Vineyard seawater runs in Jeffrey Canha’s veins. A fifth-generation Islander, Mr. Canha was out on the water soon after he was born — from bassinet to boat, as he puts it. His grandfather ran the freight boat between New Bedford and the Island for 40 years. He grew up fishing from a boat on Lake Tashmoo. The 52 year old has worked repairing boats, teaching boat and car repair at the regional high school and chartering fishing trips.

Inked fish is transferred to mulberry paper. — Mark Lovewell

He is also an artist, creating prints of fish from Island waters. His studio is accessible only by boat, with the unique address of 1 Vineyard Haven Harbor.

Mr. Canha’s art begins with a fish, typically a fish that he caught. He cleans the fish (removing eyes, gills, intestines), pins it up, inks it and then lays mulberry paper atop the fish, gently rubbing to transfer every detail, as if it were a stamp. It brings the fish back to life, he said.

Mulberry paper looks fragile and translucent but is surprisingly durable.

“You could build a boat with this stuff,” Mr. Canha said, thumbing a leaf of the paper.

In the summer Mr. Canha spends his days on his charter fishing boat, Done Deal. — Mark Lovewell

His floating studio was built with logs in Michigan before traveling to the Island just in time for Christmas last year. Inside, Mr. Canha’s work station is decorated with knickknacks. They include old bookends that were his grandmother’s, a collection of more than 40 years’ worth of Derby pins from him and his father, a leather case holding dominoes, and a miniature starter cannon which he shoots off every Fourth of July, honoring his late father. He likes old things, fondly remembering Saturday dump runs with his dad, looking for treasures. “I would beg my father to go twice,” he said. “There was good stuff.”

Once they found an old gumball machine from the International Grocery Association full of $218 worth of coins.

Mr. Canha's current project is fish tail prints for Derby grand slam winners. — Mark Lovewell

So it makes sense that Mr. Canha found an old art form to practice. Gyotaku, literally translated as fish rubbing, has been used by Japanese fishermen since the mid-1800s. The impressions were a receipt of sorts, documenting the fishermen’s catch as they brought it to market. Today gyotaku has transformed into an art form practiced around the world.

Mr. Canha uses a mixture of sumi-e ink, traditionally made from burnt pine sap, and acrylic paints in his art.

“Sometimes I like to embellish with natural colors,” he said. “Really bring them back to life.”

Putting the paint or ink onto the fish is an art in itself, he said. It’s easiest when the fish is flat, but even then the paint is heavier around the perimeter and lighter in the center, giving a bold, detailed outline. He is cautious about over-inking.

“The lighter the ink the better, because if you go too heavy, you just end up with a mod-podgey-looking, kind-of-like-a-fish thing. A fish figure, not every detail,” he said. “It’s quite possible to pick up every detail of a fish. Every scale, every fin filament. Every detail.” The best fish for gyotaku have bold details, Mr. Canha said. Striped bass and mahi mahi are his preferred species.

Floating art studio on Vineyard Haven harbor is accessible only by boat. — Mark Lovewell

“Sometimes, we add a little saltwater into the ink,” he said conspiratorially.

Mr. Canha’s delicate touch apparent in his art is also obvious in his daily life. He begins his days early, usually at 4 a.m. In the summer he greets the sun with meditation and prayer, before spending the day on his charter fishing boat, Done Deal. In the winter, after his morning rituals, he focuses on his art.

“I build my inventory up in the winter,” he said. “Right now, I have specimens frozen that aren’t even prepped.” His current project is creating trophies for the grand slam Derby winners. The oblong prints feature golden tails of each of the species: striped bass, bonito, bluefish and false albacore.

“Printing these tails are easy because they are flat,” he said. “But when you start printing something three-dimensional it gets a little tricky.”

Mr. Canha uses mixture of sumi-e ink and acrylic paints. — Mark Lovewell

He has the dried head of an 80-pound, 80-inch wahoo waiting to be printed; he caught the fish with his good friend Luke Gurney about 120 miles offshore. Mr. Gurney died tragically in a fishing accident earlier this year.

Even though the wahoo was caught three years ago, fish oil is still leaching out of the head.

“I’m going to print that some more, and then I’m going to make a Halloween costume out of it,” Mr. Canha declared.

There is also a huge frame waiting for a 250-pound fish. He just needs to catch it first.

To see more of Mr. Canha's work visit