In the tattoo industry American tattooist Guy Aitchison, 39, is a single name that has much influence. He pushes the boundaries of the art form and is the undisputed heavyweight tattoo champion of the world. He is not easily available to the public and is ‘the best’ for many. Let’s get to know the influential man better.
Following is an interview of honorable Guy Aitchison, jump to read it;
Disha: Let’s start with your first rendezvous with the art. When did it start and how?
Guy: It began when I was 16 and into punk rock. My sister Hannah (who also eventually became a tattooist) suggested that we go and get tattooed. I had never thought about it before that moment, but from that point on I couldn’t get the idea off my mind. We went and got tattooed about a week after that, and while watching the artist apply the tattoo, I knew without any doubt that it was an art form I would enjoy and do well.
I started my apprenticeship 4 years later with Bob Oslon of Custom Tattooing in Chicago (R.I.P.) Bob was a good teacher with a lot of personal baggage. It was a productive two years but eventually I had to head out on my own. I opened my first shop, Guilty and Innocent Productions, in 1990.
Disha: Since, you are a mentor of so many artists, here I am curious to know, who was your inspiration in the field of tattooing?
Guy: I have many inspirations, including many who are not tattooists. We’ll start with those. I grew up in a house with art books and got to know and love the works of Escher, Dali, Ernst, Da Vinci and countless others. I read about their lives and imagined my own future as an artist, promising myself not to make the same mistakes as some of these masters and end up suicidal or penniless. I suppose tattooing gave me opportunities for artistic and financial freedom that these artists didn’t have available.
Bob Oslon had learned from the great Cliff Raven, so much of my apprenticeship was based on the way Bob had learned. It was a solid foundation to begin with. I started going to conventions very early in my career and began picking up influences from people like Jack Rudy, Leo Zulueta, Kari Barba, Greg Kulz and Ed Hardy. I then began traveling in earnest and started hanging out, collaborating and swapping work with artists like Eddy Deutsche, Marcus Pacheco, Timothy Hoyer and Aaron Cain. Since I was in a constant state of flux at that part of my career, these encounters no doubt had enormous influence on me.
I am still to this day open to influences of all kinds from all directions. I am not too proud to admit that I am a limited creature and that a rich visionary diet is a good way to stay artistically healthy.
Disha: What fuels the fire within you to keep going on and on? Is it because of the atmosphere at home, since your spouse and sister too are also into the same profession? What sense of fulfillment do you get after inking a design?
Guy: There is a bigger picture going on here that keeps me motivated. I have already published a couple books that have summarized large parts of my career and made for great pieces of publishing. I have other, even bigger plans for future publishing projects, and the pieces I am working on now all figure into that one way or another. I also have enjoyed a top-notch clientele for a long time, and have the privilege of working in a gorgeous, serene environment with no phone and no walk-in traffic. Having other innovative artists in the family also keeps things exciting.
Disha: Is body art an obsession for you? How deep are you soaked into it?
Guy: I personally don’t plan to be a tattooist until I die. I won’t ever “quit” but there will be periods of many years where I don’t tattoo. This is partially because I have dedicated so much of my life to tattooing so far that other artistic priorities of mine have been left in the closet for a long time; eventually I will be in a position to make these things a top priority, which will make it necessary for me to hang up my machines for a while.
At the same time, though, my wife and I enjoy our collections a great deal; tattooing is not just something that we do. We have both had extensive laser removal performed on us in order to fine tune and improve our collections. Much of my body has been tattooed over 3 or 4 times. One day I will have a solid and unified collection of tattoos that looks consistent from top to bottom, despite having 40 to 50 artists involved and lots of laser work. That’s the journey that I am on as a body art collector, and my enthusiasm for this is independent of my tattoo career.
Disha: How far would you like to take your body art?
Guy: I’m not going onto the neck or face. I like getting eye contact from ordinary folks, and neck tattoos pretty much guarantee that won’t happen. I believe that, at least for me, interpersonal relationships take a greater priority than body decoration. But I have found that having ink down to my knuckles doesn’t have the same effect; someone can know that you are heavily tattooed and still focus on the conversation. Neck tattoos, on the other hand, can be a big distraction. Plus, I just don’t picture that on me; for some reason I’m enjoying looking generic from the collar up.
Disha: Guy, could you please share any good or bad experience/request, you’ve encountered for a tattoo?
Guy: Mostly they are all good experiences. It is very difficult for people to get into my studio, so by the time they have gone through all the hassle they are ready to be on their best behavior. There is really no room for any unpleasant surprises.
Disha: How have things changed regarding your inking over the years?
Guy: Because I have stopped working conventions and am hard to reach, most clients I work on are here for several days. I am able to immerse myself in their project, so a sleeve will take 4 days instead of 2 years. This allows for a much better sense of consistency in the piece, and although the sitting can be intensive for the client, in the long run it is much easier and the results are better. That kind of singular focus is the biggest change in the way I work. Many smaller things have changed as well- my work has more contrast now and more selective use of detail; I am more likely to use backlighted lighting schemes, and I think my overall style has a better masculine/feminine balance.
Disha: From your webpage, it seems that you are in the habit of moving from place to place, so here I want to ask, if people want to contact you, for tattooing, where can they trace you this year?
Guy: I’m not moving around at all; I haven’t done a convention in 3 years and any guest spots I do won’t have any available appointments for the general public. The truth is, right now I am completely unavailable for appointments unless you already have work in progress from me.
Disha: In addition, who is Guy Aitchison apart from a being a tattoo artist?
Guy: Married (to tattooist Michele Wortman), no children, 9 cats, 4 bicycles, 2 kayaks, 36 acres.
Disha: You have received numerous accolades for your art, we’d like to hear your views in this regard?
Guy: Of course, I enjoy positive attention for my art– all artists do- but I don’t necessarily believe anything I hear. I can see all too easily how I need to improve. I will admit to having accomplished much, but with so much left to learn, I don’t take any of the reviews too seriously. There are no masters in modern tattooing- we are all students.
Thanks Mr. Guy Aitchison for sparing your valuable time!
You can visit his website by clicking here.