Japanese Gyotaku Fish Prints


Gyotaku means ‘fish rubbing’ and is a printmaking technique traditionally used by Japanese fishermen to record their catches. It was the perfect project for my Japan-themed art camp.

We began by watching this brief video of Hawaiian gyotaku artist/fisherman Naoki.

The campers were really excited to start!


  • rubber Gyotaku Fish Printing Replicas (or fresh real whole fish).
  • black tempera cake, water and stiff brush
  • copy paper
  • paper towels
  • chalk pastels
  • watercolors

(note: this post contains compensated affiliate links. Which means if you buy the rubber fish, I get a small commission. The rubber fish rock, BTW. They last forever, and you can share them with other teachers).



We tried printing with thin Japanese paper and with copy paper. The thin paper wrinkled and copy paper stayed smooth. We also tried printing with liquid orange tempera.

Paint the fish with black tempera cake. Cover fish with copy paper and rub (don’t wiggle the paper!). Pull the print.
If the fine details (such as scales) don’t show, try Naoiki’s method: re-coat the fish and then pounce with a balled up paper towel to remove some paint. Cover with copy paper and take another print. Let dry.

Color the print with chalk pastels

In the video, Naoki hand-colors his gyotaku prints with watercolors. We used chalk pastels to add color to our fish. Campers blended the pastels with their hands or with tissues.

I love how they turned out!

Campers also had the option of painting or decorating the negative spaces with watercolor. I really think they did a nice job.

The project was inspired by this post at the Fine Lines blog.


This project was taught in my Japan-themed art + cooking camp. Each day we made an art project and a cooking project.

Gyotaku Fish Printing Replicas

from: Blick Art Materials

Art + Cooking Camp: Crepes and Monet

What fun!  I just finished Day One of my Paris-themed art and cooking camp.  Today we made Banana-Nutella crepes on a real Parisian crepe griddle. We ended the morning with Impressionistic ‘mini-Monets’, created with chalk pastels and Shrinky Dinks shrinkable plastic.


We started out by watching a YouTube video of a real Parisian crepe vendor. Then we mixed up the batter, all the while talking about how to measure out and combine the ingredients. CLICK HERE FOR THE RECIPE! I swear by my CucinaPro electric Crepe Maker for that real Parisian street food experience (note: compensated affiliate link).

Reyna tries her hand at crepe-making

R. tries her hand at crepe-making




The ‘mini-Monet’ lesson from Blick is really fun and successful. You tape frosted Shrinky Dinks over an Impressionistic artwork, then trace over the brushwork using short strokes of chalk pastel. Shrink in a toaster oven and Voila!. We had 45 minutes for art – some kids made two pieces during that short time. Click here to see more examples.

Paige recreates Monet's haystacks in chalk pastel.

P. recreates Monet’s haystacks in chalk pastel.

Completed 'mini-Monets'. Not much taller than a quarter!

Completed ‘mini-Monets’. Not much taller than a quarter!

Tomorrow is Eiffel Tower day. Stay tuned for more photos later this week.



(Note: this post contains compensated affiliate links)

Egyptian Chalk Art: Glue Optional

Michael's scarab

Here are some fine examples of our annual sixth grade Ancient Egyptian chalk art project. Click here to see more examples from last year.


ancient egypt 3


ancient egypt portraits 2

Day 1-2

Our sixth grade students study ancient Egypt as part of their ancient civilizations social studies unit. They have a lot of pre-existing knowledge of Egypt. I build on this by showing photos of treasures from King Tut’s tomb, such as scarab jewelry and Tut’s golden sarcophagus. They had heard of the Book of the Dead – now they had the opportunity to look at all the figures in it draw one. We noticed all the figures were stylized: the head drawn in profile, with the eye looking straight ahead.

Students had the option of drawing ancient god/goddess, tomb artifact, or portrait. They (lightly) drew an image using pencil on black paper. Some kids found it easier to use white chalk for the sketch. Then they went over their lines with black oil pastel.

Day 2-3

The students colored in with chalk pastels, and tried to avoid coloring over the black oil pastel lines.

Minimize the mess: encourage kids to tap excess chalk onto newspaper instead of blowing it around.

Day 3

After coloring with chalk pastels, students went over the black lines one more time with oil pastel.


I used to teach this as a white glue/chalk pastel project, and had lots of old examples for students to see and touch. A number of kids really liked the glue lines. After completing the project, some students asked if they could add glue lines OVER their artwork as a final step. Surprise! We found out their glue lines dried fairly dark even if they were applied over chalk.

ancient egypt faces

White glue hieroglyphics and outlines.

In the above portraits, one girl added white glue hieroglyphics as a final step. The other outlined her portrait in white glue.

I sprayed the completed chalk art with hairspray to keep the pastels from smearing.

If you do use white glue, don’t make the same mistake I did years ago….

Don’t let them dry on the tables! I tried this once. Some glue blogs seeped through the paper overnight. The next morning I found several artworks glued firmly to the table. I had to pry them off, and repair the rips 🙁  Live and learn!


Parts of this lesson were adapted from the excellent Arts Attack curriculum.

Ancient Egypt Chalk Art for Sixth Grade (and Pinterest bonus!)



Do you study ancient Egypt at your school? Here is a colorful, successful art project inspired by the art of ancient Egypt.


  • black construction paper, 12″x18″
  • pencils with eraser tip
  • chalk pastels
  • black oil pastel
  • reference photos
  • hairspray or other fixative
  • newspaper to cover tables

We looked at images from King Tut’s tomb, old issues of National Geographic magazine (I think they cover Egypt every year!), and reviewed images of the Egyptian gods.

Students were instructed to select a subject and draw it on the black paper. Encourage students to 1) draw  LARGE (fill the sheet) and 2) don’t add too many tiny details.

I model drawing with an eraser: draw layout lines on the black paper only using the eraser.  If you mess up, just wipe away the rubbings and try again.

After students draw with pencil, they should go over their pencil lines with black oil pastel. Color in the portraits with chalk pastel. As a final step, retrace the oil pastel lines a second time.

Spray with hairspray or other fixative to prevent smearing (note: this will dull colors somewhat).


This art project is adapted from the Arts Attack curriculum. In addition to my reference photos and the Arts Attack drawing aids, I offered three step-by-step handouts from the library book How to Draw Egypt’s Sights and Symbols (ISBN 978-0823966820).

Pinterest bonus: here are some ancient Egyptian pins that I have collected for next year:

You can’t go wrong! Kids LOVE ancient Egypt. Enjoy!

Chalk Pastel California Missions for Fourth Grade


Fourth graders made chalk pastel drawings as a complement to their California history social studies unit.  Allow two 40-minute classes.


Thinking about a successful, fun art project for a 4th grade California Mission lesson? Try this  art project from Deep Space Sparkle, easily adapted for a California Mission project.

Mission San Juan Capistrano

Mission San Diego de Acala, San Diego, California


  • black, dark blue or purple construction paper
  • chalk pastels
  • black or dark blue oil pastel for outlining
  • hair spray (or other fixative) to keep completed artwork from smearing

Examples of completed 4th grade student work:

Deep Space Sparkle has all the instructions and a downloadable drawing aid for adobe architecture.  You may want to print out this California mission coloring page to use as a Mission drawing aid.

This art project fit in beautifully for our school’s annual 4th grade California history field trip. This year: Rancho Buena Vista Adobe. In past years: Mission San Juan Capistrano.


Don’t let students blow excess pastel color. During class, provide a piece of newspaper so they can tap off the excess.

After class, I washed down the tables with a bucket of plain water and a large sponge. Expect to change the water and rinse the sponge out after just a few tables – they get really dusty – but it is worth it for such a successful project.

The completed artwork will smear unless you spray it with a fixative (I use ordinary unscented Aqua Net hairspray from the drugstore). Please spray the artwork outside!


UPDATE: New Photo tour of Mission San Diego de Acala! Full color photos of Mission San Diego PLUS PHOTOS OF REAL SIGNAGE from the exhibits. A great resource for your classroom, Mission San Diego field trip or mission project. Just $5 each. Click here for Mission San Diego PowerPoint.  Click here for Mission San Diego Keynote.


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