What year did you start tattooing?
I first started working in the shop in April 2008. Before that I was just an aspiring kitchen magician.
How did you get into tattooing?
I had a friend in high school who grew up tattooing. He was kind enough to always let me hang over his shoulder. I didn’t know it was what I wanted to do, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t still cool as hell. The first time I ever picked up a machine was trying his out on him.
Where did you apprentice?
I never actually did any kind of apprenticeship. Some time after trying out my homie’s gear, I came up on my own tools and started cookin’. I ain’t so good at approaching or dealing with other people when it comes to things like that, so I chose the harder route of attempting to figure it out on my own. He passed off new information to me from time to time, and I would do as much as I could with it. I managed to put together a book that got me a job at the same shop he was working at the time. There I was fortunate enough to be allowed to look over the shoulders of some very established guys, and it went from there.
What conventions have you worked at? Have you won any awards? What are some of your best convention memories?
I try to travel as much as I can. My favorite places to work are the L.A. area, and the UK. I’m at Vegas and Atlanta every year too, though. I’ve won a handful of awards at various conventions in the states for best of the day, or things like best portrait, best black-and-gray, etc., but the one I am the most proud of was this past fall: tattoo of the day on Saturday at the Paris convention. A couple months ago I was working Richmond convention. I always work with my back facing people to keep my anxiety under control, but anyway I turned around and Tony Olivas and Bob Tyrrell were looking at my book and seeing what I was working on. I had known them both for a little while at this point, but this time Tony had offered to go grab me a drink and asked if there was anything I needed. It doesn’t seem like much, but a gesture like that from an OG like Tony means a lot, to me at least. Little shit like somebody just being nice to me, or remembering my name, are the most memorable experiences for me at this point.
How do you describe your style?
Honestly, I would say I’m still trying to find it. Because real refined black-and-gray work takes so long to do, development as an artist is a slow process. I’m only a couple years in, so I have a lot of figuring to do before I could give a confident answer. In my mind, I’m trying to take the most successful elements of various black-and-gray styles and pull them together with my own vision. I’d like to describe my style as delicate and elegant, but powerful and prominent. I guess I can say that now, and spend every day from here on out trying to prove it.
What inspires you as an artist?
Everything I see that I know is better than what I do. Every idea that I wonder why I didn’t think of first. I dunno if we can call that inspiration, but I’ll call it motivation. Either way, it keeps me mov- ing, and trying to keep that moving in the for- ward direction.
What sets you apart from other artists?
That’s a hard question to answer. As long as I’ve been coming to conventions, older guys have been giving me a hard time for looking like I don’t fit in. Maybe that’s what sets me apart; I’m not really here to fit in. I’m okay with that. I’m confident in what I’m doing, and I feel like my head is on straight enough to say I’m on the right path. Maybe someday, if I can manage to do a good enough job at what I’m trying to do, for a long enough time, people will be worrying about fitting in with me.
What other mediums do you work in?
Presently, just this. I wish I could say I had more time available to draw or paint, but if I have the time available to be working on something artistic with my own two hands, I’m tattooing.
How have you branched out from tat- tooing?
Tattooing has opened a lot of doors for me. I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world and rub elbows with all kinds of people who otherwise I’d never have the chance or reason to be around. In dealing with so many people—clients, fellow artists, and just others in passing—new opportunities present them- selves all the time. It’s almost overwhelming, and it sucks to have to pass up on good things, but at this point honestly the most important thing for me to do is try to stay grounded, and focused on the work that’s in front of me. I look forward to the time when I’m comfortable enough to take a little attention away from just learning the craft, and take advantage of those other things it’s made available to me.
What tattoo artists do you admire most?
I admire any artist that can consistently deliver quality work. Even more so when that work is continually groundbreaking. The first artists I was exposed to, that set me on my path of discovery, were Shane Oneill and BJ Betts. So naturally, stay on the list for life. It’s hard to use the word admire, but I’d be happy to say whose shit I’ve really been into lately. Chuey Quintanar, Spencer Briggs, Placaso, Carlos Torres. It’s hard out here on the East Coast.
What kind of tattoos do you look forward to doing?
I look forward to every chance I get to be fully trusted by the client to challenge myself with something new.
Is there anyone who you would like to tattoo? Pusha T. I grew up listening to the Clipse. He just seems like a cool-ass dude. Back to the question about how have I branched out from tattooing—it just makes things like this possible.
Before someone gets a tattoo what advice do you give them?
Be sure you’re ready. Know what you want, and know what your plans are for the future. Make your deci- sions responsibly. Do your research and choose your artist wisely. Make sure you are going to be dealing with someone you can trust to make aesthetic and artistic decisions, because they are the professional and you are confident in them to do their job.