Artists: Nick Chaboya
Seventh Son Tattoo
65 Langton St. San Francisco, CA 94103
What year did you start tattooing?
I just had my 10-year anniversary, so I started in 2002.
How did you get into tattooing?
Like most people, I had a bunch of friends that were cooler than me running around with tattoos. I had artists in my family, and I’ve been doing art since elementary school, getting in trouble doing artwork on the walls. They took all my pens and pencils away from me at school because I was always drawing; I couldn’t even take notes. They didn’t take away my compass, so I started carving images into the desk.
Where did you apprentice?
At a place called Metamorphic Tattoo. That’s where I was raised. That’s where I’m from.
Do you have any special training?
I have a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from California College of Arts and Crafts. I went to an art magnet high school where I had to fight to get in. I got accepted into an art college my freshman year of high school. It was funny—I thought I could skip high school. They offered me a scholarship, then they realized I was just a freshman.
What conventions have you worked? Have you won any awards? What are some of your best convention memories?
I couldn’t even list all the conventions—Australia, South Africa, Milan, Denmark, Germany, Barcelona, London, Calgary, and then all across the U.S. I’ve won a bunch of “the best of day” awards. It used to be a lot of fun for the awards, but when you don’t win, your client kind of gets bummed. It’s one of those things where I ask my clients not to do the contest, because I don’t want them to be bummed about their tattoo based on someone else’s preference.
How do you describe your style?
Tattooing is really a service, so you are giving the client what they want. I collaborate with the client. I’ve been doing a lot of abstract tattoos lately. I do a lot of twists on realistic stuff, a lot of surrealism. Just playing with reality a little bit. Now I’m trying to do texture and tattoo. Between stippling and shading, using the same machine with a different needle set up. How can I still saturate the skin so it lasts, but give it a unique look and trying to push my tattooing further.
What sets you apart from other artists?
To be honest I don’t really like that question. The reason I don’t like the question is that I feel our community as artists to be really divided—painters, tattooers, etc. So I try to stay away from those types of questions. I don’t know what sets me apart. The art I do, the number of people I tattoo still blows me away.
What other mediums do you work in?
Printmaking. Oil painting is something that I currently do. Going from there, tattooing, acrylics, different dry mediums. I’m currently making an application, which I don’t think people think of as a standard medium of art, but now as the CEO of this application, I can see this as some of the first commercial art I’m attempting to do, and I’m excited.
How have you branched out from tattooing?
I think tattooing was more me branching out than me branching out from tattooing. I feel like that transition is really hard to make. The medium is just so unique and so fucking hard. It’s kind of sick in the head to like it so much, but in a great, beautiful way. In a good way, it’s so hard; you’re always beating yourself up over it.
What tattoo artists do you admire most?
The artists I admire the most are the ones who go in every day and are still motivated every day even though they’ve been doing it a long time. I don’t want to single one person out. I think we all have days when we wake up and are more creative or less creative. The list of people that I’ve been fortunate enough to meet in my life that are creative in that way is just too long. A lot are friends of mine. Any- one who is giving to the art world and not just taking is someone I look up to.
What kind of tattoos do you look forward to doing?
The next one that I’m doing! They have an idea and they’re so passionate about it. It could be the most ridiculous thing ever, but they can tell me with such dedication, it’s so cool. One of my best clients came in to talk to me the day after he landed from Australia. He wanted to do a tiger, a squid, and another animal together. I was just sitting here thinking, Is this guy for real? But the more he talked about it, he was just so into it, I just said I have to figure it out. He became one of my favorite clients. We did more than just the one. He was very open for the artist’s interpretation. Clients like that are so inspiring.
Before someone gets a tattoo what advice do you give them?
I’d say come in and ask questions and figure out what you really want, and if you get to that point where you know what you want, then find the best artist for what you want. If someone wants an American traditional tattoo, could I do it? Yeah, but would I do it as well as someone who survives doing them? It’s definitely a different approach, not just an old-school idea where someone can walk in and every artist could do what that person wanted. Every artist can do what he or she enjoys doing now. The main thing is making sure [clients] want it and they have an idea they want.