How did you first become interested in Tattooing?
I’m not sure exactly when that happened, but I remember always being fascinated by them. When I was growing up, tattoos represented a dark side of society, rock’n roll, and a “do not give a f*#@!” attitude that I subscribed to as a teenager.
I naturally got attracted to tattoos. Those were my rebellious years. Then I grew, and evolved, and my love for tattoos changed and was more of a pure love than some form of rebellion or social statement. I just purely love tattoos and especially the artistic part of them. I always did and always believed it was a true art form. It seems it took a long time for society to see that, but times are changing and tattooing seems to have gained lots of positive attention from the public. It’s about time!
I remember one story in particular of being 15 years old and on a trip to England with my class. We stayed with this really nice older English couple. The lady looked just like Margaret Thatcher and the man was a classic English gentleman–a really proper couple. One day we saw the man coming out of the shower wearing only a towel around his waist, and his body was covered with tattoos. I mean head to toe covered! But when clothed none of his ink was showing. I remember being mesmerized by that event…so I’m not sure how much this story changed my life but I know it definitely taught me not to judge a book by its cover.
At What point did you first realize that you could make a career out of your art?
Growing up I was not encouraged to participate in the Arts, I used to hear that I should do my homework to get a real job…which is probably one of the reasons why I was such a rebellious teen. But I always knew that I wanted to be an Artist– so I just did it– and I swore to myself that my purpose in life would be to become an artist. I guess everybody always looks for what good they can contribute to this earth, and for me, it had to be visual.
It’s a little more unconventional of a business direction than, for say, the culinary arts. But I am unconventional, so I feel like I made the right choice for me.
It was not always an easy ride, but it was definitely an interesting one! I remember my mom writing to me: “You defiantly did not pick the easiest road in your life.”
I ate a lot of Ramen noodles, and twenty-nine cent hamburgers– I can tell you that! But thank god, with an enormous amount of nonstop work, discipline and will power I managed to make a name for myself in the industry of tattooing and in the underground lowbrow painting scene.
What kind of education or training helped you develop your skill set in art and tattoo design?
In France, from a young age I had already learned art techniques and art history, which I think is really important. I completed high school with an “Art and Letters” diploma.
After high school, I did one year of Art School in Paris, which was all about drawing and painting techniques, perspectives ect. I then did one year of advertising school in the South of France, and that is where I learned that I did not want a corporate job. At that point I did not care if I was going to be broke or not, I simply decided, I will do what I love doing. The transition to tattooing happened naturally when I moved to the U.S. It was a country much more open than France, the US actually had a tattoo culture.
How did you really break into the industry?
I’m going to say exactly what people won’t want to hear: by working really hard and having no social life.
NO hanging out with friends, NO TV, NO parties, just work, study, practice and work!
Eventually clients got the word out by wearing my hard work on their sleeves and the press gained interest in my pieces.
What skills as a tattoo artist do you think have really made you a success in the industry?
The ability to pay attention to details and to give my clients the attention they need and deserve when explaining what it is they want out of the experience.
Can you give us a description of what you do with your art to create such an amazing product? What is it that inspires you and helps you to develop your style?
I redraw each design many times before I consider it done. It’s an evolving creation, first the idea comes, then the sketch, then I touch it up until its perfect.
Can you describe what you think have been the most important ways that you have built your business and marketed yourself in the industry?
Taking good care of my clients and giving them the best work possible. Life is a circle, if I give my best guess what will come back to me:)
Thus far where have most of your clientele come from?
I have clients from all over the world. I’ve been tattooing in South Florida for the last 16 years– so this is where the majority of my clients come from. But when I go on the road I’m always booked with appointments with people that waited for me to visit their town in order to get some work done.
As far as my clients for paintings, they are few for now, because I have not been productive with paintings much lately due to my popularity with tattooing, but I do have some avid collectors that support my work and shows, which is great, and I’m really grateful for their support.
What are your favorite things about being an artist and tattoo designer?
Could you give us a 9-5 of your average work day?
I usually work 8-9 hour days. That involves tattooing-drawing for tattoo appts, three hours each day on the computer setting appointments, answering emails, working on social media, blogging, and doing interviews… My extra time I spend working on other projects, such as art shows that I have every 4th Thursday of each month at the Arts District in Boynton Beach, Fl. I have a studio there which I open to the public and usually paint live for a few spectators.
Much of my time has been occupied preparing for the release of my new 2013 calendar. We’re planning to have a big release party with a modern pin-up girl contest and lots of goodies bags. I do a lot of photo shoots mainly geared for interviews in magazines but also for fashion brands.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice starting out in the field of tattoo artistry or art in general, what would it be?
Don’t jump in it blindly because you think it’s cool. Do not think you will make a quick buck, the mastering of this art takes years to perfect. Tattooists are considered “Pro” after five years of experience. Tattooing is a sacred art that demands respect, and tons of hard work. Get an apprenticeship. Guidance is priceless; you will learn 100% faster and better under the guidance of a professional. Also– read my blog on leaslounge.com I always give lots of tips on the trade.
So you were on “inkmaster” how has that influenced your career, and can you tell us a bit about your experience on the show?
For those who are not familiar with it, Inkmaster by Spike TV is a tattoo competition that takes place in NYC and has 10 tattooists competing for the grand prize of $100,000. The host is my favorite rock star Dave Navarro from “Jane’s Addiction”, and the judges are Chris Nunez (Miami Ink) and Oliver Peck. If you guys are familiar with the shows “Chopped” and “American Idol,” Inkmaster is a bit of both mixed together.
You can imagine the stress and tension that competitors had to go through. It caused a lot of drama among competitors and made for great TV. Personally I did the best I could given the situation and I did my best to represent tattooing in the most respectful way.
Everything goes by so fast, there is no time to rethink an idea, or redraw a piece, everything had to be done on the spot, so ultimately I did learn a lot about myself, my strength and my weaknesses.
The tattooists I was competing against were all professional amazing artists. I stayed friends with lots of them and that was one of the best things for me coming from that show. I personally was really stocked that Dave Navarro was the host of the show as I have been a big fan of his work since my teenage years, his work is part of the soundtrack of my life.
How did Inkmaster influence my career? Well, it put me on the mainstream map. It was lots of exposure, I get more people from all over the world finding me through my website and wanting to get paintings, tattoos, and buying my merchandise, posters, etc. I also have sponsors now, which finally after 16 years in business allows me to go to the next level and plan on bigger projects like the calendar coming out, and the big release party.
Any final words of wisdom for aspiring tattoo artists?
Make sure that you Always do your best, always keep learning, respect the trade and your hard work will pay off.