Save My Ink
January 11, 2015
How long did you tattoo for and why did you want to join the industry?
I started tattooing in 1998. It was my full-time job for 10 years. Since 2008 I’ve only done it ocassionally, about once a week. I got my first tattoo in 1992 and soon after thought it might be something I could pursue as a career. In 1995 I asked my friend Nalla Smith if he would teach me how to tattoo but at the time he was unable. A few years later he asked if I was still interested in learning and I jumped at the opportunity.
Can you give us a background of your career as a tattoo artist and what style of tattoos you typically produced?
Nalla set me up with all the equipment I needed and I made a tattoo of the word “Giant” in graffiti lettering on my upper left leg. I showed it to him and he approved. From there I tattooed my friends for free for a few months then slowly started charging customers referred by friends. After about 9 months of that, I moved from San Francisco to New York to work at East Side Inc., my first shop job. I worked there for most of 1999 and 2000. I moved back to the Bay Area and worked at Newskool Tattoo in San Jose for a year or so. I think I started working at Everlasting in San Francisco in 2001, then worked at Tattoo 13 in Oakland in 2003. In 2004 I opened Stay Gold Tattoo in Albuquerque with some old friends. I worked there full-time for a few years then moved back to San Francisco in 2008. At that point I stopped tattooing regularly and moved my practice back home.
In your personal work, how did your understanding of graffiti influence the tattoos you produced.
Graffiti writing certainly informed my sense of color, which is extra helpful considering the fact that I’m colorblind. Otherwise, the only time my background in graffiti writing plays a role is when a client specifically asks for something written out in that style.
What role do you think graffiti plays in the overall industry of tattoos?
Many tattoo artists are or were graffiti writers. That’s about the only connection. In most ways, the two artforms are polar opposites.
Can you discuss more in-depth some of your other projects outside (specifically Rebel8)?
Since 2003 I’ve been earning a salary as an illustrator for REBEL8. That’s been my focus for many years now. I put in about 40 hours a week drawing the t-shirt graphics by hand. Other than that, I ocassionally show my drawings in galleries, about 4 times a year. And when the opportunity is right, I’ll still accept the ocassional freelance job.
How have all the projects you have taken on tied into tattooing?
Some projects relate to tattooing, some don’t. Many of the graphics I draw for REBEL8 include some element of tattoo culture, whether it’s an homage to a classic American tattoo design or a pin-up girl covered in tattoos. The work I show in galleries is generally related to tattooing in one way or another. Tattooing is a big part of who I am, it couldn’t help but influence my life in general.
Other than graffiti and tattooing, what other industries have you noticed are very integrated with tattooing?
Fashion is the big one that comes to mind. Tattoo imagery on t-shirts sells, plain and simple. Cable television loves tattooing too. Seems like tattoo aftercare products have become a big business too.
Where do you draw inspiration for your work?
I love illustration from the late 18th to the early 20th centuries, particularly the work of Alphonse Dominique Ingres, Alphonse Mucha and Aubrey Beardsley.
Any future projects in the works?
I just finished working on a project with B-Real from Cypress Hill. Next is a special project with Pierce the Veil. Over the past few months I’ve been working on a series with photographer Jason Siegel. I’m also working on some large collage pieces on wood panels.