Artists: Mike Moses
What year did you start tattooing?
I started tattooing the basics—kanji, baby daddy’s/mama’s names, and small tribal—in November of ’03.
How did you get into tattooing?
I had moved from my hometown of Roanoke, VA, to Richmond to go to college for art. I actually never took any of my required classes that weren’t art-related, and then three years later I dropped out. I never thought I’d end up tattooing. it never really even crossed my mind.
Where did you apprentice?
I had been working the desk at a shop since early ’01. I was fortunate enough to procure an apprenticeship from my good friend and mentor Mr. Fred Pinckard, who now owns Salvation Tattoo in Richmond with his wife, Katie Davis.
Do you have any special training?
I’m not sure what that would be defined as exactly. I can cook my ass off, I have the top score on Mr. Holiday’s Candy Striped Pinball Disaster down at Laurel and Eckard Street. I draw smaller than any man alive and am still capable of convincing 76 percent of people to see things my way.
What conventions have you worked at? Have you won any awards? What are some of your best convention memories?
I’ve only worked the Baltimore convention, twice. I’m not particularly fond of large groups of people—why in the hell am I living in NYC? After being told I couldn’t even show a piece that I had entered in a competition due to the extreme partiality of judges to award only the big names, I’m not really all that concerned with the whole ordeal.
How do you describe your style?
There’s some rendered stuff, some really flat stuff, some spirograph, some dark stuff, never goofy stuff. It’s illustrative. I’m just trying to do things in the least predictable, least expected way. I always tell my clients when they set up appointments, “It’s not going to look a thing like what you think it will, but it’s going to be really fucking cool.”
What inspires you as an artist?
Inspiration comes from all sorts of things, from the mundane to the profound. I’m not going to fill anyone’s head with any sort of higher thought order expected art mumbo jumbo. By mundane I’m talking about the cigarette I’m smoking as I write this. Look at the smoke curling off of it; I’m going to use that. By profound I mean: How about the latest Tom Waits video? Not only was it my favorite track off of Bad As Me, but it’s visually stunning. Take that approach to the imagery, which was adapted pretty literally from the lyrics and musical cues. It’s simple. It has impact. It’s moving. Let me sum up a wolf head like that next time. Take something stark and basic, shift it out of the usual context, simplify it, render the hell out of it, and then flatten it into a cardboard cutout of itself. The next skull I do, it’s going to be like that.
What sets you apart from other artists?
I don’t think [there is a] trick to [being] set apart from other artists. We’re creative people. We’re going to have more chaos, more different directions, and more arguing. We’re all hardheaded, stubborn think tanks. We all have our own unique visual dialogues, and we all have our own agendas. Being apart from other people is being an artist.
What other mediums do you work in?
I work in as many mediums as I feel like I have a direction for. I mostly paint with acrylics on wood panels, but I also dabble in watercolors, digitally rendered illustration, digitally manipulated photography, sculpture, screen printing, music, audio, and guerrilla art tactics.
What tattoo artists do you admire most?
I’ve had the great fortune of coming into contact with some really great and inspiring people lately; too many to name all of them, so forgive me for not rattling them all out. Sean Rhodes keeps me on my toes in so many ways; his stuff blows my mind constantly. Dusty Neal—I’ve been very fortunate to get to know him lately through the miracle of Instagram. Lynn Akura; we met when she came from the UK to do a guest spot at red rocket tattoo. She’s an incredible illustrator and has one of lightest touches with a tattoo machine I’ve ever felt. Nathan Kostechko, a.k.a. “Cool Nate”—I met him while getting tattooed at Saved in Brooklyn by Zac Scheinbaum. While our styles are vastly different, I can’t think of too many people who have influenced my thinking more. Richard F. Smith Jr., I work with at Thicker Than Water—this kid has only been tattooing for a few years and keeps me motivated and pushing myself forward, if nothing else to stay ahead of him because he’s so good it’s almost not fair.
What kind of tattoos do you look forward to doing?
Honestly, the things that I look forward to most are pieces where the client is allowing me to make it as cool as I can conceive. Clients are full of great ideas that I wouldn’t normally think of, and as long as I can twist and mold that idea a bit and actually use a real color scheme, then I’m happy.
Before someone gets a tattoo what advice do you give them?
The only things I typically say to people before they get tattooed is to pray to whoever their god is and hold on for dear life. I’m also fond of saying, “This was all your idea”—not really sure if that’s advice, though.