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Humbleness and Success with Andy Locke

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Dan Lorenzo: You told me your dad was in the military and you grew up in a bunch of different places, whereas your wife is like me — still living in the general area she grew up in. Does that fact alone give you a different persona than us?

Andy Locke: My father excelled in the Air Force back then, which meant that he was moved around quickly, family in tow. We didn't see this as a bad thing and we all seemed to handle it well. I suppose one would argue that as kids, our relationships were on average, brief. As an adult, I would say that my relationships are just as sincere as any other, but my attachments to people are few and far between. The difference may just be that we move on a bit faster from relationships than others... which can be hard for others to understand.


How did your dad react to your desire to be in the tattoo business?

My father knew art was my calling and probably chuckled at my attempt to follow in his shoes. As I implied, I have very sharp parents. My guess is neither are too surprised by where I'm at now. However, my father had plenty of reason to be concerned about my life choices when I graduated high school at the ripe age of seventeen and rather hastily enlisted into the Air Force myself. My military career was short but necessary as I was forced to grow up rather quickly. After the Air Force, I was back to art full time. I actually never had a desire to be in the tattoo business. I was simply another artist trying to hustle paintings for money, yet the people in my life wanted to throw money at me to start tattooing.


You've been with PainfulPleasures longer than I have. Do you remember how you first discovered us?

My wife and I, with very few options in life (and two small children), decided to put our neck on the line pretty early in my tattoo career by starting our own studio. I convinced her that I could do this and that we should start our own business. To be honest, it was terrifying. We were ordering from Cam Supply and Superior Tattoo for the first year of our business endeavor when we found PainfulPleasures through a simple internet search. Admittedly, I wasn't sure how old of a company PP was at that time, but they took the extra time with us and never treated us as "just" the new kids on the block. This was roughly 14 years ago. PainfulPleasures has been there for us since then and continues to support us to this very day.

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What is the newest technique or trick you've learned to tattooing?

The newest "trick" per se would be my introduction to rotary machines. Most of my real substantial success in this industry has been due to a brilliant coil machine builder by the name of Charles Freeland, owner of Baltimore Street Irons, who just had an instinctual knack for building custom tattoo machines for me. I was quite late into the rotary machine game compared to most of the younger artists working today. Matter of fact, I remained old school "loyal to the coil" for many years. Yet I must admit this new generation of rotary is just the bees knees.


At this point in your career, are you eager or reluctant to try new products? For instance, maybe a brand of ink you've never tried?

I read a book years ago titled Secret Knowledge of the Masters by David Hockney, which expanded my knowledge of my personal favorite [artist], Leonardo Da Vinci. In this book, it explains how Da Vinci was always willing to try the newest thing in order to help him be the best he could be. It would seem quite arrogant to be any other way in my own career.


Describe your basic set up.

My basic setup as a (primarily) black and gray artist is actually pretty simple. I use a 7 RLB and a 15 mag flat for almost every tattoo I ever do. I can make those needles as small as I need for finer detail when necessary. I typically set up five large caps for black and gray. "Left to right, dark to light" with a mixer white on the end.

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Would you jump at or avoid an opportunity to be on a reality tattoo television show?

The reality TV show question is interesting. I see a lot of pros and cons to the current industry-related television shows. In my humble opinion, our industry just needs the right kind of show. Here's my pitch: I would love to host a show in which two amazing and accomplished artists compete against each other on a similar-themed tattoo voted on by peers and for bragging rights only. This would be great for our community as it would highlight artistic accomplishment instead of superficial drama. So if anyone else wants that to happen, please fund it and I can organize it. [smirks]


I love playing basketball, because people are trying to block your shot and defense is important. What drew you to golf?

Honestly what draws me to golf is that I can never master it. It is larger than me. Seems to be the same thing that draws me to art... there is always something more to learn.


Is there anything else you want to tell our readers?

I would like to make a few brief points. To the tattoo artists of the world, always stay humble and study those you perceive as better than you. To the tattoo clients of the world, always research your artist carefully and once you choose one, please trust their strong suits and let them guide you within their strengths.

Check out more of Andy Locke's work on Instagram @AndyLockeTattoo

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