Artists: Johnny Smith
What year did you start tattooing?
How did you get into tattooing?
I’ve always been interested in artwork in one way or another. Aside from messing around with it when I was a kid, I first started to become more interested in tattoos when I was a teenager. I started drawing a lot of tattoo designs and staring at pictures in tattoo magazines. Eventually I moved to Oregon from Mississippi in 2005, and after much effort, got my foot in the door at a local shop doing grunt work.
What is the tattoo scene like in Oregon?
Honestly, I love living and working in Oregon! I spent many years traveling all over the country and have yet to find anything quite like it. There are great artists scattered all over the state, and it constantly keeps me challenged to become better at what I do. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect fit for me.
Do you have any special training?
Aside from learning about art history and painting from my grandmother when I was younger, I am a selftaught artist.
What conventions have you done recently or are planning to do this year?
Fortunately, in 2013 I was able to attend both Hell City shows, the Paradise Tattoo Convention, Paradise Artist Retreat, the Worldwide Tattoo Conference in Boston, and most recently the Evian Tattoo Show in France. Next year I hope to do more traveling overseas. London, Italy, and Denmark are in the works so far; possibly a few more will line up.
You tattoo in a variety of styles. How do you describe your style, and what styles do you prefer?
I do a lot of realistic color tattoos, although lately I’ve been getting more interested in black-and-gray. If I have any type of unique style, I accredit it to my background in painting, and the fact that I use my machine like I use my brush. It gives my work a saturated, painterly look that people recognize. Hopefully I can learn many more styles from all the artists I get to work with, and refine my work more in the future.
What inspires you as an artist?
I find inspiration in all the great artwork I see coming out every day. It constantly challenges me to become a better painter and tattooer. I couldn’t think of a better way to progress than being in this industry surrounded by such amazing artists. It definitely keeps me on my toes. I feel that tattooing is the new artistic movement, and I’m stoked to be a part of it.
What other mediums do you work in?
I’ve been painting since I can remember, and I’m sure I always will. I’ve also been messing around with sculpture and a few other mediums lately. Hopefully I can find the time to do much more with art aside from tattooing in the future.
What tattoo artists do you admire most?
Cory Norris, Jeff Gogue, Bob Tyrrell, Russ Abbott, and Remis.
What kind of tattoos do you look forward to doing?
I’ll probably always be a realist, but I would love to get more into traditional tattoos. I’ve always felt an attraction to clean lines and solid color. Hopefully that’s something I can do a bit more of, and step out of my comfort zone a little.
Before someone gets a tattoo what advice do you give them?
Research! Forget about price shopping, and put that effort into finding a good artist. There are so many fully quali – fied artists out there now that there’s no excuse for getting a shitty tattoo anymore.
Is there a tattoo that you haven’t done yet that you are dying to do?
My bucket list of tattoos mostly consists of portraits I’ve always wanted to do. Sam Elliott, Carl Sagan, Freddie Mercury, to name a few. I also love working with optical illusions, and I have some fun ideas I’m looking forward to putting on skin.