Artists: Deano Cook
When did you start tattooing?
I started in 1993.
What was your first shop experience like?
It was pretty grueling and hardcore! Long hours and very few days off, paying my dues to learn and gain my skills. I definitely got worked like a workhorse—and it got me to where I am today.
Do you have any special training?
Yes, I have tied in my underwater photography with my tattoo career starting many years ago, and it’s allowed me to pursue my education in photography. I think that, accompanied with being a master [scuba] diver, has certainly helped me stand apart from other marine life tattooers. I like to bring a lot of what I’m photographing into my actual work.
What drew you to work so often in sea life imagery?
I have had a deep love and infatuation with the ocean since I was a toddler. My uncle used to take me fishing and crabbing when I was very little, and it just went from there. I’ve also had an infatuation with sharks since I was a little boy, so as soon as I could get in the water and actually dive, I did. Somewhere along the way it dawned on me that I could marry that with tattooing.
What sets you apart from other artists?
I would definitely have to say it’s my quest to use my own original imagery. I like the fact that I often risk life and limb to swim out and get some of the compelling images that I am putting on people. I actually photograph most of the sharks that I am portraying in my work. I like spending a lot of time with my subject matter so I can offer subtle nuances. A simple photograph might not tell the whole story, but due to my time spent with my subject matter I can often add life to things and add certain details in the tattoo that you might not capture otherwise, just from being familiar with my subjects.
How have you branched out from tattooing?
I have recently started displaying my works in galleries, and more specifically at Pelagic Gallery in Destin, FL. Also, I have had my work published in a lot of photography magazines. I have won international photography contests like “Ocean Views” in Nature’s Best Photography, which has landed my work in the Smithsonian. I am currently working with Pelagic Clothing on a line of ocean tattoo scene apparel coming out in 2015. I recently was enlisted by Sea World and started selling a lot of my photography through them, and I am currently working on more underwater photography for them. I am a very proud member of the Ocean Artists Society and feel very strong about sending a message of ocean conservation through my work.
What tattoo artists do you admire most?
A few names that come to mind are—but are not limited to—Tony Olivas, Nikko Hurtado, Guy Aitchison, Mike DeVries, Joe Romeiro, Mark Longenecker, Carlos Torres, Dmitriy Samohin, Stefano Alcantara, Jose Perez Jr., Timothy Boor, Tattoo Ish, Big Gus, Joey Hamilton, and Tom Renshaw.
Is there a tattoo that you haven’t done yet that you are dying to do?
I want to do a realistic, badass octopus on a throat; a life-size sea turtle that covers an entire back; a portrait of a sea turtle with its face breaking out of the water to take a breath of air encompassing at least half of an arm, if not larger; a massive great white head portrait; I want to get somebody that will let me do the biggest shark tattoo that the industry has ever seen. I’ve always wanted to do a full sleeve of a giant squid battling a sperm whale. That’s always been on my list.