Artists: Gene Coffey
129 Roebling Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211
FRESHLY INKED: What year did you start tattooing?
COFFEY: I started my apprenticeship in 2006 and started tattooing in 2007.
FRESHLY INKED: How did you get into tattooing?
COFFEY: I was a visual artist since I was a little kid. I started painting when I was about 10 years old and did some commercial illustration work for newspapers in Texas when I was in high school. But mostly I worked odds-and-ends jobs as a grown-up. Still doing art for myself on the side. I was super poor and didn’t have money to get the kinds of tattoos I wanted. Then when I was in my late 20s I started get- ting tattooed and started drawing designs for my friends’ tattoos. Then I was like, “Why am I drawing all these designs and not getting to do the tattoos?” I had been working the same job designing kitchens and selling appliances for 10 years and was super tired of it. So I started looking for an apprenticeship. And ta-da!!!
FRESHLY INKED: Where did you apprentice?
COFFEY: I apprenticed at Tattoo Culture.
FRESHLY INKED: Do you have any special training?
COFFEY: I went to art school for a year and dropped out. But I’ve been painting for as long as I can remember. I’ve taken courses here and there, but mostly I just taught myself most of what I know. A lot of my “training” is just from doing things over and over until I get better at it. Fuck up. Beat myself up over how much I suck at it. And then try again. Fuck it up less. And so on.
FRESHLY INKED: What conventions have you worked at? Have you won any awards? What are some of your best convention memories?
COFFEY: I’ve worked at a few conventions over the past few years. I do the Philly convention every year. New York every year. Evian France one year. Paradise Tattoo Gathering. And whatever else comes along and isn’t too inconvenient. I haven’t won any awards that I know of, but I haven’t really tried. I always think everything I do is awful, so I’m a bit scared to enter any contest.
FRESHLY INKED: How do you describe your style?
COFFEY: My style is just now starting to kind of come into focus for me. I’ve kind of been heading in a more abstract direction. I really like doing all kinds of tattoos. But I think when I do my kind of messy ink drawing/watercolor painting style of tattoos I’m the most happy. They feel a bit more true to me. I don’t know if there is a name for my style. It’s kind of painterly, I guess.
FRESHLY INKED: What inspires you as an artist?
COFFEY: I go to a lot of museums. Whenever I travel I spend the majority of my time in museums just looking at art. I like street art a lot too.
FRESHLY INKED:What sets you apart from other artists?
COFFEY: I think that my style of tattooing can be a bit of a put-off to most American tattooists. I think that we, American tattooists, can get a bit bogged down in the traditional imagery and styles of tattoos and can find it hard to see new things with an open mind. I’ve been lucky to work with a few artists who are really pushing the envelope and taking things to another level. Doing things outside of the box. It makes me want to push myself harder to find my own voice in the world of tattoos. I don’t think I’m there yet, and I may never be, but it is that striving for perfection that has always driven people to improve who and what they are. I don’t think I’m that different
then most tattooists. I use the exact same techniques and skills that everyone else does; I just do different kinds of images.
FRESHLY INKED: What other mediums do you work in?
COFFEY: I paint almost every day. Oil. Watercolor. Brush and ink drawings. I take a sketchbook with me everywhere and try to fill it up as much and as often as I can. But most of my other art is for me. I don’t put it out there too often.
FRESHLY INKED: How have you branched out from tattooing?
COFFEY: I’m still trying to find my roots in tattooing. It’s a little too early in my career for me to
FRESHLY INKED: What tattoo artists do you admire most?
COFFEY: Noon is one of my favorites and a close friend. Xoïl. Dan DiMattia. Dan Marshall. Jeff Gogue. Chris Dingwell. Grime. There’s too many …
FRESHLY INKED: What kind of tattoos do you look forward to doing?
COFFEY: More weird shit!
FRESHLY INKED: Is there anyone that you would like to tattoo?
FRESHLY INKED: Before someone gets a tattoo what advice do you give them?
COFFEY: Eat. Sleep. Don’t be drunk or hung over.