Gyotaku Fish-Printing Art from Hawaii

11 fabulous fish printings on rice paper from Maui made with the traditional Japanese method of gyotaku

What Is Gyotaku?

From the artist's web site, Maui Fish Printing:

“Gyotaku reflects a part of Japanese history. Gyotaku, or fish printing, is an ancient, time-honored, traditional Japanese art form. Over a century ago, freshly caught fish were painted with a non-toxic ink and covered with a piece of delicate rice paper.

The paper was then carefully smoothed down, and depending on the amount of pressure applied ... it creates an exact-size imprint of the fish.

Once the print was completed, the fish could be washed and prepared for a meal. Over the years, gyotaku has grown to be recognized as its own art form.” — Brian Heustis

Yellowfin Tuna

Gyotaku fish printing yellowfin tuna
The artist printed this 177-pounder off Oahu.Brian Heustis / Maui Fish Printing

Rusty Jobfish

Gyotaku fish print of a rusty jobfish
From the deep waters of Maui comes this jobfish, commonly called lehi snapper or iron-jawed snapper. Jobfish are in the snapper family and as expected, superb eating.Brian Heustis / Maui Fish Printing

Wahoo

Gyotaku fish print of a wahoo
Wahoo are found in warm seas the world around and are seasonally abundant in Hawaiian waters.This one was caught around one of the offshore fads by the charter boat Piper.Brian Heustis / Maui Fish Printing

Flyingfish

Gyotaku fish print of a flyingfish
This hefty flier (that measured 14 inches) was actually caught on a hook — a little lure that the Maui charter-boat StrikeZone was trolling for aku (skipjack). The artist says it proved very challenging to print.Brian Heustis / Maui Fish Printing

African Pompano

Gyotaku fish print of an African pompano
African pompano are found in most warm seas of the world. These elegant jacks (trevallies) are also called threadfin jacks locally (though that's actually a different species). Large adults lose the long "streamers" (filamentous dorsal and fin rays).Brian Heustis / Maui Fish Printing

Striped Marlin

Gyotaku fish print of a striped marlin
The artist printed this stripe for an first-time angler from Boston, fishing out of Maui,Brian Heustis / Maui Fish Printing

Mahimahi

Gyotaku fish print of a mahi
A big bull mahi (dolphinfish) sports its classic peacock hues. This bad boy weighed in at 43 pounds. This was the artist's first mahi (to print).Brian Heustis / Maui Fish Printing

Hogfish

Gyotaku fish print of a hogfish
Various species of hogfishes are found in tropical seas everywhere. In fact the toothy reef dwellers are members of the wrasse family (Labridae).Brian Heustis / Maui Fish Printing

Cornetfish

Gyotaku fish print of a cornetfish
The odd cornetfishes swim slowly but use their long tubular mouths to create a powerful suction to Hoover in any unwitting prey. This one was more than four feet long.Brian Heustis / Maui Fish Printing

Green Jobfish

Gyotaku fish print of a green jobfish
Unlike the rusty jobfish, the green jobbie (uku to Hawaiians) is found closer to shore around shallower reefs. The tough, elongate member of the snapper clan are found throughout the Indo-Pacific.This one weighed about 12 pounds.Brian Heustis / Maui Fish Printing

Red drum

Gyotaku fish print of a redfish
No, this isn't some Pacific version of the redfish found from Texas to Virginia. The fish was actually caught in Texas and sent to Heustis to use for printing! "She saw my work while visiting Maui and always wanted a fish print, so I got to do a fish we don't have here in Hawaii," he says.Brian Heustis / Maui Fish Printing

About the Artist

Gyotaku artist Brian Heustis
Artist Brian Heustis next to a printing he made directly from a giant yellowfin tuna.Brian Heustis / Maui Fish Printing

Brian Heustis, owner of Maui Fish Printing, moved to Maui about a decade ago and was there first exposed to gyotaku. "My love and passion for the ocean is the core reason for expressing myself and nature through fish printing," he says. "Every fish I print is special, no matter how big or small. Each one has a story to tell, and I consider it my honor to be allowed to tell it."