Q. How and why did you get into Tattooing? Who are your heroes or your inspiration?
I had originally been offered an apprenticeship by an old friend who was tattooing. I used to be known in my small home town growing up for my drawing ability, and he was looking for another tattooist. So, he took me under his wing, showed me what he knew ,and within some months I was tattooing regular customers. I would never have even thought about getting into tattooing at the time had it not been for him.
I got into tattooing originally out of curiosity: I had finished college for art a year earlier, and was very interested in expanding my horizons creatively.
I have always been inspired (artistically) by Hokusai and other Japanese print-makers, as well as many of the French Impressionists, and much of what is considered "low-brow" art, such as Robt. Williams.
I've been working in shops at a professional level; for about four years, but this was over a period of 15 years, as I had spent long periods of time away from the industry. I don't plan to take such breaks from this industry again.
Q. Is the industry like you thought it would be ? What surprised you about it?
This industry continues to surprise me: For the most part, I have found a camaraderie and brother- and sisterhood that exists in this like no other. I can talk to guys on-line on the other side of the planet, and even with the language barrier, we get the message across as we all speak the same language. There are a few that might not fit this bill, but they are few and far between. There is some arrogance in this industry as well, but not to much to discourage me.
Q. How did you learn? Did you do an apprenticeship, learn on friends or pig skins etc?
I did an apprenticeship, and was lucky enough to have many guinea pigs of friends! I came from a small town, and less-than-quality tattoos were rampant amongst many of my friends. Most were welcoming the opportunity for me to "try it out" on them to hopefully get rid of less than average work that had taken up space on them!
Q. Were you always interested in other types of art or specifically tattoo art?
Always interested in many different types of art and medium. I have also spent many years as a screen printer, and always enjoy picking up a pencil. As of late, I am considering picking up some paintbrushes.
I started off part-time, but currently spend all my time working in a tattoo studio. This was a fairly recent decision in my life to tattoo exclusively, without any other income support. And now that I do this, I wouldn't have it any other way.
Q. Was it difficult to build a portfolio? and how did you get your name known? did it take long?
I have been pretty lucky over the past year with networking. I've utilized the internet to its full potential, and have networked with many in the industry locally, thanks to social networking websites such as Facebook. I've also relocated across the country in the past year, and since moving to where I currently am (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) I've been extremely fortunate to get to network, and in some cases work alongside, many other tattooists in this province.
Q. How did you get in touch with clients initially, is it different now?
Certainly, the internet helps a lot with getting your name out there, but in the end, it's all about word of mouth.
Q. Have you ever had to deal with difficult or frightened clients? how do you put people at ease or deal with difficult customers?
I've dealt with the occasional frightened or difficult clients. I just do my best to put their mind at ease, fully explain what to expect during the tattoo procedure, and ensure the best work I can for them.
I've always enjoyed tattooing women. They always pick colourful and decorative designs, and always take better care of their skin. As well, I find they have a much better pain and patience tolerance. Plus, I won't be shy in admitting that I enjoy the company of women. There isn't anything I appreciate more than a great-looking canvas.
Q. Do you normally use flash or plan custom designs or just improvise when you arrive ? have you ever planned to do one design, and then had a new idea when you met the client?
I try to shy away from flash wherever possible. I spent a long time during my formative training in flash shops, and found it very boring. I have improvised on a rare occasion as well. In the end, it is about the moment, and the client's wants. They have changed their minds at the last minute too.
Q. What was the hardest part technically to learn? e.g.g., lining, shading, blending colors etc, and have you developed your own style ?
I am always learning and always developing my own style. I hope to always be.
Q. How important is using the right equipment, and how did you afford it initially?
I afforded it by any means necessary! I've made sacrifices for things I wish to do or achieve, and feel that anything worth making sacrifices for is worth the effort.
Initially, I learned about safe tattooing from the guy that taught me to tattoo many years ago. Since then, tattooing has advanced and so has the science behind it, especially with sterility issues. I have blood borne pathogens and cross-contamination prevention training, and suggest everyone in this industry should as well.
Q. What advice would you give on how to find work as a tattooist?
Keep drawing, and don't give up.
Q. Is it a very competitive industry and have you worked with other tattooists?
It can be competitive depending on the environment you are in. But generally, most tattooists I encounter are similar to myself: at the end of the day, it is a business and we gotta eat and pay our bills. But we all do this because it is our passion. I don't see it as a competition and most I know do not either. I have had the pleasure of working with quite a few tattooists in parts of Canada, and would like to work with more. There is enough flesh for us all.
Q. What's your proudest tattooing achievement so far?
I'm proud every time I see the look on a person's face when they see a completed tattoo. I never tire of it, and probably never will. That's worth more than any award.
Best would have to be the sense of comradeship that I would like to think exists in this industry. The worst is the "rock stars" with arrogant attitudes. I'm sure every tattooist reading this knows of these kinds of people, and doesn't think much of them either.
Q. Do people treat you differently when they find out you're a tattooist, how did your friends and family see your choice of career?
People most definitely treat me differently! Most think that is such an interesting and unique job I work at, and, thanks to many television shows currently on the air, glorify the position. For me, it's just what I do and enjoy, and I don't see myself as anything amazing. My friends think it's cool that I do tattoos, and most of my family does as well.
Q. What would you like to achieve in tattooing in future?
Besides honing my craftsmanship, I'd like to tattoo in every province in Canada, as well as be able to travel to other countries and tattoo. All the people I've been fortunate enough to meet and converse with I would like to eventually meet and work alongside, even if only briefly.
Q. If you had one piece of advice to give people who want to become a tattooist, what would it be?
Don't ever stop dreaming; it's the source of all ambition.
Click here to visit James' profile and see more of his work
People are waiting to help.