interview with Shamus Mahannah MTL TATTOO | Montreal 31/07/2014 

Hello Shamus Mahannah! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions for our magazine. It's really an honor! I love the traditional tattoo designs since I've been in high school, drawing at class, getting interested in tattoo art... The style is really something that we can consider as "The roots" of tattooing.

Q: How old were you when you first got interested in art? Were you like an artistic kid or you discovered your talent latter on?
A: I was pretty artistic as a kid. When I was young my grandfather would have me trace Winnie the Poo illustrations. I would spend hours just sitting there tracing out all the characters, I guess it started then. I was around 5 or 6 I think.

Q: What kind of art interested you in the beginning?
A: When I was young I was crazy over Image comics. I really enjoyed the quality of the illustrations. It was a hole new level of quality comics. I've always been a huge Spawn fan. The story line as awesome and the comic was dark.

Q: What made you to become a tattoo artist?
A: It wasn't something I had planned to do. I was in school studying illustration and design and decided I wanted to get tattooed. I figured I would draw up something to show to the tattoo artist since I had no idea how it worked. I spent quite a bit of time on the drawing, it ended up being a pretty nice drawing. So I brought it in and showed them what I had in mind. They were impressed by my drawing and asked me to bring in more of my work. I brought in my portfolio filled with all different types of mediums. After reviewing my work they asked if I would be interested in learning how to tattoo. At first, I wasn't too sure. I had never really giving it any thought but figured why not its just another tool. I struggled for several years off and on before I found a good shop. It wasn't easy in the beginning, but its worth it.


Q: Something that I really like about you, is your dedication in only one style-traditional style. I like when people know where to make an appointment for a specific style. Would you consider that style as your specialty?
A: It's the only thing you'll find in my portfolio, hahaha! Its definitely the style I prefer and feel most comfortable with.

Q: Do you have any special reasons why that style?
A: I just love how simple and straight forward it is. You never have to guess what it is, its clear as day. It just holds up so well over time. Even after 10 yrs, when the tattoo has moved it still stays sharp and readable. I also love how clean traditional tattoos look. Seems like someone just slapped a sticker on you.

- Would you try something completely different?
No, I use to draw and paint photorealism while I was in school. I've seen what that looks like after a few yrs in the skin so I'll stick to what I know.

Q: You work at Mtl Tattoo shop in Montreal, Quebec. You guys have lots to talk about... I saw the website of the studio, there are some incredibly talented artists, I bet it's awesome working there. How important is the team work?
A: It's really important that a shop runs smooth and everybody gets along. We are all pretty good friends and respect one another's work. Everybody in the shop is pretty grounded and quite humble. We are always asking another for advice on drawings or color choices, its a good team.

- You also do exhibitions every year! How did you come up with that idea? Do you guys also work on customs for sale? If so, please share some of the best experiences with the customers.
The exhibitions that we put on every year are planned out by the owner Pascale Quesnel, my mother in law and my wife Yannie Quesnel. They work really hard on each event that we do to make it something that everybody will remember and talk about until the next one. Each year they try and find a new theme so our clients and friends can dress up and have a great night. With each event being themed, so are the art submissions. The paintings are for sale during the night, or even some artists trade with one another. Every exhibition ends in a huge party with a DJ and alcohol. They always end up running late into the morning but everybody has a good time. It's nice to have our friends and clients mix for a good time.

See more at: 

Q: Being a tattoo artist must be fun. You meet lots of different people, enthusiasts anxious to get a tattoo, but don't know what they want, probably some freaks are also on this list? hahah
A: It's been really great. This year I finally did a bit of travelling besides just doing a convention and heading home. My wife, and 20month old daughter and myself travelled around France for a few weeks after a convention. We had such a great time. Toured around for a few days, worked a few days and it was like that the entire trip. A perfect balance of work and family vacation, hahahaha! Imagine, going 2 weeks without tattooing? Never in my life would I be able to. Just after a few days I start to go crazy. You do meet a lot of interesting people that's for sure. Not too many crazies so far, I guess Im lucky.

- What are some of the funniest experiences with the customers? Share some stories ;)
I use to work with Freako, one of my best friends. He and I use to go out a lot to this one bar. Every time, we'd get loaded on Jack Daniels and Labbatt 50 beer. Each morning as we'd walk into work we had an expression "La vie est dure pour les cowboys du Quebec". Which means, life's hard for the cowboys of Quebec. This expression came about because we'd be in pretty rough shape. So with that, came this tattoo. We decided to tattoo the same image with saying going around it on one another. But there was a catch. It had to go on the side of your knee and we had to drink while we tattooed it. It made a for a great night, and pretty good tattoos also. It soon became a trend. I tattooed it a few times on some good clients/friends. One night after tattooing my buddy Seb, we decided to head out to the bar. Wasn't a good idea because we were already loaded from the shots of Jack while tattooing. Anyway, we get to the bar and start doing a few more shots. I'm at a table with some friends and were talking when all of sudden something flays by head. I didn't pay attention to it but after a few more times my friends noticed what was going on. My buddy Seb was at the bar, about 20feet away throwing shooters at us!!!!!!!! It was so funny to think that in his head he thought this was the easiest way to buy us drinks. Now I know it doesn't sound funny but dear god I'll never forget that night even with all that Jack, hahaha! And I also can't drink Jack anymore, guess we drank too much throughout the years.

HAhahah Crazy!

Q: Do you draw specifically for every client?
A: I do draw specifically for each client, I will never do the same tattoo twice. I draw all the time, even if its not for the client. I draw up and paint stuff that Id like to tattoo so when people come to the shop and they don't know what to get I've got lots of flash to choose from. And again, its tattooed once and that's it. Its really important to listen to the client to get a good understanding of what they want. Its a great way to get inspired and break out of your normal drawing habits. They always have good ideas that you can play around with.

Q: Sometimes, everyone can get a bit tired of working all day... Do you still have the same enthusiasm?
A: Sure you get tired, but this isn't a job, its a passion. I am ever so grateful to be doing what I do for a living. Going to so called work each day to do something that you love is amazing. There's nothing better.

Q: What keeps you motivated?
A: A few things. I'm always trying to work harder to improve my techniques. Cleaner lines and solid colors. I just want to be the best I can be and I'm really nowhere near where I'd like to be. The drive to be better keeps me motivated. I get really excited about a fun projects which I have each day so.....

Q: Anything you can be most grateful for?

A: My family and friends who have supported me through this journey.

Q: What are your plans for the near feature? Would you keep improving your style, maybe publish a sketchbook etc?
A: I'd like to travel more. Its always good to travel, keeps you fresh. The shop is going to be joining an existing convention this year to give it a face lift. So MTL TATTOO will be in charge of who comes, how its all set up and so on. Were looking forward to this because its going to be a lot of work and it gives us a chance to show what we can do. We are very passionate and hopefully it shows in everything we do. You'll find info about it on our website, around September. I may be coming out with a sketchbook shortly but for now I'm just painting flash to decorate the shop walls.

Thanks again for considering me for this interview, I really appreciate it.

Please share your contact info instagram@shamusmahannah /instagram@mtltattoo