Getting a tattoo is a huge commitment and something many young people don't put enough thought into. Sure, they may have spent years thinking of their idea, but when it comes down to choosing an artist, they often just hit up a local shop in town or the guy who tattooed their best friend. Not all collectors go down this road and some of them hold off on getting their first piece until the right artist comes along. This was the case for Aaron, also known as Bier Goggles. Throughout his 20s, he didn't want to get a tattoo, and then he came across portrait artist Cecil Porter. After getting his first tattoo from Porter, Aaron was hooked and he has now put together an incredible bodysuit of celebrity portraits, as well as a breathtaking psychedelic stomach piece from Mike Cole. Take a peek at our interview with this decorated collector and let us know your first tattoo in the comments section on social media.
What was your first memory seeing a tattoo and did you envision yourself becoming heavily tattooed?
Nobody had tattoos in my family. But when I was growing up, I can remember being awestruck and intimidated seeing the famous professional wrestler, Bam Bam Bigelow’s, flaming head tattoo on TV.
Up until my 30s, I didn’t even want a tattoo. My friends were all getting tattoos from local shops and I just wasn’t really into the styles, the quality or the art they were getting at that time.
Who are the artists you’ve been tattooed by and what drew you to them?
I’ve been tattooed by Cecil Porter and MechMaster Mike Cole. I saw a picture of a colorful whiskey bottle Cecil did on Crazy Ruben in a magazine and I instantly knew this was the artist I wanted to do my first tattoo. The first time I saw Mike’s work was at a convention and I was blown away by his style. My eyes would get lost in all the patterns and bright colors. His art is like a mind-altering substance in itself.
What was your first tattoo and what’s the story behind it?
My first tattoo was a Heineken bottle on my shin. Back in high school, Heineken was the best beer we could get and we loved it, no matter how skunky it was. Fast forward to a few years later on my first trip to Amsterdam, I’ll never forget being in a steakhouse and ordering a Heineken for dinner. The waiter brought me a giant, 2-liter stein filled with the tastiest, smoothest, freshest beer I’ve ever had—and it only cost around $1. Needless to say, we drank a lot that night and on many trips since. I figured a Heineken bottle was a good tattoo to commemorate good times spent with the homies.
What portraits have you collected and why did you get these people tattooed on you?
I’ve gotten portraits of famous world leaders like Sir Winston Churchill and Teddy Roosevelt, actors like Clint Eastwood, mobster Al Capone, musical greats James Brown and Frank Sinatra, inventor Nikola Tesla, comedians Rodney Dangerfield and Richard Pryor, author Mark Twain—the list goes on. To me, each of these people represents a certain part of my personality or qualities I believe in.
What advice would you give to people who want portrait tattoos?
The best advice I could give someone looking to get a portrait is to go to an artist that specializes in that style. There are a handful of really good portrait artists in the industry and their work is far superior to someone who “can also do portraits.” I’d also recommend a second pass with the same artist after a year, it will really help with the longevity, especially with color portraits.
What inspired you to get your Cheech and Chong tattoos?
Both of my parents were hippies in the 1960s, so naturally, I was exposed to Cheech and Chong movies at a young age. My pops always had an uncanny resemblance to Chong, headband and all. One day, my old man asked me if I was ever going to get a portrait of him tattooed on me. I told him no because everyone would just think it would be a badly done portrait of Tommy Chong. That conversation gave me the bright idea to have both Cheech and Chong tattooed on my butt. I call it a tribute for the old man, who’s always a pain in my ass.
What tattoo on your body gets the most attention and why do you think this is?
My stomach tattoo of MechMaster Mike’s “Psilocybin King” easily gets the most attention. I think it’s a combination of the uniqueness of his art, the location and the application. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind piece, nobody has seen anything like it and it has that wow factor. It’s composed of so many straight lines and most other tattooers cannot fathom attempting a piece like this, especially on the stomach. It’s fun to see all the confused faces like, “How did he do that/why did he do that?”
Take me through your torso tattoo and how long it took to complete it.
Being covered in so many portraits and smaller tattoos, I decided to save my stomach and back for larger pieces that would help round out my bodysuit. I wanted something to represent my psychedelic experiences, and naturally, I was drawn to Mike Cole’s work. I’d seen some of his epic backpieces and knew it was going to be a different type of commitment than I was used to. Getting a portrait was always a one session shot and no matter how long it took, I always got the instant satisfaction of a finished piece. I had to change my mindset and know that this was going to be years in the making. It was more about the journey than the finished piece.
With that in mind, I chose the most elaborate piece I could have possibly wanted for my stomach. Mike had actually designed it to fit a whole front panel, but he made it work for the space I had available. We worked on this project almost monthly for nearly three years. It took about 100 hours to map the whole thing out and then we spent another 75 hours resaturating different areas until it was completed. It took about 175 hours in total.
Who are some of your favorite artists that you hope to get work from in the future?
I don’t have much open space left, but I’ve been wanting a tattoo from Dmitriy Samohin for years now—he’s on the top of my bucket list. I also wouldn’t mind getting a couple of micro tattoos from Pony Lawson.
What was your most painful tattoo? What about your least painful?
I’ve never tapped out from the pain, but I was damn close when I got the DC character Lobo tattooed in my armpit—9.5 hours of bloody torture. For me, the least painful was my Dirty Harry portrait on my arm. When you can’t feel the white ink, it’s a good session!
Do you have any tattoo regrets? Would you consider removing or covering a tattoo?
I don’t really have any tattoo regrets, which is one of the benefits of waiting until my 30s to get tattooed. I got all the stupid out of my system early and was secure in what I wanted. The only thing I’d do differently is the placement of a couple of them. I would never laser any tattoos off, but I would be open to covering a tattoo.
What tattoos do you hope to get tattooed in the future?
I’m about to start on my back piece. I’ve been saving this chunk of skin for years and it’s the last major project on my bodysuit. MechMaster Mike has come up with another mental design and I can’t wait to get started on another crazy tattoo journey.
Do you think tattoos need to have meanings, yes or no?
Yes, I think they should all have a long-term meaning, as it’s supposed to be a lifelong commitment. Usually, the tattoos that have little meaning are the ones that get laser removal or covered up a few years down the road.
If you woke up with only one tattoo on your body, what would you like it to be?
I would be completely happy if I only had my Sir Winston Churchill tattoo. It’s arguably my best portrait and my favorite tattoo on my body. It’s something I’m always able to draw inspiration from when the chips are down.
What else should our readers know about you as a tattoo collector?
I’m old school when it comes to my tattoos. I find an artist I like and vibe with, then I just keep going back. I like knowing what I can expect from the experience and the quality of work each time. You build a camaraderie with your artist over time, which makes every session more enjoyable—like hanging out with a good friend.