Artists: Steve Wiebe
What year did you start tattooing?
How did you get into tattooing?
I would say I got into tattoos at a young age while watching my favorite athlete, Allen Iverson. I’ve always been into sports and that’s probably where I was most influenced. As I grew older I always knew I wanted tattoos. Once I got my first one, I had to learn more and eventually my curiosity led me to a career.
What was your first shop experience like?
My first shop experience was different for me in the sense that I was pretty much thrown into an artist’s position without any real apprenticeship. Not long after I was brought on as a shop helper, my employer left the shop and I was left in his station. In the meantime, I had been taking short trips to LA to get tatted and was soaking up knowledge that I was able to apply back home. Realistically, I learned more from traveling to other shops than I could’ve learned at home.
What led you to open up Golden Republic Tattoo?
Since I was tattooing in a style that was foreign to most locals, my work was easily recognizable in my city. People could tell there was a different feel between the soft black and grey tattoos I was trying to create and the rough, dark imagery that was popular in my area. The more my work progressed, the busier I became. In order to expand and grow my tattooing, I needed a workspace that reflected my personality where I could get inspired. So I went out and grabbed a small space where I could tattoo privately.
What is the tattoo scene like in British Columbia?
Non-existent. I wouldn’t say there’s necessarily a tattoo scene here at all. BC has some good artists, but when it comes to black and grey, there are really no options. That’s half the reason I started making trips to SoCal.
How do you describe your style?
Well, my style is definitely black and grey realism. However, that doesn’t really say much. I’ve had people tell me it’s the softness or smooth greys that drew them to my work. I just try to do a solid job to make tattoos that will last and not fade out.
What brought you to work in black and grey?
Black and grey has always had a classic look to it and I think that’s what drew me into that style. I used to admire Mister Cartoon’s work because it always told a story. With realism you can bring almost anything to life, and I always thought that was meaningful to the person wearing it. Especially with portraits, there’s so much at stake, but when it comes out right, it can make you feel like that person is alive on your skin.
What are the major differences between color and black and grey pieces?
The major difference between black and grey pieces and color would be the application. With black and grey it’s important to use the skin tone and let it breathe, whereas color pieces seem to be more dense and bold.
When do you ever find yourself using color?
I don’t really do much color at all, but when I do, it’s bold traditional stuff. The simpler, the better. I never got into color realism because I always thought black and grey looked more realistic.
What kind of tattoos do you look forward to doing?
I always look forward to doing anything new that I haven’t done before. To be specific though, I would say I enjoy doing any religious, sports-related, or animal tattoos. I can pretty much have fun with any subject matter as long as there’s a way to put a little of my style into it.
How do you see the black and grey scene evolving?
The black and grey scene is constantly evolving. There are so many good artists out there now and it’s not just about being able to replicate a realistic image. It’s about how you size it out and making images fit the body rather than a totem pole looking sleeve of portraits.