Sporadic at best ... but grateful nonetheless

My blogging intentions are always good but somehow it's one activity that always gets lost in the mix, shamefully lurking at the back of the line marked priority.  At the ten month mark of opening my own studio I continue to have a surplus of gratitude for all of the individuals who I've spent time with in the new space.  I have amazingly loyal clientele, many of whom I've spent far too many hours alongside to merely deem a "client", I'm met some wonderful friends when all is said and done.  You've all shaped me and my work.  It's a slow moulding and shaping, more like erosion or perhaps the growth of moss in arctic conditions, but it's a constant growth which I'm witnessing when I get the change to pull back and view my life and career.  I thank you all for that.

Also, I'd like to thank Mikel (www.mikel.ca) for sharing the space with me.  As someone who has approximately a decade more experience in the tattoo world than I do there has definitely been much to learn and observe.  I thank you for the generosity of knowledge, the conversations, and the ease of working alongside another artist.

I tend to put my head down and work.  It's good to once in a while look up and see what's changed, what I need to work on, where my priorities are or may be in the future.  In the past year I put my head down and somehow I went from being booked three months in advance to close to six months in advance.  It's a time of contemplation at the moment.  Again, I'm nothing but grateful for having such a loyal (and patient) clientele.  You're all very impressive.  

As the scheduling continues to mount I begin to toy with the idea of specialization.  I tend to have a passion for a few styles, still a somewhat broad spectrum but a bit more paired down from taking on each and every project.  My heart has always been with Japanese style work. This was my first passion of tattooing far before I myself began to tattoo.  Alongside that I have a strong affinity for American Traditional imagery (or at least that which is inspired by such imagery).  And thirdly, I've come to enjoy mandala and/or geometric type work, especially dot-work as an aesthetic which seems to be gaining steam in the tattoo realm.  

It becomes a thin wire to tread as in no way am I ever wanting to disregard any individual's tattoo ideas or aspirations.  I tend to feel as though I have strengths as well as areas I'd love to work more within to become stronger in said areas.  So, having said all of that, this is where my aim tends to be taking me.  There are a few analogies I like to use.  One being, if you had a chef known for his French cuisine you likely wouldn't ask him to cook Indian for you ... he might do an excellent job but it's not the ideal.  I will continue to take on many/most projects but my aim is a slight bit more direct these days ... Japanese, American Traditional, and Mandala/Geometry ... this is where I'm headed at the moment.  

And finally, thanks to my wonderful partner.  Nikki, you've been alongside me in the years which seem to have shaped me the most.  You've played an immense role in all of this, consciously or unconsciously our partners open so very many doors in life.  As long as the doors keep leading to growth and adventure I'll continue to try to do my part in this journey.  Thanks my love.

I write this and ask the question, "why am I sharing this most anyone willing to take a few minutes to read it?"  Well, the mere fact that it's full of positive sentiment is reason enough to put it out into world.  And a final thank you to any who have made it all the way to this final line.

Merchandising myself ...

It's been a long time coming but I finally had some shirts printed.  Somewhat in preparation for the upcoming Vancouver Tattoo & Culture Show, somewhat because it was long overdue.  So there you have it, my first shirts are available in Women's S, M and Men's M,L,XL.  They're a slim/long fit (American Apparel Summer T), a quality shirt that get's better with time.  I'm selling them for thirty dollars as they're sold for twenty-five as blanks off the rack.  Feel free to grab one then next time you're in the shop, or not, no pressure.  Thanks for taking a moment to read my small sales commercial/shameless advertisement.

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We all benefit ...

The longer I tattoo the more my gratitude increases.  I get to cross paths with so many individuals whom I might never come into contact with under any other circumstance.  There are a lot of talented and interesting individuals out there, a lot of inspiring people, a lot of stories, smiles, and thoughts.  Most every day I get to have a conversation with someone I barely knew before, I get to learn, I get to share.  In the end we're there to tattoo but more often than not we both get to walk away with something new; be it artwork or ideas, we all benefit.  Vancouver, you've got a lot to offer and I'm glad to gain insights into lives I may never have encountered otherwise.

While working on a piece for Laura her partner Matt took some time to wander around the shop snapping a few photos.  As it turns out he's a talented fellow.  Here are a few images he sent my way.

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Glacial Progression Towards the Unattainable

First and foremost I want to acknowledge that this is opinion based.  From the limited number of years I've spent in the tattoo world I don't profess to know much of anything.  I simply have ideas and opinions and more than likely such opinions will morph and change as the years pass.

Tattooing is an interesting craft.  Somewhere in the realm of art and creativity, teetering on the brink of very orchestrated design work, it's a tough medium to describe properly.  We as tattooers are never creating "our art".  We're taking instruction from a client and we're also taking instruction from the past.  In academia you have individuals referencing books and articles and knowledge of the past, it's books about books about books.  There may be a new idea in there somewhere but it's all built on the foundation of past knowledge.  The same could be said about "fine" art; movements of art reacting to past movements and so on.  I suppose the idea of commissioned artwork has always been around as well but somehow I view tattooing as slightly separate from all of this.  We can take small chances, slight attempts at working outside of the box or expanding the proverbial box if you will.  But ultimately there are formulas which work in the world of tattoo.  Although I am seeing more of a dabbling of "abstract" tattooing going on out there I have a tough time believing that a smudge or drip is going to take on a timeless aspect in our craft.  Concrete lines, identifiable shapes, easily read imagery, these are a few of the aspects which I personally am coming to realize as being at the forefront of our medium.  The confines are relatively small to begin with and once given direction by our clientele those confines become even smaller.  In a way this can be refreshing.  If I had to sit down at my table each day and come up with the idea of what to draw as well as the drawing itself I would quickly be overwhelmed.  The idea is always there to begin with so it just becomes a matter of executing rather than pondering.  So we sit upon the edge of art or design, perhaps it's all semantics and truly doesn't matter much one way or the other.  In the end there is something beautiful about taking the small steps, refining things over the years, slight glacial progression rather than immediate and abrupt change.  

If anyone out there has watched the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi you might have a better idea of what I'm writing about.  Dedicating years (or a lifetime) to the slightest detail, the subtle change, the aspiration toward the unattainable perfection.  This mentality can be aimed at most any endeavour and I especially see it closely related to the world of tattooing.  This is a stark contrast to the instant gratification which out culture seems to be breeding on an increasingly faster rate.  The years of trying to get the proper curve to peony petal are unfathomable to the selfie riddled fast food brain of the "I want it now" population.  This is one of the most important aspects which I noticed in master tattoo artist Diau-An.  He embodied the work ethic and dedication on a daily basis which few others out there might dare to even dabble in.  For this, he became a huge inspiration and a major reason as to why I pursued tattooing.  This one mindedness can be seen in many forms of tattooing but for me it has always been the Japanese tattoo (and the Japanese inspired tattoo) which embodied the mentality most evidently.  I recall trying to track down a very few books from the Saskatoon public library in an attempt to see a few bodysuits in an age where the internet didn't offer the immediate gratification which it does today.  These were powerful images and for me a love of large scale Japanese work was born.

Beyond this there are a number of artist who have inspired me on a regular basis.  Just like Jiro aiming for the ceiling of perfection these individuals seem to constantly push the edge of what is possible.  In the end we all realize there is no ceiling and perfection will always be just out of reach.  Again, this is all opinion based and for me these are my personal tattoo heroes.  In the coming months I'll get the privilege of beginning a back-piece by one of them and the roles get to be reversed, me in the chair quietly accepting the pain as the artwork grows.  I'll keep my list short as it could go on for quite some time.  For now, here are a few of the most inspiring artist which I've come across.

Filip Leu for consistently blowing my mind and pushing the boundaries of tattooing.

Mike Rubendall for his powerful imagery, dedication, and attention to detail.

Aaron Bell for the balance and easy on the eyes imagery and such a great understanding of the body.

Shige for going beyond and making the average artist feel inept at best.

Stewart Robson clean and smooth and always impressive.

One might notice that there is only one Japanese artist on my little list.  Perhaps this is due to my lack of being Japanese.  In the end I'm working in the realm of the "Japanese inspired tattoo" rather than the firm traditions of the craft.  Thus, these are the artists I tend to be drawn towards the most.  Of course we owe so much to the past and the building blocks that have been set down especially in the not so distant past by Ed Hardy and Horiyoshi III.  Without the foundation the growth and exploration wouldn't be possible.  There are those who stay even closer to the tradition, much respect to them as well (Chris Trevino, Horitomo, Horikitsune, and so on).  The past informs the present and the future is unwritten.  Again, the slow progression, the harkening upon past imagery and rules, the aim to perfect something (anything), this is something at the forefront of my mind most every day.  

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