Artists: Gabriel Cece
What year did you start tattooing?
I started tattooing in January of 1995.
How did you get into tattooing?
I got my first tattoo at 16 years-old and the very second the needle hit my skin, I just knew I wanted to do this. A friend of a friend who worked in a small shop in Hobart, Indiana let me borrow some tattoo supply catalogs after he gave me my first tattoo and with a little bit of guidance from him, I sought out an apprenticeship two years after getting out of high school.
Where did you apprentice?
I started an apprenticeship in another small shop in Gary, Indiana but it was very short lived. Their ex-apprentice was suing them and they were suing him back, so, they told me it wasn’t a good time and asked me to leave after two months. I tried to find another shop but at the time no one was available. So I bought a kit from Spaulding and Rogers, read the book a bunch of times, took the machines apart and put them back together a hundred times over, practiced on inanimate objects, myself and friends for a bit and then got a job at another shop six months later. Giving credit where credit is due, over the last 15 years, I have watched and learned from everyone I’ve had the pleasure to work with. But for the most part, I am self-taught.
Do you have any special training?
I don’t think I have any special training, other than some art classes in high school and three weeks worth of college at Columbia in Chicago—the school of the hard knocks. More than anything else I suppose I have had on-the-job training, if you will.
What conventions have you worked at? Have you won any awards?
I’ve attended 30 or so conventions since 2001 and continue to do two-eight per year but it’s a little more difficult to manage these days, having to leave behind my wonderful wife and two amazing children at home, and having studio evoLve to run. I’ve won some trophies, 10 or so, at a few conventions and have been published over 40 times in industry magazines and books.
How do you describe your style?
I would describe my style as surrealistic, subjective, interpretive, organic in nature, colorful, soft, painterly, flowing, anatomically proportionate, specifically placed, aesthetically pleasing and unique. I don’t know, I think I might be difficult to classify.
What inspires you as an artist?
My clients are who inspire me to create whatever it is that they are looking for. Without them, I would be a starving artist. The artists and tattoo artists I have worked with have always kept me on my game and given me inspiration to improve or think outside the box. In general though, my children keep me grounded and my wife is my muse…she helps me a lot by pushing me to explore my art, helping me to dissect it to make it better, and supporting me in my career.
What other mediums do you work with?
When time allows, I enjoy painting with oils, watercolors, or acrylics but my favorite medium, outside of tattooing, is still colored pencil.
What tattoo artist do you most admire?
The question of what tattoo artists I admire is always the most difficult to answer as there are so many talented people working in the industry today. The folks I admire most though are those who are out there pushing the limits and changing the way things are done; Guy Aitchison, Jon Clue, Mike Cole, Nick Baxter, Nathan Kostechko, Jeff Ensminger, Dee Dee Seruga, TeeJay Dill, Chris Dingwell and of course some icons from previous generations, like Jack Rudy, Shotsie Gorman, and Lola Esperian.
What kind of tattoos do you look forward to doing?
I look forward to doing more larger scale pieces, covering more than one body part at a time, incorporating all that I have been doing and all that I have learned. I would really like to get into some more abstract work, monochromatic or duo-chromatic interpretations of portraits or realism, and finally, I want to take this sketchy thing I’ve been doing for five years now to the next level in order to achieve an even looser or more painterly feel.
Have you tattooed any celebrities?
No, I don’t think I’ve tattooed any celebrities, unless they’re not famous yet.
Is there anyone that you would like to tattoo?
I would really like to tattoo my mother but she’s not having it.
Before someone gets a tattoo what advice do you give to them?
I don’t think that there is a general bit of advice that I can just dole out to anyone who walks through our doors, as it’s more specific to the situation and person, depending on what it is that someone might be looking for. Broadly speaking though, for anyone looking to get tattooed, they might want to do the research for the tattoo artist that best suits what style it is that they are looking for. There are so many talented professionals out there today, there really is no reason to settle for the same tattoo that someone else has, so, find an artist who’s work you like and that you can connect with and get a one of a kind custom tattoo.
Is there a tattoo that you haven’t done yet that you are dying to do?
I don’t know what the tattoo is that I haven’t done yet but, when I figure that out, and actually do the piece, then I’ll probably have to retire from tattooing and paint all day long.