Paper mache fish fins

A couple of fish fins, before they're painted.

Different artists have different ways of doing fish fins.  Dan Baines uses baking paper and paint, whereas I use bog paper and glue; it's one of those situations where the right method is whatever one works for you.  Today, I'm going to talk about how I make fins.

I like to start with the fin rays.  These are bone or cartilage spines that support the fins. I make them by tearing off strips of tissue about a centimeter wide and twisting each strip into a little cord.  Next, I put a piece of tissue on top of some clingfilm and cover it with glue, and I arrange the fin rays on top.  I add another piece of tissue so the fin rays are sandwiched between two pieces of tissue, and I fold up the clingfilm so I can give my fin sandwich a good squeeze.

Fin rays glued to a piece of tissue.

The cling film is important.  It stops the glue from going everywhere.  It also keeps the fin in one piece.  Tissue paper is fragile, especially when covered with glue, and the fin will disintegrate if you try to touch it before it dries.  Once it has dried you can peel off the clingfilm, shape the edge of the fin, and attach it wherever you want it to go.  Ideally, you want to shape the fin when the glue holding it together is almost but not quite dry.  You get nice curves that way, and you can arrange the fins folded up against the fish's body like this:

Or spread out like this: