When you are marked for life, most likely you were just inked at a tattoo parlor. It used to be having one meant you were a sailor on shore leave, an ex-con or any unsavory personality getting it done in some seedy basement shop. But as of late, tattoos are popular to all and considered art but instead of a canvas – one’s bare flesh showcases the skillful work done by this genre of niche artists.
In Los Angeles, CA – a new and unique online art gallery called Raking Light Projects promotes the original art and collective prints by their coterie of skin art specialists. This went live last March 2012 with an exhibition of works by these following Tattoo Artists: Guy Aitchison, Jondix, Timothy Hoyer, Bert Krak, Carlos “WENT” Rodriguez, and Derrick Snodgrass.
Arte Fuse had obtained the opportunity to engage one of the artists involved in Raking Light Projects, Derrick Snodgrass, to answer some questions. A native of Kentucky and currently a tattoo artist at Temple Tattoo in Oakland, CA – Derrick is one of the skilled artists showing work at the online art gallery and known for his surreal kaleidoscopic landscapes. Why don’t we roll up our sleeves and get down to the nitty-gritty in order to shed light on how being a tattoo artist gives a certain edge to create contemporary art.
Arte Fuse: Did you start off as a tattoo artist then later a visual artist or vice versa? How has one form influenced the other?
Derrick Snodgrass: I have been an artist since I was very young. I became a tattooer to have a less structured way of living. Little did I know how much work, time, and sacrifice it would require from me. I would say that tattooing has helped with hand control and composition. But having an open mind and lack of conformity has affected the images I tattoo.
AF: How do you see the world differently than most people?
DS: Because of training my brain and eyes, I look at things (images, scenery, etc.) by blurring my eyes quite often until everything is out of focus and blobs and shapes of color.
AF: You describe your work as kaleidescopic landscapes, can you elaborate more on this?
DS: I want to paint phosphanes.
AF: Kindly share the significance of the smiley faces appearing in your artwork.
DS: The smiley face is a symbol of sarcasm for me because when I painted them I was not particularly happy. Bright colorful paintings do not equate joy or nirvana. In my context, it is a “scary” face more than a smiley.
AF: If you could tattoo anyone famous in the world, who would it be and why?
DS: I’ve tattooed famous people. It makes no difference so they do their job, I’ll do mine. I’d rather tattoo my friends for free on a houseboat somewhere on a lake full of good times.
AF: Which is more important: to shock people overtly with your art or let them contemplate on things that are subtly hidden?
DS: I’m not trying to shock anyone, if anything I’m trying to sedate them or hypnotize their reaction. What is shocking anymore in this day and age?
AF: Besides tattoo work and making art, name one other activity that you do to rejuvenate & re-invigorate your creative juices.
DS: I like being on the road by any means necessary. One day I will have no schedule or destination. I work towards that daily and have since being a young teenager. I love camping, walking, collecting records of 70’s country and rock n’ roll.
AF: Why do people love to ink themselves?
DS: It’s because people do whatever the T.V. tells them to do.
AF: What is the most unusual place you have tattooed somebody?
DS: In a car on Highway 5 going North through the Grapevine at 80 mph, headed towards Oakland.
AF: Any marked words of wisdom for anyone contemplating about becoming an artist or joining in the Tattoo industry.
DS: Just Don’t Do It.
And so we travel the road onwards to create worlds with scary/smiley faces and seeing it in a blurred but unique way. Just as long as my TATS are defined!
For more information on Derrick & other artists, visit: RakingLightProjects.com
Interview & article by: Oscar A. Laluyan
Images courtesy of the artist, Derrick Snodgrass