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Artist Spotlight - John Doherty: A Fisherman and an Artist
A Creative Technique from Out of the Blue
One fortunate day in 19th-century Japan, a fisherman cleverly documented his extra special catch by painting the fish, placing a piece of paper over it and rubbing, before peeling it back to admire his creation. Although his name is lost to history, this fisherman-artist had unknowingly just created a new record keeping device, to track the size & species of a fishermanís catch, as well as a new art form known as Gyotaku (Gyo = "fish," Taku = "imaging" or "rubbing").
Today, John Doherty of Belmont, MA carries on this ancient technique with sea life of the Americas. From Alaska to New England and down to the Caribbean, Gyotaku is his way of paying tribute to his childhood, family history and the freedom and bounty that the ocean provides.
"Fish Aye Trading Company is the result of two of my loves in life—fishing and creativity," affirms John.
Fish Rubbing: A Creative Process
John first attempted Gyotaku over ten years ago. "I mixed some charcoal and water in an old rubber boot and came up with an inky mixture. I spread it on a bluefish I caught. It was all experimentation at that point."
Since then, John has evolved his technique, "Before beginning work on a fish, I try to think of how to create a balance between the colors I can use and the personality of the species. I often find that if I can synergize my thoughts of the fish at sea, with that of my paint brush, it will be reflected in my work." John typically will paint a fish two to four times before he is completely satisfied.
The Secret Ingredient
A unique touch that John applies to every print, is the inking of an elegant Chinese character. Each character tells a story, "It could be the fight I had with the fish, the time of day I caught the fish, the type of fish, or I suppose, even my mood," explains John.
As a man who’s both creative and pragmatic, all of John’s subjects are washed off and grilled up or used as bait in lobster, crab or eel traps. John recounts one fourth of July when, "A friend caught [a 13 pound lobster] in an offshore gillnet east of Chatham, Cape Cod. The print came out great and the lobster meat was delicious!"
Fish Framing & Artmongering
The ability to order completely online is exactly what John felt he needed, so John joined the Unbranded Fulfillment Program offered by pictureframes.com. It enables him to have his fine art giclee reproductions professionally printed, framed and shipped—to himself, or directly to clients—with only a few clicks of his mouse. "I have been extremely pleased with the product and the process."
To help boost his sales, John is able to sell the complete presentations on his website. "Having framed prints on my site has definitely helped. Most customers are happy not to spend the money and time framing my work themselves, and they really like the sturdy, well made framing."
John uses the Print & Frame Shop and My Gallery at pictureframes.com to create and save his edition presentations, enabling him to reorder effortlessly. "It’s a well set up system that allows me to be as custom as I want and all very professional looking."
He designed most of the mat and frame presentations himself and had a little help with custom sizes from Senior Editions Consultant, Jane Rhem, whom he found "enthusiastic and helpful."
Fortune from the Sea
The art of Gyotaku keeps John close to the ocean and constantly appreciative of the beauty and variety of marine life. It is said that the art form brings good luck to fisherman. "I think getting into this medium of artwork has made me a more dedicated fisherman," says John, "I’d say my luck has improved; I don’t come home empty handed."
John Doherty has studios in Belmont, MA and West Harwich, Cape Cod, MA. To contact John, or see his more of his work, visit his website at www.fishayetradingcompany.com.
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