How did you become interested in tattooing? Besides developing an interest as a small child through National Geographic books, as a teenager I had been creating designs for friends to get tattooed. I would sometimes go with them to the shop to watch it go down, talk with the tattooers and hang out a bit.
You’ve made a bit of a name for yourself by tattooing tiny little sneakers. Why sneakers? Why so small? And what’s your favorite? I have always liked exploring tattooing and trying to push my abilities. I didn’t go to art school and don’t have a natural artistic talent so most of this hasn’t come easy to me.
Your lettering work is simply beautiful. What are the important elements that go into a script tattoo? What is the balance between beauty and legibility? Thanks. I think you have to have balance, alignment and flow. How it flows on the body is crucial.
You do an extensive amount of lettering work, both in your tattoos and in other art. Tell us a little bit about how you maintain balance between a stylish font and a legible one. Which is more important? This all depends on the client. I get all sorts of people asking for lettering, most of them letter-heads themselves, from type designers to graffiti writers and even sign makers.
As our guest editor you hand selected every artist in the issue. How did you assemble this amazing crew? A lot of the people that I have picked for the issue are good friends of mine and people who have been my peers for a lot of years. I really wanted to make it a pretty eclectic mix and have all the bases covered between lettering, black and grey, traditional, Japanese and guys that have made their own thing.
For a period of time you were a part time instructor at a few colleges, but you seem to have stopped doing so. What made you decide to stop teaching? I’ve been teaching since 1999. I started in the institutional environment, but made the conscious decision to take a break from my career in education in 2006, around the time I started a tattoo apprenticeship.
Your tattoo style gives us that West coast black and grey feel, are you influenced by Chicano art? I am hugely influenced by Chicano art. Even though it wasn’t very present in the region I grew up in, the more I saw of it the more it resonated with me culturally.
A subject matter that you clearly excel at is traditionally inspired portraiture, mostly of women. Tell us a little bit about what it takes to make one of these portraits perfectly. What elements do you focus on, where do you draw inspiration from, etc.
While you tattoo primarily black and grey pieces, you also can bust out some traditional or lettering. Tell us a bit about why you think it’s important to be well rounded as a tattooer? At heart I’m a street shop tattooer, it’s important in a street shop when you are coming up to know all styles.
Tell us a bit about your shop, Smith Street Tattoo Parlor, and how you came to open it. Steve Boltz and I opened the shop in 2008. He was living in Carroll Gardens at the time. We saw an ad for the space in a deli, went and checked it out and we decided it was a good look.
What year did you start tattooing? On October 11, 1993 I did my first full tattoo. I did a little coloring in on my buddy Chris Rupp’s wrist, who taught me how to tattoo about a year after that. How did you get into tattooing? I was always a bit fascinated by tattooing and was a creative kid.
Your style is so eclectic with so many different elements visible within it. Is there any one term you would use to describe it? I think the best way to describe my style would be Illustrative heavily based in traditional Americana iconography laced with Japanese structure.
You are most well known for your portraiture work, how did you come to specialize in that style? I took up portraiture originally as an exercise to learn to understand faces, I never intended to specialize in portraiture. You learn a lot of subtle techniques and tricks to drawing faces for tattoos from having to recreate recognizable faces and images.
You don't even need to come with an excuse to visit Southern California in the end of January; the weather is more than enough of a draw. But Inked figured that they'd make it doubly enticing by presenting the Golden State Tattoo Expo hosted by the master of color realism, Nikko Hurtado.
We can't think of any more romantic way to spend Valentine's weekend than in the city of Brotherly Love at the Villain Arts Philadelphia Tattoo Arts Convention. Those lucky lovebirds who made the trip swooned at one of the best collections of tattooing talent on the east coast.