BAW: What or who inspired you to want to become a
DG: Getting my first tattoo sucked me into
the tattoo world. That was in June of 1991. I'm not going to lie and say that at first it
was the art that inspired me. What "initially" inspired me was that fact that
the guy who had just tattooed me made $100 in an hour. After that very first tattoo I
started buying and reading the tattoo mags which is what pulled me in more. I saw one of
the starter kits being advertised in one of the mags and like a typical kid, I begged my
Mom for the money to buy one, but always got the big NO! During school I never had enough
money. So, when I graduated college in 1993, I was able to buy one up and it started to
grow from there. I knew nothing about apprenticeships, so I basically just tattooed my
friends and learned as I went. Something I don't recommend at all! After a year, I started
meeting some local Tattooist and the more I talk to different artists, the more my
knowledge grew. From that point on, it was all about the art and not about the money. In
1995 I stopped working out of my home and went to work at a real tattoo shop. This is the
time when it started to become my life. In just one month of working at this shop I had
learned more than I had learned in a year when I was on my own. The further I get into
this business and the more Artists I meet and learned from, the more inspired I am.
Do you have a specific artist you work with for the work on yourself or do you like to
experience the nature of many different men and women behind the needle?
have work done by some of the artist I have worked with in the past, some work I have done
myself on my legs (when I got bored). But now all my work is done by CariAngel here at Big
Joe & Sons. She is a kick ass tattoo artist and has a nice light hand. I really don't
want to get tattooed by many people, because I want it all to look consistent, so she'll
be doing a lot of my work in the future.
Do you have a particular artist you would be interested in working with or meeting?
If possible, every reputable tattoo artist that has brought the business to this level.
There are definitely too many to name, but of course people like Guy Aitchison, Paul
Booth, Joe Capobianco, Jon Clue, Shan Anderson, Cap Szumski and Jack Ruby, just to name a
We have read on your website that you have attended school for Art and were even privately
tutored. Do you feel that this has helped you in your ability to tattoo and how?
Definitely. I learned a lot about colors, space, the body and so much more in school. But
it took me awhile to start applying what I learned in my tattooing. Still to this day when
I'm tattooing, something will pop into my head that I had learned in school but had
forgotten about. It took me a few years to realize that I could tattoo the same way I draw
and paint. The first years of my career I mainly focused on doing nice clean tattoos. Once
I mastered that, I unburied what I learned in art school and started applying my art
education into the tattoo's I did. Now, everything I learned in school comes into play
when I tattoo.
Tell us about the first tattoo you gave?
The first day I got my starter kit, my friends parents went away and he threw a party. I
knew someone would get drunk and feel brave giving me my first victim. It turned out to be
my friend Phil. I did a small tribal tattoo on his back which covered the letter
"P" that had been hand poked into him. It was only about 3x3 inches and it took
me about 2 to 3 hours I think. I guess it came out good for my first one, because when the
rest of my friends saw it they wanted one. You have to start somewhere.
What is your most memorable / outrageous tattoo given and why?
tattooed my friends tongue one time. A small tribal going up the sides. This was when I
still worked out of my house and he called me from the bar with this stupid idea to tattoo
his tongue. At the time I would tattoo anyone, anywhere just to get the experience. It
only lasted about 2 or 3 weeks before it fell out, but I didn't know any better at the
time. It was funny as hell and I wish I took a picture. He says he'll let me do it again
just to take a picture, but it's been 6 years since and he always has an excuse of why not
to do it. I don't blame him really, it looked like it hurt!
Have you ever inked anyone famous and what type of work did you do on them?
never have, but Marcus Camby from the NY Knicks comes to our shop and CariAngel does most
of his work.
What could you say was or is your greatest technical challenge in the business?
took me a long time to learn how to tune my machines to work the way I wanted them to. I
like a machine to run fast with a hard, short stroke. I've always been told the opposite,
but it never worked for me.
Is there a part of the body you won't Tattoo and why?
would tattoo any part of the body except the face. Society is not ready to accept that and
you never know what you will be doing in the future. I may give it consideration if the
person is heavily tattooed and is set in a job and life. But then again, I still might
refuse it. It just something I don't think should be done.
Do you feel that there now should be mandatory schooling for soon to be tattoo artists?
Yes. Not everyone has the ability to tattoo. Schooling may be a good way to weed out the
thorns if the potential is there. I've seen work done by people that have been tattooing
for 15 years and it looks like shit. I think either you have it or you don't.
Do you feel Tattooing has changed over the years, and if so why?
The level of the artwork is always accelerating. It's what keeps pushing me. If I thought
everything I did was flawless, then I would hit a spot and never get any better. When I
see awesome pieces in the magazines, it inspires me to push myself to get to the next
level. By artists taking tattooing to higher levels, it creates the growth in this
business to be viewed as an art form and a step away from the stereotypical
"sailor/biker" crap that a lot of society labels it.
Do you think it is important to do as many conventions and shows as possible and if you do
attend do you make it a point to attend guest lectures and seminars?
Everyone is too hush hush in the tattoo business. Its like if someone tells someone else
their golden secret, people will run home and tattoo exactly like them. As if it was that
easy. I thinks it's good that these artist give lectures and seminars. I love going to
seminars and listening to what other artists have to say. I think it's very, very
important. If Guy tells you something in a seminar, you go home and apply it in your style
of work, and use it to a way that benefits you. It doesn't mean you're going to tattoo
just like him. It opens the doors to this business. If one person learns something and
shares it as knowledge with others and vice versa, we all could learn a lot of helpful
techniques and continue to bring this business to yet another
Nowadays it seems so hard for people who are seeking
apprenticeships to gain a position, do you have any advice for them that can better their
chances to land an apprenticeship position?
That's something I can't comment on. I myself never went though an apprenticeship. Though
I wish I did. Trial and error is a hard way to learn tattooing. But if you want to learn
just keep going to tattoo shops and make friend with the artists and over time maybe one
will show you the ropes.
Please share any other comments or views or questions to the public you might have.
would like to thank BAW for this opportunity. I'd also like to thank Big Joe, Adam and
CariAngel for letting me spread out and do what I think will work best for me and the
shop. They have shown complete trust in me from day one unlike past employers who have
held me back. It's a hard business to break into, but if you want it bad enough to the
point of where you live, breath and eat tattooing, then you will do it. If you do it half
ass, the business will eat you up and spit up out like regurgitated slop. Although I
started for the wrong reasons, I quickly learned the right reasons. If you do it to make a
quick buck, then you will fail. If you do it for the art then the money will follow as
well as pride in the work you do. As you stand in front of the door to the tattoo world,
think of where you want it to take you and is it for the right reasons? If not you can
hurt other as well as yourself.