I thought I would share a children’s fable I wrote only a few weeks ago. The story came to me in a flood of inspiration. I have received lots of positive feedback on my fable and am looking to network with illustrators so that I might publish this short story. Feedback of any sort is greatly appreciated.
The Mouse That Thought He Was a Cat
There once was a family of mice, they lived in a house wild and free;
The mice ate cheese from the pantry, made nests from the hamper and played wherever they pleased.
The mice were careless and abundant, they prospered and their numbers grew;
Soon the house was full of mice, then something arrived that was new.
A kitten came to the house, he was small and also sweet;
He cried for saucers of milk and didn’t quite yet eat meat.
All the mice ran away from the kitten, all except just one;
He saw no reason to listen and thought the kitten was fun.
The other mice stayed away, they did not even wish to be seen;
They thought the kitten was dangerous and might grow to be quite mean.
But the one little mouse who was different, he thought that he knew best;
He stayed behind with the kitten, and did not run with the rest.
The kitten was slow and playful and so the mouse grew sure and bold;
He stayed near to the kitten when he ate, and while the kitten began to grow old.
Foolish mice looked to this mouse, they saw all the food that he ate;
They too wanted food for themselves, wouldn’t that be just great?
They began to play with the small cat, they even shared food with him;
Soon the mice became fat, they ate and played at their whim.
The cat and the mice were friends and so they ate more and more;
Things were going quite well, what else could be in store?
Still the other mice stayed away, they told them they were in danger;
But the fat little mice didn’t care, they felt only annoyance and anger.
Soon the smart little mice screamed “look how big is the cat!!!”;
The other mice screamed back “we are cats too we are fat!!!”
But the smart little mice didn’t stop, they yelled when they could and they fled;
Now the cat was big, and his hunger screamed to be fed.
“Go little kitten and eat them” spoke the mice who thought they were cats;
“They are not like us, they are but dangerous and rats.”
The cat listened to the fat little mice, he moved fast and gave chase;
The smart little mice ran too, they were lucky to win the race.
Now the fat little mice grew bolder and they became fatter and fatter still;
They knew the cat was older and the smart little mice they could kill.
They stole from the wise little mice, laughed as they robbed and dined;
The wise little mice became scarce, soon they became hard to find.
Now the cat was fast, it caught mice quite easy and quick;
Some of the fat mice became scared, they said “something is wrong we are sick!!!”
But the one fat mouse said nothing, he looked and only sneered;
It was already too late for his friends, soon they learned what they had feared.
The powerful mouse now was sure, he looked to others and smiled;
The others were weak and small, he was both free and wild.
The cat did his bidding and ate, until finally only the one mouse remained;
Then the cat looked to the mouse, and the mouse learned the cat was not trained.
The cat could no longer find mice, soon his hunger caused him to leave;
The other wise mice returned, they knew in themselves to believe.
Neither ignore nor feed the cat, it will take what it must to survive;
But a mouse is a never a cat, you must know this to stay alive.
This is a paint test I did today on one of the lesser gyotaku prints from last week’s Vermillion Massacre. Im not 100% happy with it, but it’s good enough to share.
Special thanks to my friend Trevor G. for gifting me some higher quality Shoji paper and providing me with advice and tips, his work is displayed on his website at Fishtaku.com If you do take a minute to check it out take note of the two large Giant Pacific Octopus prints, one of them hangs in my living room and of course it was I who provided the octopus. They were featured in 7x7s online magazine (a San Francisco culture magazine available in print and online) in a piece about Trevor and his work.
Several months ago I began learning to do gyotaku artwork. Gyotaku, a traditional Japanese fine art, uses ink to print a caught fish onto paper. Gyotaku literally translates to “fish rubbing” and right there you have a concise explanation for the entire process. Really most of the work involved is in preparing the fish to take and transfer the ink. Traditional gyotaku is done using sumi ink; a Japanese ink made from organic materials, it is non toxic and can be washed off after printing. Sumi ink is available in blocks which must be ground with water in a special type of stone or in premixed bottles. It is also commonly used for traditional Japanese calligraphy. The second component material to a traditional gyotaku is Shoji paper; this is paper made from rice, it comes in different thicknesses and is often used in traditional Japanese interiors.
As aforementioned a substantial portion of the gyotaku is in the preparation. I begin with a canvas painters tarp to keep my work surface clean. I then lay the fish down on the canvas and grab handfuls of clay to prop up and support the fins and tail, sewing pins are then added to splay the fins open and close the mouth should I wish. Next paper towels are stuffed behind the gill plate, in the anus, and into any wounds the fish may have incurred while being caught with a spear, the eye is also removed. A hair dryer or a heat gun is used to dry out the fish or cephalopod prior to the application of sumi ink.
As I have learned so far, the real trick to getting your gyotaku to print correctly is to apply the correct amount of ink to the correct places. You will have to decide whether to use a bristled brush, foam brush, or an air brush to apply an even amount of sumi ink. Certain parts of the fish will soak up the ink and other parts of the fish will cause it to pool. When you find areas that are retaining too much ink use something absorbent, i.e. paper towel, foam sponge, q-tip, to remove the excess ink.
You are now ready to start ruining roles of shoji paper with blotched and blurry fish prints. After you get a feel for how much ink is too much and how much is too little your prints will begin to improve dramatically. One thing I have found to help with applying the shoji paper is to clamp a few pieces of molding strips to the edges of the paper, it prevents the paper from furling and makes it easy to lay it over the fish exactly where you want. Once laid, gently rub the paper into the fish with your fingers, take extra time in the areas that have proven to soak up the ink. This part of the process only takes a few minutes, once completed remove your paper and admire your print. If you feel like it reapply the ink, or don’t (I believe it’s called a ghost print), and rub out another one ;-). After you’ve finished making prints wash off the sumi ink and clean your fish.
I’ve included photos of some of the prints I’ve made. When I get around to painting them and stamping them with a hanko, I’ll post again. Thanks for reading.
26″ California Sheepshead
19.5″ Rubberlip Sea Perch, printed twice
Same Rubberlip Perch, printed four times