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The Margaret River fisherman who makes art from his catch

As a kid, I was fascinated … with what lay beneath the surface. From an early age, I grew a healthy obsession with fishing. Trips to the coast from our family sheep farm were occasional at best, so it wasn’t until I got my licence that I really began to explore the region’s coastline. Upon completion of my carpentry apprenticeship, I took off around Australia to fish, surf and explore.

I first came across gyotaku … on my second lap around Australia (this time with my wife and kids). We came across a deckhand on a charter boat in NSW offering gyotaku prints of trophy fish. I thought, ‘wow, what a great memory to have whilst still being able to eat the fish’. Gyotaku is a little-known Japanese art form that uses real fish to create unique prints. It was common practice in the 1800s but lost popularity in the mid 1900s, so with very little information available to me, it was with trial and error that I began to teach myself how to print fish.

I was using dead fish to create art. I got a few odd looks

My first order was from … a keen fishing mate who had just caught a monster pink snapper. I had been printing for a year or so by that stage but had never had to deal with a fish of that size. This began a steady flow of commissions and fish prints from all over the State. I have received both Australian and world record catches to immortalise.

My favourite fish … to print would have to be a John Dory. Its body shape and long tangled fins make it such an interesting subject. To eat, our very own West Australian dhufish. To catch, anything that jumps!

When I’m fishing I’m … in another world. It’s my escape, just being in nature: rivers, oceans or lakes, I really have no preference. Catching a feed, that’s just the icing on the cake.

My dream catch to print is … the arapaima, which are native to the Amazon basin in South America. They have huge armoured scales and look very prehistoric, and would make for one hell of a gyotaku subject. This is a pretty ambitious goal but hey, you just never know.

In the future … I would like to continue working on my portfolio of species. I’ve so far printed in excess of 50 different fish, but would love to build on that well into the hundreds and add some iconic west coast species to our website. Ultimately, I would love to pack my carpentry tools up for the last time to pursue my true passion. I am also taking part in Margaret River Region Open Studios from September 12. mrropenstudios.com.au.

Do you have a passion you would like to share? Email play@wanews.com.au

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