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Artist Charlie Brown shares gyotaku with islanders

By Staff | Jun 18, 2009

What do you get when you fuse an avid Southwest Florida fisherman with a meticulously clever artist?

The answer: island gyotaku artist Charlie Brown.

“I have lived here all my life,” said Brown, who now lives at Shell Creek by Punta Rassa.

Born at Lee Memorial Hospital, Brown, who works as an anesthesiologist, is a third generation Floridian, his grandfather having arrived in Fort Myers in 1905.

Brown said that he first read about gyotaku, the traditional Asian art of fish printing, about five years ago.

“I thought It was interesting. I catch a lot of cool fish, so I thought I might try it,” Brown said. “I bought inks and first tried it with my then little girls. It was fun and I kept experimenting.”

His friends began noticing Brown’s knack for the craft and began requesting pieces.

“Soon, I had a little side business,” he noted.

Moving beyond the realm of creating only for himself and his pals, Brown took the next step and began to show his work publically.

“Tower Gallery was my first gallery. [They’re] a kind bunch who have been very supportive,” Brown says of his first gallery experience on Sanibel.

Brown’s work is also on display at 2 Islands Gallery in Captiva’s Chadwick Square.

“2 Islands is a beautiful space and I wanted to be part of it,” he said.

Brown describes the art of gyotaku as a Japanese and Chinese process that first appeared in the 1820s.

“Its emergence probably coincides with the large scale production and availability of paper. Fisherman used the process in a pre-camera world to prove catch,” Brown explained.

“As you know, all fisherman are liars – this was a method of proving catch,” he continued, noting that gyotaku is part of a much older form of nature printing that mostly involves botanicals.

“Most U.S. gyotaku artists use color. I try to mimic the colors I see at the time of catch, though I do some whimsical stuff as well,” Brown said.

The artist explained that the paper he uses for his prints come from all over the globe, including Thailand, Mexico, Nepal and Europe, in addition to many handmade papers from Japan.

“My primary interest is fish printing, but I have experimented with some watercolor as backgrounds. I am beginning to do some crustaceans,” Brown said, noting that he plans to pursue printing crabs, lobster and shrimp in the future.

Brown also said that the islands are a perfect place for him to show, particularly because of his choice of models.

“Most of the fish [I use] are caught around Sanibel and Captiva. I think folks like to take a piece of this place back. That’s why fish prints work,” Brown said, adding that he enjoys having the opportunity to meet potential art patrons in person.

Charlie Brown’s colorful gyotaku fish prints are on display and for sale at 2 Islands Gallery in Chadwick Square at South Seas Island Resort.

2 Islands Gallery is open to the public every day from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

For more information, call 472-5111 ext. 7633.