Artists: Chris Brand
Los Angeles, California
How did you become interested in tattooing?
Besides developing an interest as a small child through National Geographic books, as a teenager I had been creating designs for friends to get tattooed. I would sometimes go with them to the shop to watch it go down, talk with the tattooers and hang out a bit. Kind of testing the waters to see how this whole tattoo world worked. So, when there was finally an opening at that shop for a helper, I jumped at the chance and got the job, which turned into an apprenticeship to tattoo.
Tell us about the first time you ever went to a tattoo shop.
I think my very first shop experience may have been at a shop in Hollywood a few years before I started tattooing. I went with a girl who was getting a butterfly I drew up. She had been referred to Baby Ray. He laughed at my horrible design and drew his own for her instead. It was a super intimidating and hilarious experience. Baby Ray has a wonderfully authoritative way of getting things done. Real tattooing at its finest. Good lesson. Good memory.
In 2014 you released a Mushroom Lamp series, and you recently released the Continue to Live Remember the Dead light fixture, what drove you to work in this medium?
I have been sculpting my whole life and work three dimensionally whenever possible. I always aim to combine the appropriate amount of complementary and contrasting textures possible in my works and found that introducing unnatural lighting would help push the surreal aspect of the works in the direction I wanted. Unlit, the sculptures opacity and translucency read as natural and realistic but when they are lit, the feeling is more supernatural. Almost bringing them more to life than before. The way in which light plays with any surface is an important aspect of viewing any works, so controlling that viewing in natural and unnatural ways can help create the proper viewing experience.
What inspired you to write The Ulysses Guide to the Los Angeles River?
My good friends and partners in our art group UGLARworks, Mr. Evan Skrederstu, Mr. Steve Martinez and myself had been traversing the depths of the Los Angeles River quite a bit in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The more we explored, the more surprising and interesting the place became, so after realizing that there was no proper documentation of anything close to how we were experiencing the River, we decided to do our best to document it. Our goal was to bring the reader into the River the way we had experienced it—surreal, beautiful, disgusting warts and all. The book was released in 2008 and in 2010 we created an installation at the Pasadena Museum of California Art that further aided in experiencing the River’s odd glory with broken concrete walls, graffiti, projected water running below and even a soundscape recorded from trips to the river. The only thing missing was the smell.
Did you get to make your mark on the “concrete canvas?”
Yes, of course. The River’s vast expanses of concrete were much too inviting.
You seem to draw influence from so many different styles of tattooing, how would you describe your signature style?
I suppose, if I have any sort of recognizable style, it might be my series “108 Heroes of Los Angeles.” A retelling of the story of The Water Margin or The 108 Heroes of the Suikoden. My version combines the aesthetics and traditions of both Japanese tattooing and storytelling with late 70’s/early 80’s Chicano tattooing in Los Angeles. Other than that particular project, I tend to focus mostly on traditional Japanese style work and traditional single needle black and grey Chicano style work.But, as a tattooer, I am open to executing any genre of work that my clients request.
When you sit down to do a more traditionally inspired tattoo how does your mind set change from when you are doing your own thing?
Doing nearly any sort of tattooing, especially traditional style tattooing, I suppose the most important mindset or intention, above all, is to consider the permanence of the tattoo. Will the image hold up over the course of this person’s lifetime? Whether in its design, or more importantly, in its concept. The beauty of traditional tattooing, in most any form, is the timeless quality and importance that generations of people before have given these designs. Tried and true.
What are some of the major subject matters you like to tattoo?
Natural elements, like water and wind. Plants and animals. Mythological creatures. Heroes and villains from traditional stories and stories I create myself. Positive imagery to help empower the person wearing the work.
How have you branched out of tattooing?
Artistically, I branched into tattooing. I started from drawing, to sculpting and painting. Culturally, tattooing has allowed and encouraged me to branch out by traveling the world and learn more about different cultures.