the twinkle, right? The twinkle in the eye. Just a little dot in there, buddy. Boom.

JIM: Done.

CHAD: That’s it.


CHAD:   Jim, thank you so much for teaching us this. This has been a blast.


JIM: Great.

CHAD: You get to catch a fish, and you get to paint a fish.

JIM: Now, let’s think about dinner.

CHAD: Now, let’s eat the fish. Gyotaku. Fish. Paint. Eat.

[:20]B-roll of Chase and Chad hanging up his framed Gyotaku artwork and admiring it [NEEDS TO BE SHOT]

VO: So, our catch-of-the-day-turned-to-art made its way back home. Our fishing encounter forever captured as precious artwork. It was an experience that we will always remember, and we can’t wait to do it again. Maybe someday he’ll continue this adopted Japanese tradition onto his own kids. Either way, it’s a memory we’ll never want to erase.
[:05] 00:12:06 Chase on camera
CHASE: For more information about taking your dad fishing, go our website “How to do Florida dot com.”