How were you first introduced to the world of tattooing?
I think my biggest influence was the guys I grew up with. I had a few people close to me who had tattoos and I was always fascinated with them. Once I started studying tattooing, I was taken on a ride of obsession, from Chicano-style black and grey tattooing to Japanese work, and everything in between. It just grew from there.
Tell us about Irezumi and why it’s meaningful to you.
Irezumi is the art of Japanese tattooing, which is more than the actual act of inserting ink onto skin. I recently went to England to spend some time with Horikitsune (Alex Reinke) one of the most accomplished traditional tattoo artists. I remember him telling me how practicing traditional work can be freeing. It leads to a firm understanding of traditional work and why it’s done the way it is, which grants you the freedom to explore the style further and define it by your own means.
Irezumi has such a rich history and takes many years to learn and master, how are you approaching this artistic challenge?
At this point in my career, I’m focused on developing my composition and knowledge of the craft. I’m constantly observing traditional tattoo references, contemporary Japanese tattoos produced by modern artists, and traditional Japanese woodblock paintings. I try to study from masters like Hokusai, Yoshitoshi, Kuniyoshi, Hiroshige, and Kano Kazunobu. Taking visual reference and learning about the historical and religious meanings behind the imagery is what keeps me interested. As I become more accomplished, I will define my style and try to become an artist who has pushed it somewhere it hasn’t been before. I think that is every artist’s goal – but you can’t reach the second part without perfecting the first.
Tattooing has become more mainstream in the last few years. Are there common misconceptions about tattoo artistry?
Yes, definitely. Although most people don’t want to admit it, there is still a shadow of old thinking surrounding people who are heavily tattooed. Tattooing isn’t for everyone and I’ll be the first to say it. However, I have met people with no tattoos, who don’t plan on getting tattooed, and legitimately love and admire the beauty and artistic merit of tattooing. I believe that my children’s generation will most likely see tattooing as just another part of modern culture and will hold no judgment or old-fashioned thinking.
You’ve studied and worked as a lead graphic designer, how does your design work influence your tattoo artistry?
I think working and studying graphic design helped solidify two things. It made me realize that graphic design wasn’t the right profession for me. Although I respect the craft and admire the beautiful work that designers create, I wanted something more hands on. It also helped me to recognize my strengths. In my logo and design work, I was constantly praised for being able to represent an idea or concept in a bold, simplistic way, and I think this translates directly to my tattoo work.
Getting a custom tattoo is a very personal experience. Can you share the most significant memory from your career?
That’s a really tough question. I think the most significant times are when I’m really connected with a client through artwork, tears of joy, smiles, and hugs after a tattoo is complete. It gives me great pride and happiness to see the joy on a client’s face when they look in the mirror after their tattoo is complete – that I’ve been able to provide them with art they will love and carry their whole life.
Why did you decide to open Great Tradition Tattoo in Gastown?
I love Gastown! Since I’ve moved to Vancouver, I’ve seen a huge change in Gastown. It’s become friendly and full of very cool people and businesses. I was tattooing alongside Stace Forand, who owns Water Street Tattoo. He’s a wildly talented artist and one of my closest friends. There came a point when I needed to open up a shop to have a bit more space and it felt natural to stay in Gastown.
What are some of your upcoming plans?
Right now, my only focus is to tattoo as much as I can. Once people get to know your work, they will come to you specifically for your artistic style.