Artists: Mike DeVries
Do you remember the first tattoo that you did for Yallzee?
Yes, I remember when, where, and what it was. Actually, what I remember most was how cool he is! He was very open to design ideas and had an awesome tattoo collection so when people are that passionate about this art form they tend to get picky on whom they decide to get tattooed by so that’s why it was such an honor to tattoo him and the tattoo I did on him was right between some other great tattoos by some great tattoo artists!
Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Well, I don’t remember exactly if he gave me the ideas to run with or if he said do whatever I wanted. Seeing the pieces he had it gave me a good sense of what he is into. I did a girl skull morph type of piece, if I recall correctly he had splashes of red throughout some of his other pieces so I put some red in and around the eyes so as a whole look at his body it wouldn’t look out of place and there would be consistency and continuity on him when he was done with his journey to collecting and finishing his body suit. I also don’t recall if at that time he told me he was on a mission to get a body suit but it looked and felt very apparent that’s where he was headed.
How do you feel being sought out by a collector? Is it an experience that is any different from tattooing other clients?
It’s definitely a good feeling especially nowadays there are so many damn good tattoo artists out there now, that to be picked out by a collector that is so passionate and the work he collects is SO important that it feels really good to be sought out by a collector, it really does! It’s definitely a different experience tattooing serious collectors, you almost have to go into it with a different mind set, or at least that’s what I do. I like to take everything into consideration, his existing pieces, future plans, goals, etc. Although I try my best on all my work I do but sometimes nerves could kick in because you’re working in between amazing pieces that other artists have done, so it kind of feels like you have to step it up, or at least be on your A game.
Some of your work that really stands out is your animal portraiture. Not only are they realistic looking but also you seem to capture the animal’s soul. How do you go about doing this?
The right reference is always important, for sure. A lot of it for me is in the eyes—if there’s a connection there then I can bring out that emotion in the tattoo. I try and catch the essence of the animal or person rather than just trying to replicate it exactly on skin. There are a lot of tattoo artists out there that do realism and just pull the same tiger or lion off of Google, so I make special attempts to photograph animals at zoos or flowers, etc. No matter what though I always play with images in Photoshop and change it up at least a little bit. Then when I tattoo it, I don’t resort to the reference as much, I kind of do my own thing and that’s something that helps set you apart from other artists doing the same piece. Like I’ve always said, if a bunch of realism artists did the same tiger tattoo and nailed it, what’s the point? You will just be lost in the bunch.
Your Instagram is covered with pictures of your dogs. Do you have any tattoos of them? Going back to the above question, does being an animal lover influence the way you tattoo animals?
I do! I have a portrait of one of my dogs that passed away. Her name was Daisy so I had Mike DeMasi (a really good friend and great tattooer) do it and asked for some daisies to put around her portrait. I think being an animal lover is definitely part of why I take so much care in tattooing them. I really try to capture their souls.
You’re known to be an enormous Dodgers fan. Have you gotten a chance to do any cool Dodgers related tattoos? And how would you react to a client requesting a Giants tattoo?
I have done a Vin Scully portrait and a Tommy Lasorda! If someone asked for a Giants tattoo I would kick them out of my shop… just kidding. I’m a fan of a lot of different teams and sports in general.
As the owner of Memento Publishing can you tell us a little bit about what you do there? Why do you think it is important to have books that treat tattooing as an art medium on par with painting, sculpture, etc? What is the next big project coming up?
I started Memento Publishing in 2009 and just started getting excited about the process and bringing something to the industry by showcasing some great tattoo art. It was also a way that stamps a period of time for the history books. We’ve published about 12 books now, our newest ones include “Tattoo Prodigies 2” which is a huge coffee table style book featuring some of the best artists in the world. The newest addition to Memento’s library is “The Body Sketch Book” I actually got in touch with the paper company Canson and got them on board to print this book on their sketch paper. It’s filled with a variety of body parts for artists to get ideas and show clients flow and movement; it’s just an awesome sketchbook that we thought would be really helpful to the tattoo industry. If you’re an artist definitely check it out!
Before someone gets a tattoo what advice do you give him or her?
Don’t do it! You’ll never get a job!