Artists: Joshua Bowers
2815 Beaver Avenue, Suite 108
Des Moines, Iowa 50310
FRESHLY INKED: What year did you start tattooing?
JOSHUA BOWERS: I started tattooing in 2004.
How did you get into tattooing?
I always hung around tattoo shops. I’d always take my sketchbook in and show the tattooers my stuff. One day I got a call from one of the guys— I was a senior in college, he asked me if I wanted an apprenticeship, and I took it.
Where did you apprentice?
I did a not-so-formal apprenticeship at a shop called Jaded Angel in Ames, IA.
Do you have any special training?
I went to Iowa State University for art and design.
What conventions have you worked at?
I’ve worked a lot of shows. I’ve done shows in Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix, California, St. Louis, Sunderland, UK, and more. I’ve met some of the greatest people on the road. Some of my good friends I only see when we’re at shows together.
How do you describe your style?
My style is often described as neo-traditional. I had never heard of that term when I was developing my style. I just wanted to do solid tattoos, use my rendering skills, and still do a tattoo that looked like a tattoo. I feel the same way today. I don’t set out to design my tattoos to fit the neo-traditional classification. I just want to make a lasting design that has a timeless look.
What inspires you as an artist?
I get inspiration from everywhere. I’m always keeping an eye out for interesting shapes, compositions, and color schemes. I enjoy looking at other artists’ tattoos—seeing great tattoos drives me to do great tattoos.
What sets you apart from other artists?
I don’t know—I believe I have a unique aesthetic to my work. I don’t try to reinvent the wheel with every tattoo or painting, but the end product is still unique and classic.
What other mediums do you work in?
I also paint with oils, watercolor, and acrylic. I do pen and ink drawings, and also metalwork.
How have you branched out from tattooing?
I run a clothing label with my wife called Acanthus Apparel. I also build and sell tattoo machines.
What tattoo artists do you admire most?
There are some guys doing great stuff out there right now. I wouldn’t say I admire tattooers for their abilities at tattooing, though. Tattooing is an extremely demanding field; the people I admire are the tattooers who are at the top of their career and still keep themselves from being overextended. Artists who are great to their clients while keeping enough time to create art outside of work. I admire tattooers who are productive both inside and outside tattooing. The artists who will finish a half-sleeve and immediately start a painting afterward. I’m a workaholic so I respect that.
What kind of tattoos do you look forward to doing?
I love tattooing birds and women and Japanese imagery. I enjoy almost every tattoo I do, but I do enjoy a quick little one- session piece every once in a while. A moment of instant gratification when my schedule is full of large multi-session pieces.
Before someone gets a tattoo what advice do you give them?
I tell them to not get too caught up in the meaning of the design. Find what appeals to them on an aesthetic level and it will develop meaning over time. Better to have a good tattoo than a bad one with all this meaning.
Is there a tattoo that you haven’t done yet that you are dying to do?
There’s a concept I came up with a few years ago. It’s Old English kanji. I’d like to see some people get into that.