Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Fish Printing (Gyotaku) with Kindergarten

A Lesson in Warm and Cool Colors

Last month I decided things needed to get a little fishy in the Art room! I had done Gyotaku (Japanese fish printing) with older students in years past and thought that my Kindergarten students would love this art form also.
I had two main things that I wanted to accomplish in this Fishy Unit. The first was to teach the students about warm and cool colors. The second was to introduce them to the artwork of Paul Klee. Klee is a target artist for Kindergarten students in my school district. My student teacher and I worked together to develop this fish unit.

The first day of our project, we discussed some things they thought of as warm or hot and things that were cool or cold. Students named things like fire, the sun, lava, and a stove for the warm/hot things and things like snow, water, rain, wind, and grass for the cool/cold things. We then looked at the color wheel and picked out the colors that were warm and cool.

After this warm/cool discussion we pulled out the watercolor paints and a 12x18 piece of newsprint. We told student that we were going to use the cool colors today in an underwater painting and then next art time they would begin printing a fish using the warm colors. We went through each cool color together and decided what kinds of things we could use those colors for in our painting. The blue made great water waves, the green created a variety of seaweed, and the violet was used to paint sea creatures.

The next class began the printing! I have six(yes 6!) Kindergarten classes this year between the three schools I teach at. They are not small classes either - so I knew that printing would take more than one class period. I felt it was better to have the majority of the students working on another artwork while we pulled 3-4 students at a time to a back table to do the fish printing.  The printing table was covered with newspaper and had 3-4 rubber fish, sponge rollers, warm color paint poured onto paper plates, and a small amount of black paint on a plate with a couple q-tips.  Each student picked a warm color to roll onto the fish then dotted the eye with a bit of black using the q-tip. Their painted paper was then placed, painted side down, onto the fish and they rubbed the fish for a minute or so. We reminded them to make sure they felt all the parts of the fish to transfer the paint. When they pulled the paper off and saw the fish a big smile covered their face!

The first printing day students worked on a color sheet that my student teacher created. One side had three fish that were to be colored with cool colors and the other side three fish to be colored with warm colors.
Most classes were able to get over half the students printed the first printing day - except for my 2 classes of 29 students each.
The next class we introduced Paul Klee to the students. 
His The Golden Fish Painting was shown to the students. 
We had a discussion about what they thought was going on in the picture and also examined the lines and colors. Warm and cool colors were again discussed. Students then spent the rest of the art time working on an oil pastel fish picture on black construction paper inspired by Klee's painting. While students did this project the rest of the students were able to print their fish.

Take a look at some of the finished fish prints!


  1. I like your fish prints, Theresa and the connection you make to Klee. Did you use the full-size fish for this project or the minis? I purchased a set of the tiny rubber fish this year with my kindergartners in mind and will be doing something similar soon.

  2. Thanks for the comment Barb. I used the full size fish - I have a variety of them. I was thinking about getting some of the little ones. Let me know how those little ones work for you.

  3. I will. I'm adding your blog to my blog roll so I remember to check back often.

  4. What a great way to introduce printmaking to such young students!

    I have actually been working on warm and cool colors with my second graders for several weeks now, and it's amazing how quickly they learn. I must admit, I am spending a few extra weeks on my color unit because it's so much fun :).



  5. I have done gyotaku with my first graders for several years. We did all cool colors on the rubber fish. I like that you used warm and cool colors - the orange fish really pops. I will definitely try the q-tip/black paint eye.

    Thanks for posting

    Rina at k6art.com

  6. Great project. Very vibrant. Where are you purchasing the rubber fish from?

    1. I've purchased ones from Blick but prefer the ones from Nasco - http://www.enasco.com/product/9713262