Exclusive Interview with Gunnar Gaylord by Iva Kanceska 14/07/2011
Q: What made you become a tattoo artist?
A: I started getting tattooed when I was bout 18 and was designing tattoos for myself and friends. Mostly rough ideas that I would give to the artist to have turned into tattooable designs. I was in college at the time I got into tattooing, and I had went to a shop called Studio Zee to get a tattoo new school style chrome pocket watch with flames by this guy Jerry Issel (who now works with Tony Civaro at Stinky Monkey). He asked me if I was interested in apprenticing and I took him up on the offer. I didn’t really have an urge to become a tattoo artist before that, but it excited me immensely me when I was offered an apprenticeship.
Q: What kind of tattoos you used to like the most at the time?
A: When I first started I loved traditional tattoos and new school tattoos. Guys like Dave Waugh, Vinnie Myers, Marcus Pacheco and Scott Sylvia were some of my favorites. But I had a huge list of artists I admired back then.
Q: What was the most inspiring (thing or person) for you in the very beginnings?
A: Becoming friends with Eric Merrill had to play the biggest role in my pushing myself as an artist. He was a naturally talented kid, just truly gifted and him and I would draw and hang out a bunch. He definitely made a huge impact on me.
Q: How long have you been tattooing?
A: I started apprenticing around 1995 and became a professional tattoo artist around 1997. Seems like a lifetime ago now.
Q: To be a creative person means to be open minder, educated, fun, well balanced etc. At least for me... What is creativity for you?
A: I agree that being open minded helps. The more inspiration you are open to the larger your visual vocabulary will be. I admire artists of many genres and mediums, but I also find inspiration in film, books, nature and especially my children and just living life . Although I am known for my “creepy kids”, I like to believe that I can draw just about any subject matter and scenario (although it will be in my style). I don't like to limit myself.
Q: To be an artist is a real joy, right? What is the most memorable piece you've been doing lately?
A: Its hard to say. I am always working on something, whether it is tattoos, paintings or drawings. They are all equally important to me as an artist. Right now my “baby” is my Lilith and Thatch book. Its a children’s story I am working on and have been for some time, but its great getting to create characters that have qualities that people will like or dislike about them (the villian) and creating a world in my own distinct style and voice. This project makes me happy.
Q: You work on many types of art mediums, such as skin, on canvas, on print, really impressive. What is your favorite medium?
A: I love them all. Sketching has got to be my favorite, just because there is a life and a simplicity to it. But most audiences prefer a more rendered product. Painting is enjoyable because it is limitless in what you can create, unlike skin which has limits based on factors like healing, dimensions of the work area, pain tolerance, and longevity...painting is a bit more forgiving. But I love tattooing.
Q: How much time was necessary to develop your drawing skills to this level?
A: That's a very flattering question, but the strange thing about growth as an artist is that it seems your best is unobtainable. I can see progress in my work by looking at work I’ve created in the past. But even when ya do something your proud of it seems that its just a stepping stone toward creating your future masterpiece. I try and work at my art all the time. I honestly could admit to being addicted to it. For me, art is a passion, it is where I find joy. So I am constantly working towards being better.
Q: Do you also work on custom paintings for sale? If so, please feel free to share with us some of your best experiences.
A: I do take on commissions from time to time. I was actually commissioned to to do one of my largest paintings a few years back by this couple that I ended up becoming very close friends with. Everything about the experience was rewarding.
Q: Many of your compositions features dark motives. What is their significance? Is there any message? Btw, they look awesome!
A: It depends on the piece...I like being able to tell stories in my art. I think as a fan of horror and darker science fiction I’ve always been attracted to the dark or macabre. But it not in everything I do. The darkness just may be more important in telling the story. If your dealing with the topic of depression or loss, rainbows aren’t going to really help get your meaning across. The colors, lighting and feel and symbolism of the piece are just as important to telling the story as the main subject matter.
Q: Do you get caught up in the meaning of your paintings or tattoos or you keep that separate?
A: I do get caught up at times...Sometimes my paintings or tattoos have a lot of subtle symbolism. Sometimes I feel more so in my paintings, that maybe I’m off a little when someone sees it and doesn’t get the message. But I don’t want to slap people in the face with my art just for them to get what I am saying in a piece. I should have to write what I am saying in the painting, I often like hearing the interpretations people walk away with...I think in that way they get a little more out of it.
Q: What is the sickest or most mind boggling tattoo or painting that you have done?
A: This is a tough one...depends on how the word sickest is interpreted...I try to never push to far into the grossly uncomfortable with my art...when your painting lil zombie kids...playful is better then grotesque.
Q: Instead of painting and tattooing during the week... Do you travel a lot? How many often you go on tattoo conventions?
A: I have been traveling a bunch over the last few years. I dipped off the scene for a while, so traveling kind of puts me back out there to hang out with folks and see what's going on in the tattoo world (especially outside my little bubble). I am trying to do more conventions, but its a love hate relationship with them. I love getting out and meeting people and fans and such, but they cost a lot to do and the turn outs just aren’t that great at a lot of them. I think you’ll hear a lot of artists say this...especially when you’ve been doing them for over a decade....This industry has changed...conventions are a clear place to see that. Too many artists...not enough collectors.
Q: Since your style is well-defined, have you ever thought to change it and start doing something completely different?
A: I think about it at times...I definitely have tried experimenting in the past. But I just realized this is what I do, this is what I am good at...so instead of doing something else...I just try and be the best I can at what I do. Besides, whatever I have been doing seems to work...it has separated me from a long list of artists whose work you can’t differentiate from one another, It takes years for an artist to develop a unique style...and some artists never accomplish that...can’t see why I’d mess with it now.
Q: I've read around the net about the skateboarding and music. Is that a great way to express all the positive energy into a great piece of art?
A: Hehe Skateboarding was one of my first true passions... I did it till the doctor told me if I messed my ankle up again I’d be using a cane for life. That didn’t seem like a good idea. Fortunately I found art. As for music it along with my love for music have inspired a fair amount of the art that I have created. There are certain lyric that can just conjure images immediately. I really like Alkaline Trio and Bay side for their poetic lyric driven songs. Its like a soundtrack to art. The December ist have been one of my recent favorites for inspiration.
Q: What's your best motivational lesson for the beginners?
A: The best thing you can do in art is to be yourself...it takes to much work to try and be someone else. And DRAW DRAW DRAW....Drawing is fundamental to any good art, despite the medium. If you can draw it on paper then you should be able to paint it or tattoo it when you learn your tools.
I'm truly honored for this interview Gunnar.
The honor was mine, thank you.
You're Welcome, Gunnar!