Artists: Andrew Sussman
What year did you start tattooing?
I started tattooing in New York in 1992 after a bunch of friends pressured me to get into it. I actually had little interest at first, but friends can be persuasive!
Where did you apprentice?
I am 100 percent self-taught. There weren’t many opportunities for apprenticeships in New York City with the whole ban in place. I have an extensive art background and always had pretty good technical common sense, so I taught myself everything. Also I had no interest in being some shop bitch and being abused for a year…as most shops would do back then. I grew up in a true artistic household where the notion of an apprentice is to be taken under the wing of a mentor, building a solid relationship, being guided and having mutual respect for one another-not buy everyone lunch, wash their cars and scrub floors with a toothbrush!
Do you have any special training?
I’ve been an artist my whole life and grew up in a household heavily influenced by art. My mother was a known portrait painter and I learned basically everything from her. While all the other kids were out playing, I was standing in front of my little easel wearing one of my dad’s old dress shirts as a smock, imitating everything my mom was painting or just sitting on a stool and watching her work.
What conventions have you worked at?
I used to work conventions all over the country 10 or more years ago, but I never really enjoyed them. But then working alone all the time became more of a burden than fun. This year I worked at the big convention in Vegas and I have to admit that I did have a good time and was very successful.
How do you describe your style?
I love all forms of realism: portraits, people, animals, nature, flowers, etc. Mostly black & grey too. But when I am doing an ocean scene or something like that, I love going nuts with color. Even a Hello Kitty design can be fun if you have a field day with the colors.
What inspires you as an artist?
I really don’t spend a whole lot of my time studying other artists and exploring different worlds or art. But my greatest influences when I was growing up were Caravaggio and my mother.
What other mediums do you work in?
The only other medium I work in is Crayola Crayon! I have a 3 year-old daughter who loves to color and I must admit that I can color a mean Strawberry Shortcake.
What tattoo artists do you admire most?
The tattoo artists I have always admired most are Shane O’Neill, Tom Renshaw, Bob Tyrrell, Brandon Macario, Robert Hernandez and probably about a dozen more people. Every month I see some new artist or older artist that simply blows me away and goes on my list of favorites. It’s too hard to break it all down to a top five list.
What kind of tattoos do you look forward to doing?
After 19 years of tattooing, I don’t get bored, but I definitely look forward to any kind of human or animal portrait. It’s those kind of designs that still make me as excited as a kid on Christmas day.
Have you tattooed any celebrities?
I tattooed the male and female lead actors from the old TV series “The Invisible Man” when they were once filming in our parking lot in San Diego. I’ve talked to Busta Rhymes, Britney Spears and a few WWE Wrestlers in the past about tattoo ideas but I guess they were just window shopping.
Is there anyone that you would like to tattoo?
I’d love to tattoo Gary Oldman. He’s the greatest actor of our time and the Meryl Streep of the male acting world. I think he’s a classy guy who would be great to shoot the shit with and maybe he and I could figure out why he hasn’t won an Oscar yet. Other than him, there are a lot of celebrities I would like to tattoo because I think so many stars out there actually have some of the worst tattoos in the world! Ha.
Before someone gets a tattoo what advice do you give them?
Think about how a tattoo forms to the curves and flow of the body and how to make the tattoo compliment you. Don’t just slap it on like a patch. Give it movement.
Is there a tattoo that you haven’t done yet that you are dying to do?
I have a few pet projects that I’ve been dying to do. The big elephant back piece I did was probably my proudest piece. I was blown away when a client simply asked me what I would like to do the most, and when I told her an elephant back piece, she simply said, “Okay, do it on me. Why not?” I want to do a giant full-color octopus wrapping around a woman’s body. I would also like to do a number of celebrity portraits: Dexter, George Carlin, Flo from Alice, and a few others that have such expressive character in their faces. I would love to do a big arm or leg piece of a howler monkey. I love animal scenes in their natural environment. Anyone interested?