Brad Stevens

How have your life experiences contributed to your artwork?

I think, like most artists, I always felt like kind of an outsider growing up, and a bit of a late bloomer. I was never overly outgoing, and tattooing as a profession isn’t very welcoming to newcomers. So basically, I felt like the odds had been stacked against me, which makes me work much harder. And I’m also a post-tattoo-reality-show tattooer, which means I have to work harder to not be viewed as one of the leeches who jumped aboard as soon as tattooing became part of pop culture.

What do you try to accomplish when you pick up the tattoo machine?

I just try to make something that I would want to have on me. Something classic that will look good forever. I’ve been tattooing for five or six years, I’ve already seen some terrible trends come and go, and I don’t want my tattoos to look dated.

What are some of your artistic influences?

It’s hard to say. I can take influences from classic tattoo flash, old photographs and posters, folk art—anything that seems like it’s on the taboo side of regular society, like it would’ve been mysterious in the time it was published, before Google Images ruined everything.

Do you think there is a particular current trend in New York tattooing?

I don’t know where this whole girl-wearing-animal-as-hat thing came from, or what everyone’s obsession with Victorian stuff is, but in 10 years maybe it’ll be like how we all think of the ’90s now. As far as New York, I feel like there are some cool things happening, and I’d say it’s all either too classic or too hard to replicate to be considered a trend. There is some great traditional stuff happening and some really innovative work being done in New York.

If you could get your next tattoo from any tattoo artist—dead or alive—who would it be?

I would get a tattoo from Bob Wicks. He was a tattooer for a short time in the early 1920s in Brooklyn before he started professionally painting circus banners. What was cool about tattooing then was that it was a folk art, and designs would be adapted for tattooing, then copied over and over. It was more of a craft than an art, but guys like Bob Wicks and Owen Jensen could actually draw really well. I identify more with those types of guys. I like using handed-down images and putting a little bit of myself into them.

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