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Interview with Tattooist Jeremy Garrett a.k.a. NYARTMAN Featured

nyartmaninkslingerlowresTattoo Illustrator had the opportunity to sit down and talk with New York City's ledgendary tattooist Jeremy Garrett a.k.a. NYARTMAN.

T.I. : How did you get into the tattooing business?

J.G. : I started tattooing accidentally. I went to college at the School of Visual Arts, I was studying illustration and comic book design. When I was in college, I had a friend who wanted a tattoo and offered to buy me a starter kit if I would tattoo them. At this time, tattooing was illegal in NYC. I agreed eventhough I thought they were joking. When they actually bought the kit I then had to do the tattoo for them. I was completely stressed out because I didn't know anything at all about tattooing.

 

T.I. : You trained yourself?

J.G. : No. After my friend bought me the starter kit, I was in class one day shortly after that and was complaining to a friend of mine, “Little Dan” this biker dude in college, about the situation. I was really freaking out about having to tattoo my friend and didn't want to horribly scar them. He told me not to worry about it that he knew how to tattoo and would show me how. It was very difficult but through pure stubborness I picked up the basics pretty quickly. From there a somewhat relutant career of tattooing snowballed.

 

T.I. : You obviously started to enjoy the profession?

J.G. : It took me a while, I had no intentions of becoming a tattooist. I thought I was going to be an comic book artist or an editorial illustrator and this tattooing thing would just be a hobby at best. When I started the NYC tattooing scene was different than it is now, the City was rough ,dangerous place and it was still underground and there were all of the typical negitive stereotypes associated to it. When it became legal in NYC in 1997, all of that changed and the tattooing scene seemed to explode across the country. Since then it's become more accepted in main stream culture and many more art students have been drawn into the industry. This career has been very good to me and given me a lot of freedom and I'm immensely grateful.

 

T.I. : Who are your biggest tattoo heroes and who are your biggest influences and why?

J.G. : That's a really difficult question, because there are so many great tattoo artists out there. My tattooing heroes would be Tin Tin in France, Arron Cain, Jeff Gogue and Chris Dingwell. Biggest artistic influences are Ralph Bakshi, Joe Madureira, Todd McFarlane and Alphonse Mucha.

There is a lot of young talent rising up, which is great. Some communities try to make it difficult for them regarding licensing. The tattooing industry should definitely be regulated with basic guidelines pertaining to sterilization, infection, and basic OSHA bloodborne pathogens certification but it's unfortunate that some tattooists would like to over regulate the industry beyond what's really necessary just to try and stave off competition. It's a tactic rooted in insecurity. I think the more high caliber talent that decide to tattoo only heightens the standard of art in the industry, which ultimately attracts more potential clients. It's not only better for those considering a tattoo but the tattoo industry as well.

 

T.I. : What are your favorite styles?

J.G. : Comic art, when I do a design I can’t help bringing this into my work.

 

T.I. : How do you feel about copyright and ownership discussion recently, who owns the work the tattoo artist or the paying customer?

J.G. : The tattooist absolutely owns the rights. When you make an illustration for someone you give the client limited publication rights but they don’t own the rights unless specified. When people contact me for a tattoo, I let them know through email and in written agreement that I retain the copyrights.

In the movie Hangover 2, one the actors in the posters is wearing the Mike Thyson tattoo design on his face, the tattoo artist who designed that piece has been in a copyright battle that has been holding up the release of the movie because he is suing the film company using his design without permission. It's kind of funny since the movie industry complains about people sharing copies of their movies but with this production they are essentially doing the same thing.

I think maybe the reason copyright issues are becoming more prevalent in tattooing now is because more and more people coming into the trade actually have art degrees. They have been educated and are familiar with copyright laws and know how to protect themselves.

 

T.I. : how does it make you feel, when you finish a unique, perhaps large piece and the customer walks out that door?

J.G. : In one way it's a little sad, because after working on someone for such a long time I get to know them very well and maybe I wouldn’t see them again or for a long while. On the other hand, I'm always glad it's finished that they've got my work on them and they can show it off, that makes me proud and honored.


T.I. : What advice would you give to someone, who is thinking of starting out as a tattoo apprentice?

J.G. : I have an apprentice now, and I tell him if you want to make it and be recognized, you have to work very very hard. There are so many tattooists it is ridiculous. If you want to make a decent living out of it you have to work hard all the time.  I usually get to bed at 3am and get up at 9am. I tattoo at the studio all day and then go home and draw all night. I work non-stop.

 

T.I. : Where do you get your ideas for your illustrations?

J.G. : From my clients. I sit down with them and try and find out what they are interested in, what has specific meaning to them. I think it's important that they really think about what it is they want to mark their bodies with. I want my clients to have as much input on the design as possible. I like to illustrate based on their guidelines.

 

T.I. : When you don’t tattoo what are you into?

J.G. : I do a lot of reading. I also love the outdoors and I love to travel and go camping when I can.

 

T.I. : What are you reading?

J.G. : I mostly read Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction and Mysticism. Whenever a new Jim Butcher or Jeffery Thomas book comes out I shred them. Currently I'm finishing up Robert Jordan's 9th book in the “Wheel of Time” series. I think it will be the last one I read, his attention to detail is a touch obsessive. I also enjoy the works of Aryeh Kaplan to help me stay centered.


T.I. : Is this were you get your ideas from... books?

J.G. : Yeah, it's certainly a big influence.

 

T.I. : Any parting words?

J. G. : Thanks for this opportunity. I would like to express my gratitude to this industry. It has given me a chance get to know a lot of great people and also a means of supporting my family and myself. That’s something I wasn’t expecting when I first started tattooing. I've really grown to love tattooing and I am trying to do my part to help elevate the industry. It's a great industry for artists to get into even though it's extremely difficult. It can be very rewarding for artists if they are willing to investment a great deal of time into learning and perfecting the trade.

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