Brian Brown – Dark Tattoo Artist and Painter – Needlejig Tattoo Sponsored Artist – Full Interview

Brian Brown – Dark Tattoo Artist and Painter – Needlejig Tattoo Sponsored Artist – Full Interview


a couple days ago I had a great
conversation with a local artist and painter Bryan Brown this guy has skills
we covered a lot of different topics painting travel you name it
it was a great conversation a great afternoon let’s go check that out they were here with Bryan Brown this is
a gem of a shop hidden in the western Massachusetts and he’s a damn good
artist that probably doesn’t get enough credit
Bryan can you tell me how long you’ve been tattooing man it’s going on almost
20 years yeah started when I was 21 22 42 damn yeah I feel you man I got you by
a few though oh yeah quick man now you started out here in
the Berkshires yes I did yes so you were working illegal like me
yeah my mom’s dining room table nice man yes I remember those days but you know
not that they’re not that we can justify it but it was illegal here it’s all we
can do at that point in time so I feel you man yeah but now how long were you
working here before you took off to Cali I worked in here in Boston underground
for a while maybe four or five years and then California about I think nine years
right all them like there and I’ve been back here for six seven years so where
were you based in Cali San Francisco okay what shop I was you don’t have to
mention it if it’s embarrassing yeah it was a shop local out there street shops
oh yeah right oh man but it gave me a little well we worked hard man that was
my study in years pretty much you know hit it hard long days yeah sweet shop I
thought I could now we did custom stuff who was a half half but uh yeah a lot of
custom work you know but man good times that’s when I hit it hard and then it
was time to open up my own shop and go for a little next-level man you know so
your own shop was that out there is that we know I worked for somebody out there
and then came back here and opened up our shop here in the Berkshires and what
year was that that might have been I think I moved back here in 2012 okay
cool man and now were you heavily into painting
before you started tattooing I was a graffiti artist in the paint and things
not canvases that’s still art though yeah yeah yeah stepped away from that
but I think that’s what gave me my drive stay really productive I was really
hungry and doing a lot of street art stuff and always trying to get the
biggest craziest spot so that let in progressive large-scale tattoo in
another zone yeah I know a lot of taggers but I just I never got into that
and I don’t quite understand that kind of get behind it yeah you know it gets
crazy and shit I think it’s uh it’s like a fever man you know very cool so now
you’ve been in this location since 2012 a recent world no we moved back and I
open this shop up here in Dalton and I think about 2012-13 like that so it’s
been seven years we’ve been in this building yeah cool cool you’ve got quite
the atmosphere man this is this has got to be one of the grooviest shops I’ve
been told man appreciate it yeah grew up last 14 kids my mom was an
antique dealer real ought to be lady considered a witch I guess man so I grew
up with that so I put this shop together collecting things myself and then you
got addicted to gilded things oh yeah yep filigree timeless stuff yeah cool
velvet dark art fine art mix you know and as an artist you know at what point
did you start to develop your style man I’ve always been into more dark darker
twist of things you know I think it was a matter of not just developing the
style I think it was developing the technique to match with the style was
more I think what I had to go for I think I my style has been pretty similar
ever since I started doing art he’s really young
collecting stalled skulls since 5 years old man first human skull at 11 years
old man or some of your bigger influences as far as like you know maybe
graffiti tattoo me anybody more abstract a lot of graffiti artists back today but
I think now I try to search more outside of tattooing for inspiration you know
but obviously you know Victor Portugal David Tutera more technical darker
styles and Paul booth and yeah but a lot of obviously Beck’s
in ski for painting and anyone who does a little more dark surreal twist
something more interesting I guess to look at make you think you know well I
mean you know we all try and seek out like-minded individuals to to bond with
it or to to to emulate I guess anybody that gets your mind going makes you
question question things man that’s what I like you know what I know that feeling
so Brian what was your first introduction to me and my products at
needle Jake man I heard about needle jig when I lived in California maybe 12
years ago something like that and I was ordering products from you
when I was in California we didn’t tell you personally at all I came home and I
went to place to order when I was here and I had figured some of the
discrepancies so I checked the number called it and I realized the local
number and I was like wait that can’t be right so I called and sure enough you
guys were a couple miles up the road so that was really cool and I got to go to
the warehouse and then met you guys personally and comes on ever since man
it’s always cool to see and that’s for sure that cool man awesome that great
always stop by so I’m a local owned by tattoo artist man so yeah that’s good
stuff it’s weird that we both had a really similar history and start in the
same area you know and now we both migrated away went and did our stint
somewhere else built our career somewhere else and then you know came
back to the nest I guess you could say great place to live man is beautiful out
here it’s off the beaten path a little bit and a great place got to travel out
a little bit to spread the wings at times yeah and I’d rather raise my
children here then sure enough in the big city that’s for sure for sure I know
you’re real selecting with your clients and a lot of people are getting tattooed
here and definitely traveling in to see you because you know most of the guys
around here not quite looking for what you do so so how do you get your clients
I mean I know you travel extensively yeah I’m not big and pumping my are out
everywhere man like people to kind of search and find a
little more natural I guess you know but uh you know Internet man it’s a damn
thing so get stuff out there and people see the work and you know I’m fortunate
enough to have them travel out here and want to come get some custom work by me
and you know word-of-mouth almost I guess you know what percentage of the
people you tattoo are their tattoo area actually a lot of musicians I’d say more
musician artist you know I find a lot of people in a little heavier style stuff
like to come and click more textured our car fits the bill I guess a little bit
more for that style stuff and man we live in the middle of nowhere I mean you
can get people to travel here but you you know you have to you have to build
that reputation for people like to come out here maybe to get work done but also
make a little vacation on yeah yeah yeah yeah I think once people travel out here
they actually like the area it’s a little vacation from the madness man
coming you relax get some cool work done man hang out and as long as they don’t
stay too long we don’t want to get over popular yeah I’m pretty sure you started
with coils just like all of us now or at what point did you maybe make the switch
into rotaries man I’ve been using rotaries for a long time
coils obviously started off with that still use coils at times for sure man
it’s a little nostalgic man gets you know different opportunity to from
approach for the medium and I’d say maybe I think I use Carson Hills
pneumatic machines where the first rotaries I used a long time ago when
they first came out and try that that was cool
went from every kind man bishop’s I got a whole drawer man you know a little
museum collection of them but you know I prefer them now with cartridges that I
worked so fast that it’s keeping up with my ideas so you know being able to
switch the cartridges out instantly to the new one and keep
and you haven’t stopped man so I find that instead of setting up eight
machines man it’s a little nicer to use those for me
keep it fluent keep up with my my vision man that’s the most important thing a
lot of freehand work and whatnot so the more I can accomplish what my idea is
quicker I don’t rush obviously but to keep up with it it’s a key for me you
know very cool that’s a that’s a name you mentioned Oh Carson Hill man a lot
of the younger artists today probably don’t know they probably never even
heard of Neumann machines yeah Carson was a big supporter of mine yeah I’d say
he’s the one that really set it off with uh with rotaries and whatnot and got
people going yeah he contacted me recently nice I had posted a little
nostalgic thing on my page shows on my old collection and he said he was out of
his ass if I’d ever be willing to sell him and I said man I’d probably give him
the hit him how could you know you know yep so absolutely no I I haven’t seen
him in a while I’m still in contact with Eno from time to time though too though
but but yeah any of you young guys out there man you should Google Carson Hill
and just just see what he contributed yeah yeah collect up I got a lot of old
you know Mickey sharps obviously a lot old Safari machines workhorse sirens you
know a lot of old collections all that yeah the workers man so you know you’re
saying old let’s see you got about I got almost 10 years on you though so or not
so that’s not really old to me these are these are guys that more or less came up
with rather than yeah I look at an older collection I look at a more as peers
than then you know like old-timers yeah I’d say my older collection of my things
what I’m going for yeah yeah and we all have a and I got a
huge collection of rotaries men and I switch them off though keeps things
exciting man you know gotta keep that energy moving and keep a little spark in
everyday work man so yeah yep definitely now how much time do you spend
tattooing when we man it’s a lot definitely six days a week I’d say most
of the time lately I’ve been taking a little extra day off got a young
and painting a lot so this last maybe year cut it down to maybe two days off a
week and so but yeah each day I’d say I’m here you know I get in about 10:30
11:00 till 11:00 at night man at least every day so that’s dedication yeah I do
one appointment a day focus on one large project so I can accomplish a lot a lot
of multi-day in rural projects with clients traveling to do stuff so that’s
always a benefit man you know it’s like a big ongoing project we can conquer a
lot yeah how important do you think it is that you maintain painting and you
know mixing mediums to fill each other in valuable men definitely everything I
do my skull collecting is huge for my inspiration for sure so you know I photo
shoot all my skulls and textures everything I really enjoy I do a lot of
photography for inspiration but painting is just key you know it’s uh get to
explore all new techniques no pressures it’s all for yourself your own imaginary
crowd to judge you you know what I mean so right instead of testing out on
clients or whatnot so I get to try so many new techniques and then instantly
bring them right into tattooing so that’s where the big change is made in
tattooing I think for me is uh when they started becoming more seamless I could
acquire accomplish the techniques I would do in art and painting in
tattooing you know I was raised on more traditional style I’m self-taught so you
know what I was available when I was starting was more traditional style
tattooing so that verse my artwork was definitely two different entities let me
guess Huck Spaulding A to Z from just over the mountain now did you have a
tattoo artist t-shirt with a little dragon no no I didn’t have that yeah
maybe I can call Bill and Jeff and guess your one I say still print so yeah man I
think that’s the most important thing is making the fusion between art and
tooling for me so later not suffer entities and I’m still exploring that
you know it’s uh I think rotaries were a huge huge help to me doing that you know
I draw a lot with my machines the cartridge retracts and I draw on skin
and I you know a lot of abstractions make shapes smudges and I see things out
of those and then go for that that’s I’ve been really into really into
focusing on what excites me for tattooing so abstractions writing a list
of everything that I’m really sparks me and then mixing those together from my
skulls imagery to teeth to certain techniques and painting I make little
lists and keep them near me and make sure I’m checking those off during my
pieces too because so you you keep an organization and a structure really
compartmentalizing my whole process and techniques and influences you know oh
yeah and I think that’s really helping Excel and helping me put the two
together you know art and tattooing fuse into one thing man you know now I’ve
done the same and I would take in paint things I wanted a tattoo and and and
then try and meld the two like you’re doing obviously we know that some things
just don’t transfer from one medium to the next so one of the limitations that
you found oh you know skin different readability than canvas and you know you
can layer but you can’t erase you can’t go back over with the new color and you
know so you got to be a little more accurate on approach contrast for sure
you know skin types obviously different tones different values different
approach for people you know that makes a big difference
I know I’ve never never done a perfect tattoo I’ve screwed up something in
every tattoo I’ve ever done course now nobody knows by the time I’m finished
but that’s what makes a good artist I think is the art of being able to bounce
back and transform anything into you know a technique that’s you know that’s
why I really like more the freehand the design on skin stop limiting myself and
have to go for this perfect image you know you’re setting yourself up for
failure almost I think so by exploring different techniques a little more
organic approach makes the pieces more interesting I’m sure you know that’s
what you know flaws or what make things look natural and you know learn how to
manipulate and use that I feel like better approach I know when I was
tattooing on a daily basis I used to avoid trying to do a completed image for
a customer because I knew I was gonna change my mind throughout the process so
or I won’t ever possible just try to do a loose sketch this is sort of where
we’re going and maintain that freedom to change my mind all the way to the end
now do you do you do a lot of pre-drawn heart or you don’t I used to I used to
do a lot of you know it started off old school you know drawing paper like
colored pencils building it up to your outline inked stencils but I rarely do
that anymore I find that if I pre design something too much I lose a lot of the
magic you know I’m all about that time you know the artist has a vision at that
moment they’re never gonna want to do anything more than that piece at that
moment so you know each day when they come in body shape plays a huge template
in things you could do a perfect stencil design put it on it don’t read right so
absolutely flow you know I got to take it all off and redo so you know I use
the body for the template it’s like a canvas I put a white canvas cell
sometimes I stare at it and I’m scared of it for three hours I don’t paint but
you know once I start smudging making some marks it’s all of a sudden it
starts creating itself you know and that’s what I like you know because you
know a little guideline and yeah cool now medium are using the oils mostly
yeah I actually just started my first acrylics recently but I started off with
oils actually first for painting if I use oils I’ve got to use the the
additives for faster drying if I use acrylics I’ve got to use the retarders
to slower drying because neither one fits my style but yeah you know I found
it’s cool the bigger studio like this oils take a little longer to dry in
closed rooms air conditioner it’s doubles the time so it’s like in-between
acrylic oil it’s really cool I’ve been experimenting with that lately yeah so I
get different techniques that way but yeah I start off in oil anything that’s
more of a I guess a little more technical is what attracts me you know
so I know that’s a little more technical scientific so that actually attracts me
more I’m attracted more to things that are gonna have a lot more what would you
call it a lot more oh god well you call it just a little bit harder to do a
little bit more challenging yeah a little more challenge that’s all it
attracts me yeah I like I like oils because you can get into it later and
still smear around the paint that you did a day or two before glazing yeah
definitely yeah just the creaminess the feel it’s like magic mm-hmm I went
through a phase where I was using acrylics and f/w watercolors both nice
you know to lay a base with the acrylics and then be able to wash over and
something out for a short phase just mixed medium yeah yeah trying to hold
things see what happens in the airbrush in as well and you know pencil design
charcoals so sometimes it for my paintings I rarely start a drawing first
sometimes a little charcoal sketch you know on there and then you know go for
over that or sometimes you know the digital mediums now are just incredible
to you know welcome I got multiple desktop Wacom setups a mobile one iPad
so I got instead of doing studies for oil paintings I might do a little sketch
of there and then get my idea for something and then take it to the canvas
you know so nice I mean what are you using for software I really like the
iPad obviously you know that works really well and the air drops awesome I
might see some reference I like and on my phone
snap it go home open my tablet it’s already there you know it’s just
seamless so while you’re in Photoshop yeah not a row create Photoshop I really
like for the black on tablets it’s just the big desktop ones is so amazing you
can just go go but they are making things for the iPad now to make it
seamless you know it’s really exciting so I’m just putting my foot in the water
right now with that just just just trying to to mess with it I don’t get a
whole lot of time unfortunately to do art that much anymore cuz business keeps
me hopping but when I can I still do yeah I really like that I remember I
think one of my early people I seen was Jed like this he’s you know was oil
painter past now awesome big influence obviously but I remember seeing some of
his early digital drawings and uh YouTube took him down years ago but man
as soon as I seen that it was just like gotta get that it’s awesome and so I was
doing a lot of photo production earlier in my portrait stage of tattooing a lot
of composition on there and mix things redraw my own compositions and then
tattoo that almost as a portrait but I stop I don’t do as much that now it’s I
feel it’s a little more limiting freehand is like love free handing
everything now you know it’s still use tons of stuff that time so I’m more free
man I can get so much more accomplished and something more interesting I would
have never thought of in a stencil process right but that only comes
because you have enough experience at this point in time you had to go through
the phases of you know starting at the beginning and working on reproducing
your own photos staging your own photos lighting things like that you know
building in shadows and highlights and large reproducing those and after you do
enough of those then you can just master your designs man that’s what it’s about
you know I do a lot of photography at home shadow boxes for my skulls and uh
even if I don’t use them I just like to do that and I see new things every time
and then you know remember your little favorite parts and I think everyone
looks further style you know I think people search for style
and it’s kind of sound cliche but I think your style finds you it’s things
that you like to do that you find the most interesting you know different
items different techniques and you when you hodgepodge it together over
repetition that becomes your style you know so I’m yeah from everything I’m
into collecting painting the photos are just hodgepodge together and now I can
cops that would tattoo it yeah you’re right man one of my favorite sayings is
when this when the student is ready the teacher appears and it’s just in it’s
it’s it’s been an enormous part of my life I’m capable of anything but until I
develop a certain skill set I’m not given that opportunity and as soon as I
open my mind to the possibilities well guess what they’re there and then we can
move forward but until I’m willing or and I can’t say not so I’m willing till
I have the capacity to move forward I can’t totally say I get that man sure
man yeah everything’s out there presents itself it’s all out there man when
you’re ready for it it’ll be there you know very cool yeah for sure we think a
lot of like yeah it’s awesome progressive man let’s go back to early
life man and tell me what was your first experience or exposure to tattooing
that’s a good one you know I don’t know my very first oh yeah you know I think I
do know my first my brother had six brothers yeah so Seven Sisters I’m the
last of 14 so I had a brother musician and I remember he wanted to get tattooed
and my dad always told everybody if you’re gonna do something do it all the
way so he came home and I think with 10 4 tattoos one here here here here all in
like a couple days man so you know old rock style that was sleeves and so I
think his you know I think he had a dragon around a dagger and I think he
had a tiger with a dagger and the Tasmanian Devil and his nickname was the
shadow so it had something in there so I think that was my first experience and
he’s also my godfather my brother so you know to me man he used to play shows
come home and uh man he would smell like beer and sweat and I thought that was
rock and roll man I’m like he’s rock and roll just the smell so I seen his
tattoos man and uh shit man you know that’s where I wanted to go and then but
I think my first experience with actual artists and whatnot you know obviously
guy Aitchison I seen his stuff always creative I was in a lot of organic stuff
back then Paul booth I remember seeing Paul
for I think it was in Worcester man it was a long time to go water wells first
our fusion shows I seen him and uh it was a Philip Philip blue someone up
there doing the whole back collaboration on this little guy he was bouncing
around I was just like holy shit I’m in there that’s what I want to be doing man
so yeah that was a that was on my first interactions with I guess seeing artists
and really damn man that’s what I want to do you know so I yeah ever since then
you know now when you started tattooing okay what we’ll use what were your goals
I know when I started tattooing I just wanted to tattoo I would look in
magazines I had idolized these people but I never would have thought that I
would achieve any sort of level of excessive the way those guys did so what
were you thinking in the early man I’ll be honest it was I was a pretty hardcore
graffiti writer for a long time and I was like my life really man I was really
into it I I remember going out paint seven pieces of night man I remember I’d
go out 9:00 in the morning until 7:00 in the morning from this spot there train
tracks and not so I just had I had it was almost like a disease man a fever I
just as much as I could get up the best I could get up the biggest so tattoo and
was just another medium for a billboard for artwork you know so a way to express
yourself had that fever of production man so that was one of my goals man it’s
uh you know there’s people everywhere it’s like a train travel across the
country these people are in public so you know I have my artwork ridin
everywhere man you know I love that I just like things growing on things
organic you know when I paint trains do everything
tattoos same thing man just rappin the the natural organic flow of things and
seeing them on people barking man now I know you like your artistic freedom
obviously now when your clients come in yeah
how much do you let them guide you know I’ve definitely taken ideas from what
people like lately I’ll be honest man a lot of people have been coming in and uh
the common thing I don’t not explain your style this but you know I get sick
I love what you do and let’s do it it’s just gonna just give you a body part to
go yeah sometimes it’s really cool though if people give some idea without
too much like micromanage you know but obviously you’re tattooing with somebody
so you know if they have ideas opinions what they want a half that’s cool man
that cannot create something new he step on the box and think of some different
stuff that you normally wouldn’t which is cool man sometimes you might not want
to do it then you do it you’re like damn that’s a whole new wave things you can
do so you’re you’re open to that I know it’s not too generic and to you know
stuff we see cuz a lot of people they see something they’re fixated if it’s
not that piece it’s not right and you’re setting yourself up for disaster because
we’re ever gonna duplicate to sing and I wouldn’t want to do that anyway so as
long as people are open-minded and let me translate it through my voice man
that’s that’s it okay so so your your ultimate goal is to get your artwork out
or to satisfy your customer okay it’s like to fulfill this endless hunger dude
you know it’s like dog with a piece of meat in front of his face never get it
chasing it forever man it’s uh it’s no it’s not to find my happiness my place
is just to man to fill this hunger every day that’s it for me to be honest
obviously satisfied clients but it’s really for my own fulfillment to feel
alive man that I’m uh that I’m doing something productive that I find
interest in alright with me I’ve always been like I get enough clients to let me
do my thing but ultimately I do a lot of redundant things I have in the past but
tattooing wasn’t anywhere near as custom back then so making the customer happy
even it was something I didn’t want to do that’s what was really important to
me they left with a real big smile on their
face and said more business later obviously I would have a great feeling
of accomplishment there and I didn’t need to
have that say 80% at a time I only needed that 20% at a time because I had
that 20% of the clients that would just let me go yeah yeah well I think that’s
part of owning this kind of business it’s the best move ever made more of a
private studio where you know the finance isn’t as big as I could do a
street shop probably make a lot double doing fast things but by having my own
shop and really being into something I like you get to pick and choose a little
bit more which I’m fortunate so you know I love satisfying clients with things
but I don’t really want to do the redundant stuff like that I want to keep
pushing a little further with the styles I like which is that’s so important man
you know it’s invaluable I can describe how important that is you know without
that then it’s you’re never gonna progress so if I put filler pieces in
its you know those are months where I didn’t progress in the realm I want to
man so if I own a my own place like this it attracts a certain kind of people and
also it attracts really cool people for free hand stuff they’re not you get
people have to know exactly what they’re looking for and then people that what
they get is exactly what it was supposed to be so it attracts more of an
adventurous person and being around people like that I find it’s much better
for my soul you’re a true artist man I remember man a cold memory I have when I
was really young my mom my mom used to palmistry classes all this and people
would come over and what do you want to be when you’re older and I remember
telling people you got to guess what the minute starts with the R and I was so
young man and now they’re the Reverend oh I’m like oh man all this stuff and
I’m like a artists dummy oh it’s so young man I want to be I make a great
tattoo man you should get that done artists you know say no no regards ogres
fuck it artists oh you got room on your belly we do big belly rocker many have the misspelled test yeah good
stop being good stuff yeah and it was what maybe when you were
about 34 just spellcheck hey we grew up in the woods so no baby
names for you oh here and there I actually like to a lettering man but you
know not all the little tiny stuff I still throw some in here and there
because I grew up with a lettering artist man but uh that’s the thing we’re
doing the style art that I’m into I had to unlearn all that cemetry I was so
obsessed with and definitive lines and now I like you know I like clean lines
obviously but uh organic approach so lettering I love what I’ve transformed
into something else man and I just let it be what it is man and uh let it you
know it’s it’s it’s own entity it’s its own its own beast man and I just run
with it I completely envy your loose style cuz I can’t do that I draw too
rigid I’ve been told before by many people
like you know it was like a it’s like a like I draw with a ruler yeah you know
it has to be structured and I can’t get oh I was man it’s crazy man once I’m
learning that you know and that’s where rotaries played a big role man is uh you
know and needles retracting being able to draw on the skin wid the machine as
I’m tattooing dippin a little ink it’s like I mean that just changed everything
help me unlearn my such a definitive edgy thing man and now approach things
looser but with a technical style because that’s where I come from I think
a lot of people approach things not what’s a – painterly but their style is
extra painterly and it’s really loose in a tattoo form which to last a lot of
things do have to have a lot of structure and contrasts and definitive
parts for tattooing which is different than a painting yeah your work still has
all the technical qualities you’ve got your composition you’ve got your your
light your shadow your balance all that’s there but see you crop it still
has a freedom and a flow to it which it’s more natural yeah yeah I like that
something you can get close and appreciate all the technical approach
and something you backup and it looks great from afar you know that’s what I
tell people all the time especially when you’re doing large pieces even it’s got
to grab your attention from across the room as you get closer you see more
detail and then when you get on top of it there’s even more it’s a happy
balance me yeah everything can be appreciated and different yeah I don’t
really into a lot of theory man right now with every direction of things man
the more theory the better you know it’s uh I feel like that really will you know
advance you so much you know just bringing out a lot of theory from you
know contrast shadows the light texture smooth reflective of non-poor stuff you
know the life death dark light whatever man you know a lot of theory in that
form top of the bodies guys usually stronger stronger imagery you know two
legs more um you know something more power to hold on you know its energy
looking towards the middle I’m bigging all theory stuff man flex I’m down here
looking ups on down here looking down keep it all it’s a form you know energy
flow well I know your favorite stuff is definitely black and gray maybe a little
colored bounced in here there but I was looking around at some of your paintings
earlier some of the newer stuff is is not blacken Gray’s but it’s
monochromatic you got some red ones behind me here I think for painting I do
like a full color painting a lot of monochromatic are for studies for a
freehand piece I would tattoo with a little touch of color but a lot of those
monochromatic are more studies they’re not super advanced painting so a big
finished masterpiece I do like a lot of full-color I paint in color I always was
in the color but tattoos I feel for my Styles more timeless and I can express
myself better you know I can always add in I feel like with black and gray
tattoos I can fuse more various imagery and make it more seamless and unified
than a colored piece you know Japanese verse American traditional a little bit
opposites same technique but imagery I feel clash a little bit so
I feel like I can express myself more black and gray and I can conquer a
lot of work in a matter of time with that – I find to get too technical with
color so you know I walk away a piece this big and all day long and a black and
gray I’m rocking something huge.
Right. It’s not just about coverage but I do
like to see a nice full piece. So it’s obvious that you paint
a lot cuz this room is not enormous but there’s got to be 50 plus canvases in
here at various stages of completion. It’s impressive. I just started oil painting a few years back man, maybe three years ago. I painted spray aerosol to airbrush but
uh recently I started oil painting and it’s just finally man got into it.
I’m a self-taught oil painter, everything I’ve done is self-taught. So
it took it a little extra longer for me to do things, you know. My house is full
of paintings… Man I was gonna say, how many how many paintings do
you think you start or complete in a month’s time? Oh man it’s hard to say… You
go through phases of painting a lot and then you get knocked off the run of it
quickly. You know often traveling come back and paint. But you know I’m really
trying to hone in on that more. I want to tattoo a little bit less and paint way
more man. You know tattooing’s great, it does so much for me. I tattoo
and I’m just I’m in another place but painting it’s like… You know I feel the
best thing people can do is daydream and it’s like your own personal vacation.
When I paint I come in and it’s honestly man, it’s like a six-hour daydream with a
product when I’m done. It’s like, you just can’t beat that. So if I
can find that place more often for myself… I don’t do drugs, I don’t do any of that.
So if I can paint and go somewhere else like that it’s just like, man that’s
great, you know.
Well it’s your journey. You just control the
destination.
Totally, and I let it happen man. Serve the painting man. I try
not to narrate that too much too. That’s my favorite… painting.
I don’t know how many I do a month man, not enough.
Now I know you travel extensively. I mean every time I look, you’re off in Europe… Poland or Japan or doing stuff or whatever… Now when you come home from those trips… you’ve got to be inspired…
Oh it’s fire man. That’s what it is. It’s energy man. I’m going there to keep
this rolling man. The momentum, you know, that’s what it’s all about. and you know
for sure travel is the best. Man, I grew up traveling a lot. I spent a
lot of my younger years in Egypt growing up with my mom. Traveled there.
I’ve been to Egypt five times and spent a lot of time there. My mom was a traveler. She’s kind of like a gypsy. I can see how you ended up in the tattoo world… We’re all gypsies or pirates at heart.
Yeah man. So yeah so traveled so much with my mom and I just see the benefit of that. You know so my daughter is young and that’s the
thing I’m trying to give her the gift of experience as well. And uh travel as much
as I can. She’ll be in Japan she’s only three and a half she’s been to more
museums than most adults I’ve ever met. I will be in Japan with her in a couple weeks again.
Awesome. She’s such a smart, such a smart girl. She’s on one man, she’s another breed.
She’ll surpass you in a few years. She’s already… that’s her game at night
let’s hop on my bed, let’s find shadows and highlights and she’s amazing telling
me what colors it takes to mix colors and yeah that’s cool. She’s only three
and a half and she has a little easel. She paints. She comes and we
paint together here all the time. Our first one we did, man, the first oil painting
we did together man we sold it the next day. $350 man she’s you know…
College fund! No, actually I took her to the toy
store. I got her some toys then brought her to the art store had her spend some. I split
it with her and I told her it’s how it works, you know. You work hard to do these
and then you invest back in it and then you have some to play and do
what you want man,.
So how old was she when she sold her first piece?
I don’t even think she was three years old dude.
Damn
Yeah so she paints constantly and at home and uh yeah it’s cool. So I bring her here in to paint at
times and I just built a painting room at home so now she’ll be in there
with me all the time. Yeah she’s really got an artistic mind for sure.
She’s a abstract thinker for sure man. Pretty cool. My wife’s an artist too it’s great man.
Well too many people get trapped into their world,
their location, their locale, even their shop or their region, their history,
their experiences, and more people should travel and if you can’t travel you
should read about traveling. You should read about cultures. You should
understand better. Yeah the cool thing is man my dad was an
orphan man and my mom’s dad was an orphan so we don’t even know I don’t
even truly know what nationality and everything so it’s…
I’m adopted myself It’s whatever, you know, this is what
it is today man. There’s no limits man. I like that.
I don’t know if being adopted is why I feel more like a wanderer…
Ya know, you have no concrete anchors. You know… I love my
family that raised me, obviously, my mother and my father they always will be.
I just recently met my real mother which is mind-blowing, a different topic,
but realistically I’ve never really felt I think a lot of the same
bonds and and anchors that many others have. I think so too man.
You get a lot of people come in, they want their heritage tattoo, and they know they really locked themselves I’m so pro…
to defined
yeah yeah it’s like wake up man. in the morning like I said and uh you know and you can reinvent yourself any day. There’s no limits. I don’t have to be
this. That’s the way I look at it. I try to take everything and transform it in the
progressive energy. I need a sip a coffee.
Yeah freaking thirsty.
All right, you say you still use coils and rotaries. What makes you make that choice? Is it just a nostalgic thing once in a
while or is there a particular circumstance where you just
feel the need to go back?
Uh at this point, honestly, I think it’s a little
more nostalgic. You know they do have a lot of power and you can get some
different techniques ,obviously, with coils for sure yeah. I think, yeah, I say
more nostalgic you know. I come home it’s a it’s a new approach, it’s a new tool,
exciting the moment. I mean rotaries is my main go-to thing.
You know it’s a simplified set up. Like I said I don’t rush tattoos but I work really fast and I find that rotaries can keep up with my
imagination better. I don’t have to switch so much and I really like
having everything fully wrapped up and you know a little quieter setting you
know
Well you set an atmosphere in your place obviously I mean we can tell
the candelabras, the the gilded gold, the red velvet, and the mood lighting… I
figure if we had a glass of wine we’d be hugging a little.
A little bit of blood hah. It’s my imagination
better man. Keeps me sparked.
Coils to me are more nostalgic too. like I have some
really collectible pieces from old machines built by some people that are
no longer with us and and I’ll break those out maybe if I’m tattooing another
tattooer and I want to, you know, just a certain vibe but other than that I I
personally just appreciate the efficiency, I wont even say efficiency,
the consistency of a rotary machine. It runs the same today as it did yesterday.
Yeah. You know and I.. I had to adapt and learn
the techniques of the rotary but when I’m tattooing I have to think less about
my machine and I can think more freely about my arm.
Well you know it’s the same rate it is a lot of fun tuning them and everything. I enjoy the whole interaction with it and the hands-on. And you know, your
machines never dead, you can always revive it and retune. Rotaries,
unfortunately you know, they can’t.. SNAP gone. You know, they either work or they don’t.
Yeah so that’s a little bit you know it’s uh it’s cool. They’re great.
That’s the one thing I’m not a huge fan of with rotaries is that they’re
disposable.
Eventually.
Yeah I do love them though.
I love mine so it’s what I use all the time. I do appreciate the whole
interaction with a coil but I like I said you know rotaries my hand man…
I had carpal tunnels so bad you couldn’t even touch my hand and I’ve saved that
by rotaries that’s a huge thing for me too. Now do you do you use like a foam grip?
Of course, Needlejig grips. Anything you can to reduce that
vibration? Yeah yeah of course I wrap them up. Whether it’s a foam grip, towels
little color kolben tape on there… I wrap mine fat.
I have fairly big paws man. The only thing I really miss about about coils and steel grips is the weight. Yeah
Yeah you can get weighted grips for the machines.
Yeah but it’s not the same.
No, it’s definitely not. the power man for lining and whatnot.
I have no problem lining with all my my rotaries. It’s a different different
technique. I find myself with rotaries though I
tense up a lot more for my lines than I do with coils. Because I gotta use a
lot more physical umph.
You’re using strength because you you have to
physically hold the machine to the skin because the weight is not there to
naturally keep it in place. You know little tense around
the muscles but you know doing this all day on the shoulder with rotaries is a
lot more easy than a coil for sure. You know after so many years, man, it wears… all the vibrations and all that.
Well I know you’ve had some back problems too from
time to time. I mean we all do but what do you do
to help that? Do you stop? Do you stretch? What’s what’s your normal routine?
Oh god yeah a lot of stretching. I lost a lot of weight just being up on being
more healthy man. It was time to make the changes and yeah.
Yeah having a little one makes that change for you too. Yeah yeah I was carrying her around.
Well I just mean that the longevity aspect you know I we we generally live hard
… fast crash and burn… when you have kids all of a sudden it’s like damn.
Yeah I want to I want to be there a little longer.
I want to live a little longer. I want to see my child grow up. I
want to see their children grow up. So then you start to subconsciously, even consciously, make changes.
Sure sure. You know, we’re no longer the badasses we
use to be.
That’s another thing losing weight man, it’s like, I don’t need to be this
big bald dude no more man. The skinnier I am fitting around the clients the better man.
So you’re doing yoga on Saturday morning? Yeah man want to join me? Sure! hahah
You do loop your needles don’t you??? You don’t trust me 100% to you? That be
fucked up! Yeah no I definitely I definitely check them. You know I
definitely. I think a little less than before, for sure. but I definitely do.
New needles these days mass-produced obviously are you still
looping your needles? Yeah I do. You know I find myself even to just examining
cartridges a lot and I’ve been doing that a lot lately. Just checking
them out seeing the molds and everything on them man Im into that. Not just the needles. Like
I actually like just checking the cartridges up close man. You know honestly I don’t loop them as much as I did with the other
ones cuz you have a defined set up when I’m when I’m using coils. I take them out
everything set I do everything. Cartridges sometimes, you know, grab a
couple on they go pop them open, and you know. But I definitely try to loop them
as much as possible. I think a lot of people do the same thing.
now the old days… You should loop every needle, we all
should for sure, but in the old days you know we we’re taking a needle,
basically dropping into a steel tube. That’s where the damage usually came
about so that’s when people are like just double check and make sure it didn’t
screw it up.
I would do it before and once they’re in there. I would check them on
the coils.
I know when I’m walking around the shows I’ll watch guys and
they’ll be in the middle of a tattoo and take the gloves off, grab a
couple new cartridges, pop em open on their system, and start tattooing and I
cringe. You know and I’m like cuz I know well, I know my I can’t vouch for other
companies but I know our consistency is up there as high as we can
keep it possibly but every once in a while you’re gonna get something and you
know you know you jus t wait for the skin to flick back up in your eyeball. You say
oh this one’s bad!
oh yeah you know sometimes with the cartridge’s too
– its I feel like you almost could tell right off the bat. I feel like they catch
a little bit more with the cartridges. Because you have plastic that they’re
setting in and also the little guard so sometimes I feel with cartridges it’s
easy to tell if one is a little funky. Right.
You know the coil they just drive. So yeah I try to as much as much as possible.
Let’s try and commit to that a little bit more. I mean, I
appreciate the trust. Cartridges are insanely convenient. I wish it was around twenty seven years ago. Where the hell was it back then? Because it’s crazy
man it’s uh I use a lot of cartridges – man to be honest. I go pretty hard on
those. I don’t limit my setup. Man I break out probably at least 10 to 15 a tattoo
man. I’m not like old times I tattoo and I’d use maybe a five line or seven mag
man. Seven in a 13 man that was the
set ups but now I lay them all out and uh you know.
I tell people all the time like the first extreme situation or setup that I ever saw I think was Deano
Cook back in the 90s. I think it was one of the Ink Slingers Ball’s
at the Palladium in Hollywood and I remember I first met Deano Cook and he
would have six or eight machines set up across the back table to get everything. I was like… that just opened a whole window for me, like wow! Because it was always just liner – shader. That was just the way it was.
He’s a technical artist.
Then I started applying it. okay maybe I’ll have three or four machines set up
or whatever. And now it’s limitless because you have… well you said 15 setups in a small area. When I opened the shop I was still using
coils but I remember I had multiple power supply setup so I didnt have to keep changing them man, it’s crazy.
I don’t think I ever went that far. I mean when I was on the neuma’s man, when I used a little nuematic things… I remember
building up I had me on like six of those and I remember building up little
valve changer you could switch and I had them all set up same thing so I have to
pop change I just grabbed each one here where I think I had one air valve going
to like six outlets man.
Oh wow Crazy man, yeah.
You spent some money with Carson then if you had 6 Nuemas that’s a that’s a good ticket.
I still got a whole bunch man I’ll hang them up in here someday or something man you know they’ll be
collectible. yeah I don’t see myself ever using them anymore. But man I got some cool techniques done with it.
Excellent. Yeah I mean the more tools the better.
man you know. Everyone’s gonna use it for something different you
know.
Yeah well if nothing else he gained experiences from everything you try sure
you learn whether you like it you don’t like it you don’t want to try it again.
Then speaking with that man, the different rotary machines as well man
there’s so many on the market you know I tried so many different
varieties man I never really hold back. And I also buy multiple of each – man
I’m like yeah everything I buy I have in triplets at least man. You know so
there’s always backup Im kind of compulsive…
As a supplier I can say we appreciate It!!!
Yeah you know I got a whole I got a couple drawers full. Nonstop. Lots of people ask me all the time – hey I want to try
rotaries what should I do? I’m like I’d love to give you some advice but you
pretty much you’re gonna buy six or eight of them before you find what you
love. Just like coils, they’re not all the same. I mean everything you know it’s
aw this is a craft man you’re marking people for life with shit they are going to
the grave with. Man it’s like you gotta invest back in bro. It’s uh you can’t be
shorting out on stuff I see some guys have one machine and that’s it they try
to do every you know it’s you got to try different things man and you know you
got to put your best foot in. People are taking their shit to the
grave man, gotta have some dignity in what you’re doing man. You know.
I totally get that but I also look at it like cuz everybody’s gonna get you know personal
tattoos and then well-thought-out pieces and and great collectible pieces but at
the same time I still love little fun tattoos that that even that physically
mean nothing maybe just started as a bad joke it was like you know bro tats. I
don’t want to call them or whatever you know just like you know what the hell
enjoy it.
Yeah man all my tattoos I stopped even trying to put meaning in a
man. I like my stuff to mean whatever it is to the viewer man. It’s more you know
and I find everything that would had to be such important meaning to me man are
all the tattoos that you change and stuff so they’re not as valuable to me
anymore and I kinda almost don’t even want to have it you know. It’s uh you
know I like more surreal art man it’s uh with some timeless techniques that’s
what I like now man. I find that stuff, I never get bored with that
never get sick of it man it’s like oh you know that’s not who I am no more
because you changed. Obviously as a person you’re constantly changing man.
If you don’t you’re doing it wrong. You know.
I spent too many years trying to plan out my body and that’s why a lot of it’s still empty because I was trying to
be too perfect with it and now I’m like I’m older tattoos hurt more.
I don’t know the older you get they hurt more. Ive been doing 4 days every time I go and it seems…
I could never do that.
You know, I look at it like this man, why go on a road trip if you
don’t like driving man? You’ve got to find a place, some way to benefit
out of getting tattooed, man. I’m doing a lot of large sessions man so I got to
think of it that way.
Right. With me it’s more about it’s more about the
experience and the artists like now it’s just like I want to get a piece by somebody, a particular person. I don’t really care about the subject
matter all that much, if I have an idea I’ll throw it at him, but for the most
part it means more to me that bonding moment man. It’s a real personal.
My last one was great man, I did four days in a row with Victor
Portugal a month and a half ago and then I just did four days in a row
with a David Jorquera and the last one was cool a man the the last one the
convention closed early so a bonding moment was really cool and then we had
to take it up to the hotel room and old-school man, tattooing until four in
the morning. Doing my hand and it was cool man those are the good times.
Right.
And that’s what it’s really about man. You know just experiences, memories, and
you know, it’s all memories man. I don’t like getting tattooed at shows…
Yeah I’m not a big fan man but you know my friends travel from afar man so you know we take
it as you can get it with these guys. Yeah I’d rather get tattooed in a
more personal space man so I like to go to Poland a lot to Victor’s spot is uh
it’s pretty private it’s like this man you know. I got tattooed at Last
Rites recently with David too and it was pretty quiet atmosphere man. I like that
but you know something too commercial it’s a little bit you know everyone’s
looking for a different experience man… There’s no hookers wandering in
looking to exchange services? I like more personal
experiences man, a quieter atmosphere man. It’s much better for me man, you know.
I could see that man your… I don’t know about the right words to
put it but… like you’re just more about the art and the experience
rather than the the commercialization. The money the all that is, I mean you
know, if you’re good at what you do that will follow. The successful will follow.
Yeah you know you’re passionate about what you do and you stay rockin man stay
steady… good things will come man. You’re producing good energy you know so
good things will you know hopefully come about if you’re focused being a straight
shooter and just uh all around just decent person. I think man, with
progressive energy, I mean you know it’s a huge part of it.
Yeah for sure.
I mean look you’re doing all this here in a really remote small community
pretty economically depressed area but you’re still thriving doing well…
yeah it’s cool I’m fortunate man and I dont like to use the word lucky because we all
work so hard for what we did and everything but uh, Im fortunate man you know
I’m fortunate for sure.
It’s a good way to put it. I just try to be grateful
every morning I wake up because there’s a lot of people in a lot worse places
than myself.
Yeah man for sure and you get, the thing is man, I lost a lot of
my best friends, a lot of artists man, are not business minded. You know your an artist and you’ve grown a business. It’s great, same here. A lot of good
artists man, they’re not as business like-minded people and they work so hard
be passionate about they do and can’t find success and that can be a major downfall for a lot of people man. Introduced horrible things… you know
which it’s unfortunate man.
Well I don’t about you but like I meet so many
people and and there are those that I do meet and do like and I will try and
mentor them a little bit on the side I can’t dedicate a full-time job to it but like for the people that are driven, focused,
and passionate and just don’t have a certain skill set, I’ll help them
gain those skills if I can. If they’ll listen, that’s the hard part
with artists…
Well you know also anything you help people with teaching man helps
you master it. You revisit things you’ve experienced and
you know you might have forgot about techniques to interactions anything man
experience and I you know you guide someone… Its a refresher. Yeah totally man you refine your own thing that’s that’s great man
teaching is the best for that, you know. I’ve always said I want to be a
philanthropist when I grow up I just need to become ridiculously wealthy
first and then I then I just want to share. Yeah you know I just want to share
and help people build and grow.
I aint growing up though Wish I could say that but I’m getting older. Oh
Tell me about it. I may not grow up but definitely getting
older growing down then and older and shrinking.
All right, so if anybody’s looking to get some larger scale darker imagery
badass tattoos from a really laid-back easygoing guy, hit up Brian Brown – Red
Karpet Tattoo. Karpet with a K. Dalton Massachusetts. Amazing vibe great
guy. Yeah you won’t regret it man for sure. Thank you brother.
Always good. now look in the camera and tell them to
fucking subscribe. Hit the button!
Thanks again brother. Thank you.

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