“Koi Fish” Print – Artist Statement

"Koi Fish," linocut, 2012

“Koi Fish,” linocut, 2012

In an effort to blog more, I thought I’d share some of my past writings on art that have only really been seen by my classmates or professors. Here is an artist statement I wrote about a year ago, when I took a super fun printmaking class lead by Professor Imna Arroyo and artist-in-residence Ramón Vargas Ártiz. To learn a little more about the workshop, you can read this brief article posted by ECSU.

The piece of art I am proud to discuss is “Koi Fish,” a taco perdido reduction print. I was inspired to make a koi fish print because at the time, in my Asian Art and Culture class, we were discussing Japanese woodblock prints and how nature was a predominant theme for Asian art. The word koi in itself is a Japanese translation for “carp,” the type of fish it is. Koi is also a Japanese homophone for “love” and “friendship,” and the fish is often used as a symbol for such themes. I chose to make a koi fish because, while they have always amused me as they swim around in their little ponds, they seemed like an appropriate image to experiment with during this taco perdido process.

Koi vary in appearance, with speckles, stripes, and large blobs of color—often orange, white, red, or black. They also have scales, of course. I figured that I could use these attributes to my advantage, since we were required to use yellow, orange, red, brown, and black inks. If I used a fish, a koi more precisely, I could choose which scales would be the particular colors. Although stylized, similar to a tattoo illustration, my print is still recognizably a koi fish. Its vibrant colors make it look quite festive, too. The way I contorted his body looks as though he is dancing instead of swimming, adding to his liveliness. The “noise,” or marks of ink that go against the grain, act like particles or plant-life that surround him in the mucky water. I chose a vertical orientation, with a centered position on the paper because I felt the shape of the koi fish called for such a composition. If I were to try and imagine this print horizontal, I do not think I would like it as much, since there would be too much unnecessary space on either side of him.

As for the process of creating this piece of art, it was a rather long journey that began with a sketch. From the sketch, I made Xerox copies that I could play with: shading in color, adding lines, and so on. It basically looked like a color-by-numbers illustration. This would later help me when it came time for transferring the image with transfer paper onto a linoleum plate. From there, I carved each color layer. I carved away what would remain white from the paper, inked it with yellow, and rolled it through the press with just the right amount of pressure. Registration marks were key to this process going successfully, as one crooked plate could shift an entire color layer. To register, I used metal pins, poked holes on either side of the linoleum plates, and aligned it with the paper so it was centered on the page. Then I could continue to ink, print, carve, ink, print, and carve. From the lightest color, I worked my way to the darkest colors: orange was next, followed by red, then brown, and finally black. Each previous layer had to be carved away before the next layer was inked and sent through the press. This process is what makes it a “reduction” print.

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