We met him last autumn when he was modeling clothes for a local alternative clothing designer- but really had the pleasure of getting to know him as an artist this year. After running into him a second time, we did the natural "friend you on facebook" exchange and I began to poke around his profile. His original work on skin especially caught my attention- but since I hadn't any need at the time, I admired from a distance.
"There's nothing in the world like skin." He told me, as I curiously barraged him with questions after inviting him over to help me through some perplexing signage lettering. "Nothing in the world blends the way ink does on skin. I love it because there is a structure- a method to the art. In that structure, you have the freedom to create. Seeing what can be created within those boundaries is thrilling."
I have always viewed the art of the tattoo with some hesitancy. While I respect it as a form, there are far too many "artists" out there who do not use it well. Unlike a painting, which can be disposed of if its end result is poor, the permanency of ink makes it an elevated art form in my eyes. We've all seen those "Worst Ever" Tattoo lists on Cracked.com that keep us scrolling in utter horror. There are far too many skanky tattoo shops that employ butchers of the medium. True tattoo artists captivate me with the mystery of the form and delight me with the beauty of what the materials can accomplish. But there is a great divide between the two worlds- and I am always a skeptic. I knew, after speaking to Josh that chilly spring evening, he had the right philosophy to become one of the greatest in his chosen field.
Josh's online portfolio includes a variety of styles. "When I first started, I wanted to do everything. I never wanted to be pigeon holed into a single style. I love it when people come to me with with an idea- the challenge is one of the best parts of the job." His realism was impressive. At one point, he had the fantastic idea of filling in spots between bookings with incredibly discounted deals: the caveat was that you allowed him, after getting to know your personality just a bit, to create his own 100% original work of art right then and there.
His signature style really began to evolve and dazzle in these original pieces. He tells me it is called "neotraditional style"- in which traditional techniques are used to create art with a modern theme. "Bold will hold" is his catch phrase; meaning that while realism fades over time, work done in this style will continue to be beautiful with age.
Around this time, he confided in me that he had invested several hundred dollars into a special set of Copic markers. I had no idea what these were, but he romantically described them as the closest possible medium to ink and skin. Sure, you can achieve superb blending with oil paint- but part of the fun of tattooing is the time constraint. There is pressure to complete the piece (or step of the piece) within a certain number of hours, and the gratification is instant. Oil takes days and months to achieve its fine blends. These markers, he told me, offered incredible blending and could accomplish works of art in a timely fashion.
He had never used them before but he had been working with more common ink on paper materials. I flipped back into his portfolio and found this work- which inspired me to ask if he would consider creating some pieces for Maeva's Coffee Shop.
Josh took on the challenge of designing four posters for the shop. The first was the gypsy woman on a coffee stained parchment we later stripped down for print readiness. I fell in love with the coffee bean frame, her jewelry, her eye brows, the tiny leaf detail. It tore me up to have to condense it down into a piece that could easily be translated into a coffee sleeve stamp- but without the level of detail in the poster, her spirit would have been lost in translation.
The other three posters were done in a variety of styles: A traditional tattoo style rose, a more nouveau-esque cafe scene, and a trippy paint style marker drawing.
All of these pieces are available through our Kickstarter campaign. They will be scanned in a high resolution machine before being printed on heavy bamboo cardstock. They are such vibrant pieces of art! You know your walls could use a little color.... Josh is also open to creating custom poster pieces for your or your business as well. The holidays are approaching soon- how awesome would it be to have him create a custom work of art for the "has everything" person on your list?
And, if it's your body that could use a little color, look Josh up! He currently has a space in the Thunderdome studio in St. Louis. Or, drop him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.