What’s your name and where do you tattoo?
When did you start tattooing?
I did my first tattoo in 1992 when I was 12 years old. My friend’s older brother had made a homemade tattoo machine from a walkman motor. He always saw me tagging and drawing graffiti stuff, so he asked me to tattoo him. I decided it would be cool to tattoo myself so I tattooed ‘FTW’ on my leg. I had no idea at that time that I was going to become a full time tattooer!
How did you get into it? Is there anyone who helped mentor you?
I had always thought about getting into tattooing, so one day I just decided to order myself a tattoo kit from EBay. I got the kit in the mail and immediately went home to tattoo myself. A few days later, I ran into a friend and told her about my new machine and how I wanted to learn to tattoo. She pointed me in the direction of Jeremy Papove at a shop called Young Guns Tattoo in Kelowna. I went in to show him some of my artwork and he asked me if I had any tattoo equipment. I showed him my Ebay purchase and it went straight into the garbage can! His exact words were “you are not using this cheap crap in my shop.” I had no clue what was good and what wasn’t, so we ordered better gear and he took me in as his apprentice.
When did you open your shop?
Around the end of my apprenticeship, Jeremy told me he was moving to Edmonton to open a new shop and asked me to take over Young Guns. I took over the studio space but it didn’t last long as I was too new to the industry and had no idea how to run a business. I closed the doors less than a year later and went on the road tattooing, doing guest spots in various shops throughout western Canada for about 2 years. After travelling, I was ready to be settled into a shop and focus on building my business at home. I approached a shop in Kelowna called Shinobi Studios that was owned by an artist named Ryan Cardinal. Luckily, he had room for me and I began tattooing there right away. After a year, Ryan decided to move to Vancouver and pitched the idea of me taking over his shop. I felt more prepared to be a shop owner at this point, so I took over the space in 2012 and renamed it Dynamic Studios. It’s been 4 years now and I am very happy with my staff and the direction the shop is heading in.
How do you compare being a shop owner to just tattooing?
Being a shop owner is whole different ballgame than just tattooing. Instead of managing only yourself and your drawings, you have to worry about bills, supplies, and lots of things that most artists ever think about. It’s quite stressful at times and can make it difficult to focus on my craft. I had my good friend Jill come help me out and she found us our current shop manager Tiffany, who is the best! She deals with everything except the actual tattooing. Our shop runs smoothly and professionally now, which allows the other artists and I to focus just on tattooing.
What are some of your favorite styles to tattoo?
I like all styles of tattoos if they are done well! A great tattoo will really stand out on someone’s body. The styles I really enjoy doing are black and grey and color realistic. I really like tattooing birds and animals. Sometimes I like to mix styles of tattooing, such as a bit of realistic with a neo-traditional twist to it. I feel that I’m at a point in my career now where my clients trust me enough that I can be somewhat picky and tattoo what I want to.
If you weren’t tattooing as a career what do you think you would be doing?
That’s a good question…. it’s hard to say. I feel very blessed to be tattooing as it took me away from an uncertain future. I had my hand in a lot of things before I started tattooing, some positive and some not so positive. Who knows where I would have ended up. Now I get to wake up every morning and be stoked about going to work, seeing and hanging out with rad people all day.
Do you practice any other mediums of art?
I’m a graffiti writer, that started with spray paint and markers. I have tried a few mediums. I enjoy using Prismacolor pencils and Copic markers for a lot of my drawings. I’m just getting into airbrushing and digital art.
You have traveled all over the world in your tattooing career. What are some of your favourite places you’ve been? Where do you want to go next?
Every place is something different, the languages, cultures, religions, and tattoo cultures; It’s very cool to see and experience. So far, Indonesia is my favorite. Bali is beautiful and the tattoo culture is deep there. It is so artistic, nearly everything you look at is either a painting, a carving or something artsy. I’ve been there a few times now and I just find it inspirational. I have had the honor of tattooing at Shotonk Tattoos with Gede Shotonk; his black and grey is world class! I always learn a ton when I work with him. Amsterdam was great; the local architecture and the smoke shops there are awesome. Evian, France was my favorite tattoo convention in Europe. It was such a well organized event and really busy; I can’t wait to go back next year! I would love to get to Brazil next and work some conventions there. I also can’t wait to get back to Australia.
How many tattoo conventions have you worked at the last year or so?
I’ve worked at about 16 different tattoo conventions over the last couple of years, worldwide and throughout Canada. I really enjoy tattoo conventions, as I always take home a massive amount of knowledge, a ton of new connections, and you get to see all the new products available for tattooing as well as hear feedback from other artists.
What is the weirdest body part you have tattooed?
I don’t tattoo weird body parts.
What artists have influenced you?
I’m influenced by a lot of artists. Every time I see a tattoo that I think is really well done, I take a screenshot and study the shit out of it – zoom in, pick it apart, try and put together the process in my head to try and figure out the techniques they used. There are tons of amazing artists out there and every day someone is setting the bar for the standard of tattooing! A great tattoo is inspiring, no matter who did it .
Have you ever apprenticed someone yourself?
Yes I have. Two of my full time artists, Louis Page and Matt Spletzer have both learned the fundamentals of tattooing from me. They both are killing it and I couldn’t be happier with the team I have at my shop.
What can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?
I’m really excited to be working on a TV project that will educate viewers on the tattoo culture and history from around the world. I can’t divulge too much at the moment but we’re stoked, it’s going to be huge. Stay tuned to West Coast Ink for more info!
Who would you like to thank?
First off, thank you to my son Kayle – you are the reason for everything.
My beautiful woman, Joelle, for putting up with my shit and for having a bangin’ booty.
My team at Dynamic for helping my vision come true – keep up the great work .
Shout out to to my clients – some of them have been supporting me since day one and keep coming back for more!
All my good friends at Ever Ink Aftercare, East Van Inc., Dermalize Pro, Eastern Wolves, Hostile Intent; and I’m super stoked to be a part of the stacked team at World Famous Tattoo Ink, thanks to Lou Robino for adding me to the roster!
To the organizers of the past tattoo conventions – thanks for having me.
Interview by Jordan Pringle