• Mon. Jun 24th, 2024

Shawn Kama and Durb Morrison – the brains behind the Tattoo Expo- Chat with ZRockR’s Mary Bodimer for a look at what is to come at The Expo!

Come and get tattooed at the world’s first punk rock tattoo festival by the world’s best
artists in Las Vegas! June 21-23 the Punk Rock Museum will be hosting the first
annual Punk Rock Tattoo Expo in conjunction with their first year anniversary party.
It will be nothing short of a fun-filled time with the best tattoo artists from around the
world there to tattoo you! There will also be tours, amazing food and punk
entertainment sure to delight fans of all generations! Shawn Kama and Durb
Morrison are the brains behind the Tattoo Expo. I had the opportunity to sit down and
speak with them both about the expo as well as their own history in the tattoo and
punk world.

Directly from Shawn, here is what you can expect:

The expo opens every day from noon to 10 p.m. On the Saturday night, anybody
who has bought tickets for the Tattoo Expo can come back on the Saturday night
and be a part of the live show that we’re having here in the living room at the Punk
Rock Museum. Punk Tribute Authority is the house band, and they’re going to be
performing Misfits and Ramones tribute that evening.
Bob Tyrell, one of our artists, is going to be coming up and playing guitar on two
Misfits songs that we won’t name, you’ll just have to be surprised. Monkey from the
Attics is going to be here all weekend, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, giving tours.
It’s also Monkey’s birthday.
So, we’ll be celebrating Monkey’s birthday Saturday night with a cake, and also
celebrating it in the regard that he’s been performing two Attic songs and a Damned
song in full makeup with Punk Tribute Authority. Now in addition to that, if that wasn’t
enough, we have Blag Dahlia from the Dwarves coming out to do his Ralph
Champagne alter ego. He’ll be opening the night with Ralph Champagne, and then
he’ll be coming up and doing a couple Misfits and Ramones songs with us too.
So, you got Blag from the Dwarves doing shit as well. And that is our Saturday night
party. The Saturday night we’re going to have Wild Fig Catering until the food runs
out, free food for everybody.
And we also have Pizza Rock Catering as well on Saturday night, free food until that
stuff runs out. It starts at 10 p.m., but you can be on site by around eight if you’d like
to. Music will be happening between 10 and 10:30, probably till about 11:30.

The event is being sponsored by top names in the industry and food including:

  • Intenze Advanced Tattoo Ink
  • Art Noir
  • Tattoo Heritage
  • Bishop Rotary
  • Critical Tattoo Supply
  • Tat Soul
  • True Tattoo Supply Co.
  • Ink Eeze
  • LTD- The Original LTD Light
  • Europe’s Best Brands Tattoo Supply
  • 2nd Floor Gallery and Bar
  • Wild Fig BBQ
  • Pizza Rock by Tony Gemignani
  • Deadless
    Artists will include:
  • Toyko Hiro
  • Bob Tyrrell
  • Greg Christian
  • Shaun Kama
  • Ruthless
  • KJ
  • Oliver Peck
  • Alexandra Fische
  • Durb Morrison
  • Jimmy Utah

Big Island Mike
Shaun Kama:
[email protected]
Instagram: Halloweentattoos
Durb Morrison:
[email protected]
Instagram: durbmorrison

Mary: So, what is it like working out of the Punk Rock Museum as opposed to a
standard tattoo shop?
Durb: It’s a very niche, you know, like a clientele that comes in here is very after like
a specific style of tattoo. It feels like, you know, here at the Punk Rock Museum as
far as they want Punk Rock logos or things that are about the songs, you know, that
they grew up with things like that. I would say, so, the niche that they have going on
here with like Punk Rock tattoos is what sets it aside from any other shop.
A lot of shops, like the walk-in traffic, it’s just random roses, names, this, that. People
come here to get Punk tattoos and that’s, I mean, being, you know, a Punk Rocker
myself too, it’s like, it’s the best. It puts you in touch with your childhood as an artist,
you know, as a tattoo artist. Being an adult and, you know, making tattoos in the Punk Museum is like this like full circle kind of thing from childhood, you know. So, that’s what sets it apart is the want
for actual Punk Rock tattoos.

Shawn: Yeah, I would say I agree with that in the respect that, you know, people
here, and a lot of it too is they’re looking for actually kind of a near traditional look.
I mean, a lot of the art, as you see, you know, is a very traditional style of tattooing.
People are willing though here, interestingly, since we opened to take some of these
designs and then make them more unique and switch them up and do different color
palettes and add and then subtract. And it’s been pretty cool.
They’ve gone from being a little bit more, I definitely want to have this to, as it stands,
to, you know, open up artistically, get loose with it, make it, you know, unique. One
thing that I found about this place too that’s kind of interesting, unlike other tattoo
shops, is that I’ve had a higher propensity of people just come in and say, I know
what my favorite bands are. I haven’t exactly figured out what I want, but when I get
there, I’m just going to pick something that relates to one of the bands that I want to
And they’re not tripping so hard or they’re not considering so deeply, I’ve got to know
in advance. Because a lot of times, since I do custom work outside of this too, and
it’s appointment only, everything, almost everything is created in advance and I know
exactly what’s coming up. There’s a bit of a mystery sometimes to what we’re doing
to a certain degree. And I like that kind of clandestine quality to it to a certain degree
as well. It’s fun. It keeps it really interesting.
One thing I’ll say is that the people here, they have a tendency to just be really very
nice. Because it’s a niche genre, which is like any other niche genre, you’ve got like
a collective mind, like a hive mind. So, I haven’t had anybody come off adversely
negative to me at all, or have any kind of an attitude.
We throw out a prize, I haven’t had anybody go, “oh wow, my homie can do it for half
that.” No one says that stuff here at the museum, whereas at a street shop, you
might get some of that. No one wants to be that person here, I think. Nobody wants
to be the one that’s trying to haggle.

Durb: You can feel the youthful, positive energy before coming in here, and then to
actually collect a tattoo, a punk rock tattoo at the museum, while you’re in Las
Vegas. It means so much.

Durb (Left) and Shawn (Right) – Founders of the Punk Rock Tattoo Expo at The Punk Rock Museum

Shawn: It’s part of the adventure. And what we really are selling here at the shop
and the museum is an experience more than just a tattoo. Our prices are competitive
with casino shops, but we offer all of this, as opposed to just a casino shop and
tattoo artists.
Durb: And you get to listen to nothing but punk rock music while you get tattoos.
That’s the coolest thing, right? And you don’t know who you’re going to meet, too,
because there’s tours going on here, you don’t know what rock star you’re going to
meet any of that stuff.Shawn: It’s super great. For me, too, since I’ve been in the punk rock world my
entire life, being in one place and having people come to me, that I’ve had
relationships with for the last 35 years, is brilliant. It’s so fucking awesome. It’s a
constant, positive interaction and that goes along and encompasses the entire staff
Mary: What was it that sparked you to become a tattoo artist? Do you remember the
moment that you knew?
Shawn: Yeah, I do.
Durb: Yeah, I do. And you know what’s funny? It all rotates around punk rock music
and skateboarding for me. I grew up skateboarding, too. So, a lot of the skaters
when we were growing up, Jason Jesse, all those guys, the Godoy brothers, who I’m
still friends with, the Tattoo, all these skateboards were also punk rockers. They all
had tattoos. I was a kid at 12, that’s when I started getting tattoos at 13. I was looking
at all the skateboard magazines.
Shawn: Now this is the 90s. This is like late 80s. You know what I mean? It was a
vastly different world and tattoo industry then than it is now. And I say vastly, I mean
quite vastly. So, we can elaborate on that further. That was what it was all about.
We both grew up in that same scene. I got a job. I was doing music at the time, like
at 20. I didn’t really want to work for the band. And I always drew. I actually got an
apprenticeship with Mark Mahoney eventually.
But what I started with at Shamrock, which was in Los Angeles, was just kind of a
helper position to whoever was at the shop. And you’re just doing whatever it is that
you want to do. There was a certain point after I’d been doing it for a little while when
I realized, wow, this is what I want to do for a living.I know that I can do music and do
this, and it’s going to work real fine together. You know, it’ll be like a glove in a hand.

Durb: Well, it’s more punk rock than tattooing? You don’t have a fucking boss
who’s telling you what the hell to do. You meet rad people.
Shawn: And you can take it on the road. Because our whole thing was we were
touring, and we wanted to be able to go out. I wanted to tour with tattooing the same
way as I toured with music, and I’m able to do that as an adult. And it’s much more
fun than being with a bunch of other dudes.
Durb: I like the rebellious state of it, too. As a kid, when I was 13, I found a
skateboard tattooed by two middle fingers, and it was a whole different world.
Shawn: Now let me ask you. When you started tattooing, were you one of the only
people in your clique that was tattooing?
Durb: I literally was the only guy tattooing.
Shawn: So, when you are like that, then everybody in your clique gets tattooed by
you, even though you’re not that great.

Durb: Oh, yeah.
Shawn: Because you’re the only one. Because it wasn’t like that. People didn’t
aspire to be in this vocation 35 years ago, 30 years ago. It wasn’t an aspiring
vocation at all. So, if somebody in your clique learned how to tattoo, that was your
Durb: Yep. And that’s how my world was made. I was 13 years old.
Shawn: In fact, I didn’t even tattoo on myself. The first tattoo I did was on other
people. That’s how many people I had to let me tattoo on, no matter how shitty I was.
Because you had a bunch of other punk rock people.
Durb: They were like, well, fuck it. Do it.
Shawn: So I didn’t fuck my legs up. They’re still pretty empty.
Durb: But having the punk rock friends and stuff allowed you to put whatever tattoos,
you know, just fuck up and learn.
Shawn: Yeah. They were pretty lenient. They were like, we’ll cover it up later.
Mary: So, every good tattoo artist has a signature style. How would you describe
your style, and what was your drive to develop that style?
Shawn: You hit that one.
Durb: Oh, God. Well, my style definitely goes back to American traditional tattooing.
You know, I think that’s what looks the best and lasts the longest. That’s what I grew
up around, because the age that we started tattooing, like young, but in the late 80s,
early 90s, it was still heavy, just traditional tattooing. There wasn’t a lot of the artistic
styles you’re seeing nowadays.
Shawn: There wasn’t even, like, a bunch of, like, color options that you could just get
and not mix yourself. It was limited on a color level, because there was only a few
companies that were even creating color.
Durb: Yeah. Going back to me, too, like, for skateboarding, all the skateboard art, all
the traditional, it had black outlines, you know. So, like, the Mike McGill boards, and
the Soys, and the Gonzos, and all that.
Shawn: And even the photo stuff was all graphic.
Durb: Yeah, it was all, like, graphic. It conveyed tattooing. So, I think it just kind of
hand-in-hand. That’s what, that’s why I was also influenced by traditional. Later on,
getting into, like, the tradition of tattooing, I got into a lot of Japanese tattooing as
well, the language, the culture, and all that stuff, too. My other style that I, kind of goes hand-in-hand with American tradition was Japanese. So, I would say my traditional, my love for traditional, naturally how my hand and my eye see it, is from seeing skateboard art before I even got into tattoos,
you know. That’s a huge part of me, is the skateboard tie-together.

Shawn: And mine was a little bit different. Like, as my first influence into art, although
you really can’t see it in my style, my introduction was Norman Rockwell, because I
lived in a town, or I visited a town where his original museum was. And so, at that
time, in the 80s, you were able to go up to the paintings, like, I mean, there was no
I would see his art, and I would watch the brush strokes and stuff, and I was blown
away by how intense Norman Rockwell actually was. And so that was kind of like
where I started, like, with my art. But as far as tattooing goes, you know, where I
apprenticed was a place that was a primarily black-and-gray fine-line style.
I learned that originally, which kind of worked with the way that I drew, because I was
a huge Bernie Wrightson, EC Comics, Frank Frazetta, Boris Vallejo, definitely
Pushead. Like, a lot of Mark Rood, like, people that were drawing, like, and doing
these graphic black kind of pieces with a lot of cross-hatching and stippling. That
was what I grew up in. Then that transferred to my tattooing. So, like, unlike Durb, I
didn’t, I’ve never studied traditional, and I’ve never studied Japanese at all.
In fact, I actually wasn’t overtly interested in it, because I did also understand that
with those particular styles, especially with the Japanese, you, there isn’t a, you can’t
sway from the tradition. If you’re doing it right or you’re doing it wrong. And I’m not, I
wasn’t interested in doing that. Like, I wanted the freedom to do my own art. There’s
rules to it. So, if you’re doing something that’s like a neo-traditional aspect of that,
then that’s fine.
But I’m still not interested in it. So, what I did was just focus on the demographic of
people that made sense to me as opposed to a wider demographic. And that is
people that were into horror, science fiction, all of those kind of artists that I talked
about, you know, and punk rock art. And so, you know, I started off with the horror
and that whole aspect, and I’ve been in that for 25 years in that world, a big part of it.
Punk rock has always been a part of my life. So, when this position came up and I
knew that this was what was going to be able to be done on individuals here, I
absolutely worked so fucking diligently to get this position. Because it’s the two
things that I like to do, punk rock art and that graphic style of kind of cute, creepy,
horror stuff. It marries perfectly.
Shawn to Durb: But it’s interesting, I like knowing, now I’m learning about you. We’ll
learn about each other.

Durb to Shawn: I know, I know, it’s really cool. Yeah, I know, it’s really cool.
Shawn: So vastly different yet so much the same. Oh yeah, so different yet so much
the same. Like I was in Southern California and you were in Ohio.
Durb: Ohio, yeah. Vastly different.
Shawn: Vastly different, yeah.

Mary: How long have you been a tattoo artist?
Durb: Oh my god, 37 years. 35 professionally.
Shawn: And I would say 30 years too. It’s been 30, I mean, I apprenticed in 92, but
there was a decade that I did not focus on tattooing the way that I focus on tattooing
now. I did literally, it was facilitating my traveling to punk rock around the country in
It was just a job so that I could do punk rock. And then I switched it later to where I
did music on the side and I was doing art exclusively. And then I kind of got rid of
music almost completely, to a certain degree. I still fuck with it, but not in a hobby
Durb: Just karaoke.
Shawn: Yeah.
Mary: Well, that leads perfectly into my next question. What other artistic mediums
do you dabble in?
Shawn to Durb: Well, you know, I mean, the biggest one I think is your jiu-jitsu.
Durb: Yeah, I do a lot of jiu-jitsu, so I’m almost a black belt in jiu-jitsu now. If our
body could hold up. So many injuries. But what I dabble into is I do a lot of art
outside of just tattooing. I do a lot of big paintings, a lot of acrylic pour kind of
paintings and art and stuff. So, I do that a lot. Jiu-jitsu is my other art. This is an art,
Shawn: It’s an art.
Durb: Yeah, it’s a huge art. It’s huge, yeah. So that’s been the thing I’ve been doing
for almost 11 years now, like consecutively. That’s why I realize I’ve done jiu-jitsu
longer than any sport I’ve ever, like almost twice as long as any high school or sport.
But that’s an ever-learning thing, too. So, like, even at Black Belt, you’re like learning,
learning, learning.
Shawn: Oh, my family member, he’s a multiple Black Belt, right? But it’s just like,
look, there’s a lot of similarities to where the tattoo industry is and the jiu-jitsu
industry is. In the regard that there’s no ceiling on what you can do, period. Like,
there’s always, I mean, there is in terms of your lifeline and timeline as an individual
because an athlete, once you apex, then you start getting weaker, okay? But in terms of the future of it, there’s no fucking ceiling on tattooing or jiu-jitsu. The new kids coming into jiu-jitsu are doing shit that the older guys are like, holy fucking, you would destroy us. You know what I mean? Just like in skateboarding, kids are like, you know what I mean, any action sport.

Durb: They’re doing shit we didn’t do when we were kids.
Shawn: Yeah, they’re pushing that envelope, too. And, you know, tattooing is the
same way, and that’s why it’s very exciting. You know, is that no matter how good you get, the artists that I look up to are still always looking to a higher place. And that’s fucking beautiful. That’s what’s really good. As far as my outside of tattooing, what I do, or my art, is that I do a lot of painting. I have a store online where I sell all kinds of products with my art and illustrations on them. I do a lot of digital art as well as analog stuff still, and I mix the two quite a lot. My passion is my family, which is my wife and my two dogs. And both of my moms are still alive and their dog, and so we spend a lot of time with them. And my passion outside of that, I don’t fuck with jiu-jitsu, although my family’s in it.
Durb: So many injuries, though. And I know how to do it.
Shawn: That’s why, I didn’t want to get injured. Derb didn’t even mention this, but he
has another passion, too. One of the other passions that I do is creating situations
like this tattoo, Punk Rock Tattoo Expo.I run a tattoo program in Sturgis every year. I
have done it for 14 years at the largest concert venue and campground called the
Buffalo Chip, where I have a total crew of artists and all the sponsors that work with
us go out there. I have other things that I do, like Texas Frightmare. Those are things
that I aspire to do. And then working with people like Durb to create other events,
just like the Pop Rock Tattoo Expo, are things that are a huge, huge passion of mine.
Durb: Well, that’s where it’s like a good match, because he puts on events, too.I’ve
been putting on the Hell City Tattoo Festival in Columbus, Ohio and Phoenix,
Arizona for 22 years now. So, it’s one of the longest-running tattoo conventions in
Shawn: One of the biggest with the exception of Troy. Troy does, like, the biggest
Durb: That last one was 350, wasn’t it? Yeah, it was 300-something. It’s a big show.
But that’s what I do a lot of my time. When I’m not organizing with Sean is I’m
organizing other tattoo conventions and stuff like that. That’s where this one’s really
enjoyable, because Hell City and stuff you do, even Sturgis.
Shawn: It’s a lot of work.
Durb: This is more of an intimate, kind of, like, boutique tattoo convention, you know, with this going on. And I don’t know if we’re kind of coining that, but I’ve been
using that term lately.
Shawn: I almost hesitate to talk too much about it. But the idea is to create a, kind
of, a business model that works within the context of finding really interesting
locations, getting very, very interesting artists that are well-known and sought after,
and creating a boutique tattoo expo.
So, you know, not only do you have the opportunity to do this thing that’s, like, 350
booths with, like, 250 vendors, but you have something more intimate where people,
clients, tattoo collectors, can get with some of these artists they never could get with
on a more intimate level over a three-day period. And it’s very similar to a large-scale
thing. It’s just that we’re bringing it and making it more personal.

Durb: Yeah. It’s going to be a little bit more intimate. We get to speak with the artists,
spend time with them, you know, watch them. Sometimes they have a big
convention, too. There’s so much going on.
Shawn: It’s crazy. Yeah. It’s insane. So, this is basically a new kind of business
model that we’re creating. I see it working very well. But this is the first time that
we’re doing it, you know? With this one, too, we had a very limited time in terms of
the starting factor. That’s been the biggest challenge on this.
Durb: Once it got greenlit by the museum, we just been crying pretty much nonstop.
But they’ve been working with us. We’ve all been working together. It’s going very
well. Yeah, it’s going super well.
Shawn: So, it’ll be cool. We have very, very sought-after artists.
Durb: And we’re going to be doing it again in November, too.
Shawn: That’s right. It’s a little different format, though. The idea is that every – in
June, annually, we’ll have heavy-hitter artists that work in context to what we’re
doing, skateboarding, this kind of vibe, you know, the museum and whatnot. In
November, when it’s cooler, we’ll do vendors outside, and we’ll do music maybe
outside, and we’ll have just punk rockers that are very good, and names that are
musicians that also tattoo in the punk rock industry for that show. So, you have
punks, punkers that actually play music, that tattoo really professionally here for
November’s, and then we’ll have world-famous, sought-after collectors in June every

Mary: What are you looking forward to the most about this event coming up?
Durb: Just seeing all the caliber of artists together under one roof, and to see the
people coming here to collect the punk rock tattoos. You don’t really know what to
expect. You always, like, fathom what it’s going to be, you know, but I anticipate a
good, nice crowd in here that are going to be getting tattooed by artists they can’t
normally get tattooed by, and in Las Vegas.
Shawn: Yeah, that’s what’s kind of cool about it. That’s the difference, is that it’s –
Las Vegas is definitely a destination, and it’s a much better destination than Los
Angeles, in turn, on a litany of levels. It’s accessible. Yeah, you know what I mean?
Just as simple as parking is a much more simple situation here than it is in LA, and
so having the museum here, having these events here, Vegas – let me make this
point. I moved from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.
I see more of my friends from Los Angeles than the rest of the country living in Las
Vegas than I did for the 25 years that I spent in Los Angeles, because it’s a
destination city, and that really works for our village. To answer your question
directly, what I’m looking for is I’m looking forward to the camaraderie that we have.
One of the most important things to me, and Derb too, I know, is that you’re bringing
people together, and you’re creating a positive experience for them. Ultimately,
you’re trying to create a positive experience for them, and what happens from that is always this mystery, but it’s usually always amazing. Do you know what I’m saying?
You created something.
They’ll always remember that you put this good thing together. Well, if it goes bad,
they’ll always remember that too, but with Durb and I together, we’re going to have a
good experience here, and it’ll be something that resonates with these artists and the
people that surround these artists for the rest of their lives on the planet.

Durb: I’m looking forward to doing something. This has never been done. This has
never been done.
Shawn: It’s unique.
Derb: There’s never been a punk rock tattoo, X-ray, X-phone, anything. And to have
it at the Punk Rock Museum is amazing. It’s completely new and different. This point
alone, everything tattooing has been done.
Shawn: So done.
Durb: And there are a lot of niche tattoo conventions, like tacos and tattoos.
We found something very unique in a very unique city. Putting us on that, and at the
Punk Rock Museum, it’s just a whole other level.
Shawn: Now we can do this boutique thing at other locations and have a really great
time with it.You know what I mean? We just got to be creative about it. That’s all it is.
That way the location also brings something to the event. And that’s kind of the idea.
You know what I mean? That’s part of it. So you get creative with the location, you
can get creative with the event.
And we’re running this event unlike most tattoo expo’s. The way most tattoo expo’s
run is you get vetted. You get vetted as an artist, then you purchase a booth, and
you just do what you will. It just is what it is. Here, this is a pop-up tattoo shop. We’re
just doing a percentage with everybody. It creates more of a family environment.
Durb: It’s like shops.
Shawn: Just like a shop. You know, we’re going to give them supplies, we’re going
to give them free booths. They come, they do a percentage with us, and they just
have a good time.
Derb: That way they just win-win, they don’t spend any money on booths.
Shawn: They’re not tripping. We even give them supplies, because Durb owns a
really popular supply company called True. And all my sponsors and all of our mutual friends in these different top brands are working with us to give us supplies that we
need for all of the artists. And they’re the best brand in the industry.
Durb: Bring machines and whatever inks you want. We have ink, too. Bring your
machines and show them. We have needles, ointments, everything can be set up for

Shawn: Make it simple for them.
Durb: And that resonates with the artists, too. If you come back from an event and
you’re like, dude, that was so easy.
Shawn: How about this? Let’s talk about how dope it is. We’re going to have Intense
Ink, who is Mario Bar’s company. They’re one of the sponsors. And all the sponsors
do different aspects of what we need to create the show in terms of what they offer.
For instance, Inkeeze is going to offer all the glides and all the things that we need to
tattoo. That’s a product that artists don’t have to worry about. What Intenze is going
to do is they’re going to sponsor the green room. And the green room is something
that doesn’t happen at all tattoo expos by any means.
It’s going to be a room where we have catering for three days from two amazing
companies, a barbecue company as well as a local pizza company, Pizza Rock.
They’re going to give us food for all the days while the artists are here. And the green
room will be completely stocked up by Intenze with all the things that you need,
energy drinks, coffee, snacks, quality food, fruit, all this kind of stuff. So, the artists
totally feel taken care of. They never have to leave here unless they choose to. They
can just focus on tattooing, keep their blood sugar up, and it just makes them feel
like we give a shit because we do. And as an artist, wouldn’t that be great?
Durb: It’d be different for me where I’d be like, damn, dude. This is amazing. They
provided everything and fed us all day. It was just hanging out with cool
motherfuckers. You know what I mean?
Shawn: So that’s what we’re trying to do.

Mary: If you could give one piece of advice to anyone looking to get a tattoo, what
would it be?
Durb: Go to a professional place. This is a professional place. But go to an actual
studio. Don’t get tattooed by your buddy in their house. Think of sterilization. To me,
the one thing is safety within tattooing, which we promote a lot. Because you can get
a tattoo covered up or reworked. But if you catch infection or catch hepatitis or
anything from getting a sterile tattoo. So, to me, the safety of tattooing is always
Mary: So, vet it well before you commit?
Durb: Yeah. So go to a professional, clean studio.
Shawn: What that said to me, even as a professional artist, there’s so many
variables when it comes to biology. The things that can happen with not only the
client but the artist and the ink and the things. There’s a lot of things that can go
right. There’s a lot of things that can go wrong. So, to Durb’s point, certainly
researching is great. Do your homework to the best of your ability. That’s not to say
that something couldn’t go wrong with the artist that you chose.
Like I said, there are so many variables. But one thing that you can do to cut down
on that certainly. And as an artist, one thing that I really appreciate is that if people. If you have a certain criteria and protocol in terms of how you want them to take care
of the tattoo. I recommend that the clients do that to the T. And if it isn’t working for
them, then they communicate with you via text or phone. And let you know so that
you can offer them advice.
As opposed to just making up your own shit. Having things go poorly. And then it
looks poor for everybody. They can get a staph infection or whatever. It’s just about
communication. Also following the healing instructions in a manner that isn’t loose.
That is if you’re going to an artist that gives you proper healing instructions, which
they all should.
Durb: The other thing too is if you’re not vibing with the tattooer. If you feel
uncomfortable with them or anything. Find a tattooer that matches your energy.
Respect the people you bring with you. So, there’s a lot of factors I think. Because
there are a lot of people tattooing nowadays.
Shawn: And take a beat. I see people take a beat. Like I tell them, I’m never selling
people. I don’t need to sell them at all. I haven’t sold in decades. I’ll be honest with
you. So, for me, I’m like if you’re kind of not into it. Like don’t. Like spontaneity is
wonderful. I’m not going to take it away.
Let’s just say devil’s advocate. You can spontaneously get a tattoo. That’s fucking
great. Go for it. On the other hand, if you’re uncertain. And it’s, you know, take a
beat. Don’t fucking, don’t just jump into it. You know what I mean? Like it’s okay, your skin is going to be there and so is that artist. If the artist is pressuring you to get tattooed, walk the fuck out. There should never be sales pressure.
Derb: There should be salesmanship.
Shawn: As artists we don’t sell, we just talk to people and by actually telling them all
of the proper ways to do things that sells them on getting tattooed by us.
Durb: One of the things I’ve always loved about tattooing is the artist client
connection. Vibe with them. Vibe with the artist.
Shawn: Honest artists are important, too. I will give you a real good example, if you
came to me and said you wanted anything that felt outside of my wheelhouse,
because I am pretty specific, this isn’t reciprocated at all, but if I have any affinity for
you I will literally give you the phone number or an Instagram of someone who will do
the tattoo, if I know somebody, and will enjoy doing the tattoo.
Durb: And do it right.
Shawn: Rather than me take on something that I am not feeling. I will just be like
“unless you have somebody else in mind, let me help you find the right person
because I am not the right person.”
Durb: That is a professional, too because some artists, not a lot but some, will try to
take on anything to not let the money go and then they’ll pull some bullshit on you that they we’re supposed to be doing because they don’t know how to do it. It’s like a realism artist trying to pull off a traditional piece.
Shawn: How about using the Japanese traditional as an example? If someone came
to me for a traditional Japanese tattoo I would be like “I am not that guy!”
Durb: There are a lot of meanings in traditional Japanese tattoos. You have a guy
who doesn’t know the history of Japanese tattooing and this doesn’t go with this or
this goes upstream, there are a lot of things you could mess up. Then someone will
call you out. Some Japanese artist will be like “that’s going the wrong way. Should
be downstream, bro.”
Shawn: That’s a really good example. So, I won’t play with that because I don’t
know what I am doing, and truthfully, this selfishly doesn’t interest me. It’s better to
be honest.
Durb: Art is like language, too. It’s somebody’s voice and you can see someone’s
style in it, too. It is like language.
Shawn: Remember, these days it is very important with the saturation of the tattoo
industry. If your focus is, you want to be good doing all things that’s great! You can
be that artist. Most of the time, though you have a niche. New artists should try to
find that niche. Because if you’re going after the same demographic that everybody else is, which all the tattoo shops in the nation, which is a certain TV demographic then you’re going to find you don’t have enough clientele because your work is no better and everyone is going for this demo. If you can find your own niche and style you will have your own demographic that isn’t dependent on this greater generality,
then you’re going to be successful. That is if you’re entrepreneurial.
Durb: There is a stage in your career when you almost have to take anything
because you learn what you want to do and what you don’t want to do.
Shawn: That’s exactly it. I tell you what, I am jumping back a little bit but my
apprenticeship, at least half of what I learned are things you don’t want to do. I
mean, that’s part of the apprenticeship, too. Just because someone is showing you
things doesn’t mean it’s going to work for the person as an artist because there are a
lot of ways of doing the same thing. So, you’ll learn what’s interesting about tattooing
there could be an artist who has only been in the game for a couple years but there
is something that they’re doing that you can learn from them to add to your arsenal.
It’s just the same as someone who has been doing it for fucking 50 years, you know?
Keep your eyes open and your ears to the ground then you can constantly be
learning, no ceiling.


By Mary Bodimer

Mary is a concert and event photographer. Born and raised just outside the Mile High City, her photography career (Spooky Shutter) began in Denver, Colorado. While growing up, her family exposed her to all genres of music, and it became a staple in her life. Coincidingly, her mother was very much into photography. Mary picked up her first camera at four years old and her parents embraced her natural talent. To this day she credits her love of music and photography to her family. She is passionate about capturing the raw energy, passion, and connections with fans during live shows, describing it as “art capturing art”. While she now calls Sin City home, she travels back to Denver and across the country to shoot shows and events wherever she is needed. Photography is her staple, but when she’s not shooting, she can be found spending time with her family (including her “army of animals”), writing, playing music, crafting oddities, doing animal advocacy work, or working on her hearse with her husband.

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