As someone who grew up playing N64 and watching “Dragon Ball Z,” Danny Elliott was destined to design bright and bold color tattoos. Today, he’s one of the best in the business when it comes to packing in every shade of the rainbow—which definitely comes in handy when he’s replicating the beloved characters from Pixar, Disney and anime. We caught up with Elliott to learn the story behind his first tattoo, how he formed his signature style and how he’d go about creating his own cartoon.
How did you first become interested in art?
That creative spark was actually born out of necessity for me. My parents sent me to a private school until I was 12, which gave me a great educational foundation, but also came with a ton of homework. I wasn’t allowed to play outside until it was all done, and it was too late at that point, but I still needed an outlet for all the extra energy. So while other kids were playing football, I was drawing and playing video games. Those early days of playing N64 and watching cartoons exposed me to a bunch of really cool worlds that I wanted to be part of and, in a way, art gave me a chance to do just that.
How were you introduced to tattooing?
Tattooing as a career never occurred to me until college. I only took one semester, but in that time there was a class about planning for the future—basically, sorting out what your “dream job” was actually like and how to get there. At the time, I wanted to be an animator at Pixar or Bungie, but it turned out that most of that work was on the computer and I really wanted to work with my hands day-to-day. Then I got my first tattoo. No one on my mom’s side of the family had any work done and my dad’s tattoos were done at someone’s house, so walking into a shop I wasn’t sure what to expect. My intro to this world was getting my ribs blasted at 2 a.m. by a guy I had only met 10 minutes prior and there’s something magical about that.
How did you develop your signature style?
It was developed over time and only after trying everything. Starting out, I wanted to be able to confidently tackle whatever walked in the door, then a few years in I was going through periods where I would focus on certain genres more heavily in order to study them. I remember during my first guest spot they told me they didn’t have a printer, so I drew everything on my clients that week, which led to, like, six months of freehand tattoos.
Eventually, realism came into focus because it’s what felt the most natural. Pop culture imagery is really fun to work with because I’m a fan, but because these styles were popular, I had to find a way to make my work stand out. All those puzzle pieces fell together around 2016, and from there I pushed myself to make progress with each new tattoo. That progression and individuality are the driving forces behind what you see in my portfolio.
Overall, I think of my work as vibrant, detailed and constantly evolving. I’m really happy with where everything is currently, but I’m also excited to see the direction it takes next.
Why do you prefer color over black-and-grey?
I play with a lot of lighting effects that just don’t have the same impact in black-and-grey. I noticed that two years ago and wanted to see how much my color theory would improve if I only took on color projects—so far it’s been extremely beneficial. Before, when I would go back and forth between the two, it was like I was mentally shifting gears and having to “warm up” every day, but now working in color just comes naturally.
If you could create and illustrate your own cartoon, what would it be about?
I’d make a whole cartoon about my dog Odie. He’s a little Boston Terrier who would play with his humans by day and when he sleeps, he dreams about fighting crime. He’s not quite sure which life is real, so he thinks of playing fetch and going on walks as “training missions” to prepare us for the evil lurking behind every corner. I’m not sure how great the content would be, but his face is adorable.