Made on MVY: Jeffrey P. Canha’s Island Fish Prints

Sumi + unru = art.

A gyotako of a tautog on rice paper. — Photo courtesy of Jeff Canha

Teach me to fish and I can eat forever. Print me a fish and I’m delighted. Know someone who’s an avid fisherman? Have a rustic cabin in the woods that aches for something over the fireplace? Decorating a kitchen? Jeffrey Canha’s fish prints fill the order. Some of them stark black on colored papers, others enhanced with pastel paints, the prints are surprisingly beautiful for such a, well, fishy subject. The works are scattered around Jeffrey’s studio — some of them framed and hanging, some drying, some waiting for the enhancement of pearlescent paints. “I let it dry,” he explains. “If it’s perfect, I leave it alone. If it needs help, I embellish.”

The studio is dominated by a huge work table on which fish are mounted and fins pinned into position. Jeffrey uses Japanese inks called “sumi” and traditional handmade papers – “unryu” – predominantly made from mulberry. The fish is inked, then the paper pressed onto it.

Jeffrey, a fishing charter captain in high season, a fish-print artist in the off, learned the ancient craft about 30 years ago, studying a book which is, itself, practically an antique. “The book is 60 years old,” he explains. “This stuff pretty much hasn’t changed.” He works with his own frozen catch, fish given to him by friends, and does custom work using his charter clients’ prize snags.

“In lieu of taxidermy,” Jeffrey says, “I am able to make a print. It brings science, history, culture, art, and conversation, as opposed to a mounted fish on a wall.”

Jeffrey can be found in his studio at 52 Beach Street in Vineyard Haven (behind the Blue Canoe) by appointment (508-737-5717). From now until May 21, his work can also be viewed at the Feldman Family Artspace at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, and online at Jeffrey’s Facebook page, Island Fish Prints, and purchased at