Festival artist’s work is no fish tale

Artist Bonnie Warecki knows how to “reel in” visitors to art shows. She displays and sells her captivating and colorful “Gyotaku” fish prints — rubbings made from fish she literally reels in from the ocean.

She will be among 70 national artists participating in the 3rd annual Naples Masters Winter Art Festival taking place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Jan. 22 and 23 at the Collection at Vanderbilt shopping center, at the corner of Vanderbilt Beach Road and Airport-Pulling Road. Proceeds from the event benefit the Harry Chapin Food Bank.

Raised along the shoreline of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin, Warecki draws upon her childhood of sailing and fishing — combined with her art education at Mount Mary College in Milwaukee — to continue this ancient Japanese art. Her husband and sons are all former commercial fishermen and even today hold licenses as charter captains, so she has had plenty of inspiration from their hauls over the years.

“When we go fishing, we fight over whether our catch is going on our dinner plate or into my artist’s studio,” Warecki jokes. “If it’s something I haven’t worked with a lot, it’s a keeper for me.”

Warecki’s works feature the species of her northern home, such as alewife, trout and salmon, as well as those found near her summer home in Ellenton, Fla., including snook and sea ray.

Gyotaku, an ancient Asian art form that became popular in Japan in the 1800’s, is a direct transfer of image process. After removing excess moisture from the fish, Warecki applies ink or other media on its body to create or match existing color patterns. She places a piece of paper or fabric on top of the fish and carefully rubs to make the impression. When done correctly, almost every scale is replicated. Warecki often touches up details such as eyes or adds backgrounds including other sea life to give the print character.

Each piece is framed behind glass. Since each print is made to scale the pieces are substantial.

Warecki can help fishermen preserve the memories of their big catch by making a rubbing of a fish they have, even one kept in the freezer for a while. To present Warecki with a fish, do not cut it; protect it in a plastic bag and keep it cool or frozen; and call her cell at (920) 839-5457 to discuss price, scene options and logistics. Learn more at her website, www.gyotakufishart.com.

To learn more about the Naples Masters Winter Art Festival, visit www.boulderbrook.net.

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