Artists: Michael E. Bennett
MICHAEL E. BENNETT
What year did you start tattooing?
I started tattooing in 2002. I had been working in and around tattoo shops since 1998 or so, sweeping up, answering phones, etc.
How did you get into tattooing? What was your first shop experience like?
I’ve always wanted to be a tattooer, for as long as I can remember. My grandpa had a Woody Wood- pecker tattoo on his arm and I thought it was the coolest thing! At school I started drawing Ninja Turtles on kids’ forearms and it just stuck. After high school I got a job sweeping up at a shop called Body Basics in Chicago, and the love for it just got deeper. That shop had super talented artists who all did different styles, and they loved what they did. It made me see that I didn’t have to fit a certain mold to be a tattooer. Hannah Aitchison, Patrick Cornolo, Jason Leisge—who was and still is a huge influence on me—were all working there at that time. It was a really great environment to be in early on. Later on I had the privilege of working at Faith Tattoo in Santa Rosa, CA. I learned so much working with that crew. Justin Shaw, Jesse Swanson, Andy Chism, and the constant flow of amazing guest artists really helped me figure out what I should be doing as a tattoo artist.
What’s it like being part of the 2Spirit Tattoo family?
2Spirit is one of my favorite shops I’ve ever been in, let alone gotten to work at. Roxx has really made a fantastic environment for the clients and the artists. Very mellow, fun place to be, and you can feel it in the people who work there. It’s more like a family than a place of business.
Do you have any special training?
I have recently started taking Tibetan thangka painting classes with master Tashi Dhargyal. Thangkas are the ancient Tibetan Buddhist paintings depicting deities and bodhisattvas. Tashi is showing me everything from mixing your own mineral-based pigments, the correct dimensions for each deity, and how to correctly stretch the canvas.
What conventions have you done recently or are planning to do this year?
I do the State of Grace convention each year with 2Spirit, and I’m planning on doing the Rochester convention with my good friends Justin Shaw and Andy Chism. That should be fun. I also try to guest spot at New York Adorned as much as possible— lovely people at that shop. It’s always a pleasure to work with all of them. I also got the chance to work at Saved in Brooklyn this last trip, another amazing shop. I feel so lucky to be able to spend time there.
You work in a lot of dotwork and blackwork. What drew you to that particular style?
I was drawn to dotwork because of the power they seem to produce. Even if the piece doesn’t necessarily have any subject matter, all the textures and strong black seem to draw you in and give off energy. I’ve always been drawn to powerful imagery. Seeing work from artists like Xed Le Head and Tomas Tomas, where there isn’t any central figure or storyline but the movement and power of the patterns draw you in and make you feel something. Man, that did it for me; I was hooked.
What inspires you as an artist?
I’m inspired by all kinds of things, from ancient Islamic rugs to Indian Rajput paintings. I’m drawn to anything spiritually based or geometric, really. I have to say that my wife and daughter are my biggest inspirations. They both show such love and commitment to their interests; it really helps me keep focused and reminds me of the fun my job allows me to have.
What tattoo artists do you admire most?
The list of tattoo artists that I admire is constantly changing. The more work I see out there, the more in awe I am of all the talent and energy in our culture today. The constants are Leo Zulueta, Xed Le Head, Tomas Tomas, Gerhard Wiesbeck, Leu Family Iron, Thomas Hooper, Jondix, Dave Moore, Jason Leisge, Mike the Athens, Erik Jacobsen—I could go on forever. I feel so lucky to be alive and part of the tattoo culture right now. So many books and information at our fingertips!
What kind of tattoos do you look forward to doing?
My favorite tattoos to do have a mix of geometric- and organic-based images. I love the duality of nature and math.
What was one of your favorite pieces to tattoo?
My favorite piece I’ve ever done would have to be my friend Jen’s throat. The combination of the Fibonacci sequence and the reaching filigree I think make for a strong image. Plus, she’s a super cool person! It was a pleasure to spend the time with her.