Artists: Tye Harris
Bang Bang NYC
26 Clinton Street
New York, NY 10002
What year did you start tattooing?
I started tattooing in early 2005. It was about a year and a half of working out of my friend’s house and tattooing my brother and myself before I got into a “real” tattoo shop.
How did you get into tattooing?
I was getting tattooed when I turned 18 by my friend who had made a homemade machine and learned to tattoo in prison. It was a pretty rough setup to say the least. I continued to get tattooed like that for about a year before I got the crazy idea that just maybe I could pull off a tattoo. Little did I know it would be years before I actually could do a decent tattoo. I went ahead and bought some supplies from the first place I found online and started going at my legs and my brother’s legs. Needless to say, we are both in dire need of some love from a laser. I kept tattooing out of houses for about a year or so before I went into a shop trying to buy needles. Then the guy behind the counter asked me for a portfolio and asked if I would be interested in a job. I brought a buddy of mine in the next day to do my audition tattoo, which wasn’t too impressive, but it was enough to get me my first job in a real-life tattoo shop.
What was your first shop experience like?
It was a biker shop in San Antonio, TX. The shop had about 10,000 flash sheets so there was always something for us to reference, and the customers were always very fond of the “pick it and stick it” method of tattooing. I really started to tattoo a lot every day and started to get comfortable having the machine in my hand when I started there. It was a very hectic shop where artists were always fighting with each other, and no one really seemed to get along. I was 19 and it was a pretty tough lesson in the world of tattooing. It’s made every shop experience since not seem quite so bad.
What first brought you to work at Bang Bang NYC?
Me and Bang have been talking since back in the Myspace days. Just recently when his shop opened was when he invited me up to guest spot and we finally met. Bang Bang’s mad skills are what brought me to the shop.
Do you have any special training?
No kind of training at all, really. Just picked up a machine and started going to town. I would love to take some oil painting classes one day if I can find the time.
What conventions have you worked at?
The International Brussels Tattoo Convention and the Evian Tattoo Expo are a couple of favorite shows that I have worked recently. Definitely the best convention memory I have is Bloodapalooza in Dallas. I think it was 2008, or 2009 maybe. That’s where I met one of my best friends, Mr. Timmy B., and that’s also where I met Bob Tyrrell and took his seminar. That seminar of his really sent me down the right path on how to approach realism. I’ve looked at tattooing totally differently since that weekend.
How do you describe your style?
Photorealism, for sure. I prefer to do portraits of people, but Gothic architecture and dark art is always a fun switch-up from time to time. Also, I love doing animal portraits.
What inspires you as an artist?
My biggest inspiration as an artist is to be 100 percent happy with the art I produce and to push my tattoos as far as possible. If you strive for perfection, progress is what you will get. Growing as a person and an artist and traveling the world meeting amazing people is the biggest inspiration I could ask for.
What sets you apart from other artists?
I’m not positive, to be honest. I definitely feel that I approach my tattoos in an unorthodox way that most artists find a bit ridiculous. I tattoo very slowly and meticulously. I find a lot of portrait artists who just won’t take their time. An eight-hour portrait is going to look very different from a three-hour portrait.
How is the tattoo scene in New York different than other places you’ve worked in?
There’s a much more artistic approach to tattoos in New York City in a lot of shops here, lots of tattooers who do sculptures and oil paintings and whatnot, rather than just tattoo all the time. It’s inspiring, for sure.
What other mediums do you work in?
I’ve dabbled in oils and acrylics and a little bit of airbrushing. I’d really like to focus more on oils in the future. It’s a solid way to learn lighting and color theory. Painting really helped me grow a lot.
How have you branched out from tattooing?
I really haven’t. I would like to see what other ventures I could get into someday. This industry has a lot of doors opening these days; I’d like to try my hand at another aspect of the tattoo industry.
What tattoo artists do you admire most?
Bob Tyrrell, Victor Portugal, Jason Butcher, Tommy Lee Wendtner, Carlos Rojas, Carlos Torres, and Nikko Hurtado, for sure. That dude is a beast. That’s just to name a few. I’m not sure there are enough pages in the magazine to name everyone who has inspired me over the years.
What kind of tattoos do you look forward to doing?
I’d like to get into more surrealism-type stuff. Maybe start throwing some flair into my portraits. I really like the way Robert Hernandez approaches portraits, more of an impressionistic style. I would also like to do more color realism. That’s always such a fun challenge.
Before someone gets a tattoo what advice do you give them?
If it’s a portrait that the client is getting, I try to get them to choose three pictures that they would be willing to get tattooed, then I go over the photos with them and discuss which photo will transfer best into a tattoo. I also discuss placement and size as these are very important factors in achieving a solid portrait.
Is there a tattoo that you haven’t done yet that you are dying to do?
I’ve still never done a back piece; I would love to tackle that project one day. A big, evil back piece would be rad. I’d like to give a color portrait a shot one day too. That’s intimidating for some reason.
What was one of your favorite pieces to tattoo?
I did a Freddy Krueger portrait on my brother about three years ago, and that is still one of my favorite tattoos that I’ve done. It was one that I was kind of scared to do for years and he just kept asking me for it. I was certain I was going to screw up those scars, but in the end I was very pleased with it.