Tattooing can be an adventurous career path. Aspects of travel are always possible. Some artists are completely nomadic. On the road, there is an energy and inspiration that can’t be found at home.
In a world where traditional tattooing is becoming marginalized by the styles of the day, connecting with new and old friends and sharing fresh and inspiring ideas is the way our craft grows and survives.
I have always been careful to balance work travel with my local business and family, but when the timing is right, I try to take advantage of the opportunity to get out of town. It is true that leaving your comfort zone inspires growth and we can all use the continued education.
Being from the Great state of Texas, we are blessed with some of the best in the business in our own backyard.
Austin, Texas is the mecca of Tattooing in Texas and has a rich history of tattoo heavyweights.
In Texas, Dave Lum is still the king!
Lum is known for his wild Texas style characterized by bold, bright, weirdo, large scale tattooing, much like Austin, itself.
This style has caught on across the board with many young artists today.
You can’t speak about Austin Tattooing without the mention of Mike Malone AKA Rollo Banks. Malone is one of the all time tattoo greats. If you don’t know who Mike Malone is, close out of this screen and GOOGLE the name. He is one of tattooing’s legendary greats in the lineage of Sailor Jerry Collins, owner of China Sea tattoo in Honalulu. In the 80s, Malone relocated to Austin Texas and opened a second China Sea location, further adding to the weird world of Texas tattooing.
Bob also trained Chris Trevino and Shawn Degan in San Antonio. Trevino went on to become one of the premier artists in the world of Japanese tattooing, incorporating the same bold and colorful Texas style into his Japanese work. Later Trevino bought Lum’s Austin shop renaming it Perfection.
Shortly after starting in Texas Jason began to develop a powerful style of his own. He is known for not only his big and bold tattooing, but also uniquely balanced color schemes and an ever evolving drawing style that changes organically just about the time the followers catch on. After working a number of years for Trevino, he opened his first shop Rock of Ages and shortly after opened his current shop Great Wave Tattoo.
I’ve been taking trips to ATX for the last 14 years to get tattooed by Jason. Over that time he has tattooed a good portion of my torso, both hands, and a few on my legs. Now that I am running out of space my wife has begun getting her back and ribs tattooed from him as well. The tattoos he has done on her are the most exquisite of her collection.
I’ve also been fortunate enough to have been invited to work for him as a traveling artist a time or two and I’d like to give you a glimpse into the last trip we took down south.
Lena and I left Thursday evening for a short and easy 3 hour drive down to the capital. It’s pretty much a straight shot down 35. I’d like to say thank you to my lovely wife, as she is kind enough to allow me to work on our Valentine weekend trip. I’m lucky to have a partner who shares a love of tattooing and tattoo culture. She has been with me on many tattoo journeys. On this trip I will be tattooing by day and enjoying some kid free relaxing time with Lena in the evening.
I slept in for the first time in months! It was fantastic, Lena and I had breakfast then I headed to the shop around 11:00. When I showed up the guys were already there gathered around Jason’s area watching as he finished up a session on a back piece of a gorilla in the jungle. It was a double gorilla day for him, he outlined a large gorilla head later that day as well. Ben Siebert was also busy that morning, setting up for a back piece outline of a Shi Shi, known in the west as a Fu Dog. Ben spent the rest of that day and into the next outlining on his clients back.
The artists of Great Wave have a loyal and strong clientele.
My appointment started at noon, a traditional American style coffin on an old friend of mine. I ran into another old friend from my Fort Worth days who was getting her second sleeve started from James Yokum that afternoon. It was a design of a beautiful snake and chrysanthemum flowers.
Lena’s appointment was later that afternoon so she came with me to the shop to hang out for the day
Jason was busy as usual finishing up his 9:00am appointment when we arrived around 11:30. My client showed up at noon and I tattooed while Lena worked on a crochet project and waited for her turn under the needle.
Lena is getting a full back tattoo of a Taino woman.
The Taino are the indigenous peoples of Puerto Rico. The beautiful native woman is standing in the ocean under the moonlight. She is a fierce warrior holding a spear decorated with tropical feathers. There is a mystical element of spirits and flame surrounding her in the darkness.
The shop was busy again.
David Parker, Bart Bingham, and Steve Costello knocked out a few tattoos each while Jenna and I tattooed a newly married couple plus a few more! There’s something special about Saturdays at Great Wave. Who’s a fan of Steely Dan?! Steely Saturday is happening……whether you like it or not!! Who doesn’t want to hear 12 straight hours of Steely Dan?
Later that evening we met with old friends on east 6th for pizza and beers. Detroit style deep dish. Delish!
As quickly as the trip began it seemed to be ending. We woke up early for breakfast and checkout. I had one last appointment before heading back north so Lena and I headed back to the shop. Sundays at Great Wave are laid back. It was just me Jenna and Brandon AKA Cracker Jack AKA Mad Dog AKA Horny-yoshi. The guys at the shop are a riot!
The trip couldn’t have gone better. It was a perfect balance of tattooing and good times with good friends. I always return home inspired and ready to put this new energy into my own work. Thank you to Jason and all the Guys and Gals at Great Wave Tattoo.