Home Is Where The Heart Is
In 2003 I began my career as a tattoo artist. When I decided to pursue this path it was mainly driven by the freedom that comes along with being a tattooer and the fact that I get to draw and create new art on a regular basis. From what I could see in the beginning, this trade would take me wherever I wanted to go as long as I worked hard and always kept my eye on the prize, the prize of complete autonomy and creative freedom.
For most of my career I was completely content with tattooing whatever came in the door, and to some extent I still am. But over the last few years I have had a strong feeling that I need to break away from the "street shop" mentality and drive my career towards being a completely custom artist focusing on larger work. This is something that is a common career goal for many artists, but can be difficult to achieve unless you throw yourself off the edge of comfort and security.
Before I make the leap I decided that I need to focus my attention on things that I'll need to make the transition easier. I've spent the last few years studying and refining my art skills as best as I can by making time to paint and draw more outside of tattooing. Letting my imagination run wild when doing this actually helped me out with designing new images for my client's tattoo requests. It broke me out of the rut of drawing the same things over and over again because the requests were starting to repeat themselves. I've also spent countless hours watching interviews, seminars, and tutorials on art and tattooing from artists that I admire. Its a slow road trying to improve to the standard I've set for myself but the results are starting to show. I will frequently go back through my social media feeds a see the progress I've made over the years.
My focus now is to move my career forward and to do that I need to shake things up and put myself in a position to achieve my goals. Moving back to Massachusetts will be almost like having a clean slate where I can re-structure how I run my day to day business and how I proceed with my projects. I've tried doing that here but always seem to fall back into my old routine, a routine which usually doesn't give me enough time to design a piece with the thought and care that it deserves. Another benefit in being back East is that there are more events and outlets for strengthening my art and tattoo skills. Most of the bigger tattoo conventions with artist seminars take place in the eastern part of the country and I plan on attending as many as I can.
Over the last couple of years I have made it a point to meet as many of the artists that I admire and try to glean as much as I can from them about how to continue climbing the ladder to a more creative career. So far I have been greeted with enthusiasm and respect in this regard and have received lots of helpful tips on becoming a better and more fulfilled artist. Essentially they all agree that to make progress you need to snap out of your routine and create new and better work habits. I feel like I have made some big changes in my work habits already, this move will be the cement that keeps them firm.
The past ten years in Albuquerque have been great. I've made lifelong friends and have had the opportunity to work with some of the best artists in the area. The people here are fun and friendly and really make you feel at home. I would need a separate website just to list all of the fantastic experiences I've had here. Playing in a few great bands, cruising in my old cars with my car club buddies, seeing great shows and meeting great performers, meeting legendary tattooers,being a part of an amazing vintage culture scene and producing lots of shows and events over the years, these are just a handful of some of the highlights of my time here.
At some point though I began to pine for my real home back east, and that feeling only grew as time went on. Sure, Albuquerque is great but there's just some things it doesn't have. One of those things is my mentor, Steve. Beyond being my teacher and the one who brought me into this crazy art world he is my friend, and I miss working with him at Mass Ink. For the past few years I have gone back home to tattoo for a couple of weeks and my time at Mass Ink was always the highlight of those trips. For as much as I love what I do I love where I came from even more. To try and put a finer point on it, I had been to many tattoo shops long before walking in to Mass Ink, but Steve and his shop were the only one to actually make me want to be a tattoo artist and to be part of this culture. If not for him I'd probably still be swinging a hammer and only drawing in my spare time.
Outside of work there are many things that I miss about my home. The ocean, forests, the food, and my family are all things that I have been without for a long time. Just visiting for a couple of weeks doesn't even come close to enough time for me to enjoy all the things I left behind when I left all those years ago. I feel that returning to my element will make my heart happy and help me to reach the goals I set for myself.
Home is where the heart is. I have always found my level no matter where I have lived. Where you live is not necessarily home, especially if your heart wants to be elsewhere. So many of us preach to others to "follow your heart", but so few actually do it. Sometimes it's because change is scary, or maybe they're unsure if it's really what they want. One thing is true though, if you don't commit to doing it you will absolutely never know and will always have that regret. When I cash out of the casino of life I want to know that I did all I can to try and beat the house and come out on top.