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Dennis Gladwell

Artist Interview


Artist of the Month


Dennis Gladwell


BAW: What or who inspired you to want to become a Tattoo Artist?
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.

BAW: 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?
DG: I 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.

BAW: Do you have a particular artist you would be interested in working with or meeting?
DG: 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 few.

BAW: 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?
DG: 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.

BAW: Tell us about the first tattoo you gave?
DG: 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.

BAW: What is your most memorable / outrageous tattoo given and why?
DG: I 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!

BAW: Have you ever inked anyone famous and what type of work did you do on them?
DG: I never have, but Marcus Camby from the NY Knicks comes to our shop and CariAngel does most of his work.

BAW: What could you say was or is your greatest technical challenge in the business?
DG: I 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.

BAW: Is there a part of the body you won't Tattoo and why?
DG: I 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.

BAW: Do you feel that there now should be mandatory schooling for soon to be tattoo artists?
DG: 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.

BAW: Do you feel Tattooing has changed over the years, and if so why?
DG: 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.

BAW: 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?
DG: 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

BAW: 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?
DG: 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.

BAW: Please share any other comments or views or questions to the public you might have.
DG: I 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.


Dennis Gladwell

Big Joe & Sons Tattoo
2150B Central Park Ave.
Yonkers, NY

(914) 337-1600




Besides living, eating and breathing everything that has to do with tattooing, I do a lot of computer work like graphics and web site designing, etc. Since I always need a vacation, traveling to anyplace new is definitely cool! I also like the study of Medieval Europe.


As of now I have 10 sets of flash. The first 3 are one set because I thought these would be the only ones I will ever do. Here are the sets I have to-date:

Set #1, 3 & 5 ~ 1020 English names in Japanese

Set #2 & 4 ~ My Japanese Animation PIN UP girls. These are my biggest sellers

Set #6 ~ Stone Tribals

Set #7 & 8 ~ Tribals. Set
Set #9 ~ Small bands
Set #10 ~ Hearts and things.

They can all be seen at


Please click on the photos
for a larger view


Before Cover Up

After Cover Up