Names are Just for Souvenirs
Well. It is official. In the eyes of the government and as far as Los Angeles county is concerned, I am officially a registered "body art practitioner." That means that things are getting real for me here as Speakeasy Tattoo. I am beginning to take consultations and have my first appointments lined up already. It's nerve racking. Something that all my life as felt like one of those "some day I want to do that" is no longer "some day." With all that in mind, I realize that I have never truly introduced myself or given an idea of who I am and how I approach things.
Don't worry, I wont drone on for hours about musical influences again....mostly.....maybe just a little.
So what is a Sweeve?
Who is this weird ass gothic nerd in a dusty cowboy hat ranting about politics in the corner?
No, Im not talking about ancestry. Nobody wants to hear about what weird mix of German/Irish/American indian diabetic blood sometimes replaces the coffee that pumps through my heart.
So where do I even begin? Amazing how there is no doubt I know more about this subject matter than anything else but somehow I find it difficult to articulate.
Born in Colorado to an Air Force vet and a South-Western artist, I spent my younger years on a constant diet of Star Trek and Egyptology. And, naturally, those obsessions almost before I could even read, were translated into drawing. Constantly. On literally any and every surface (an ominous omen for the future). In middle school I would routinely get in trouble for drawing on myself, other students, lunch benches, bathroom walls.....anything.
Much to my parent's chagrin, it was clear from a very early age that there was a strong rebellious streak and any hopes of a "normal" path were fruitless. By 10 or 11, I was fully invested in the punk rock scene and spent my time going to shows at dingy "venues" (usually a dank basement) with people much older than I had any business hanging around with. It was at this point I set my sights on tattooing as an actual career path.
By 1999 I was in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was here that everything got kicked into overdrive. I began working at the notorious 924 Gilman St. A DIY punk venue on the level of CBGB's that gave rise to such powerhouses as Operation Ivy, Green Day, Rancid, AFI, Powerhouse, The Nerve Agents and on and on. It was here that my artistic dedication went haywire. Playing in numerous bands, getting the chance to tour the country, and dedicating almost all my energy to the world of graffiti. A natural fit to my already nocturnal lifestyle. Just not the best route to go in the eyes of the Oakland Police Dpt.....but what are ya gonna do??
By the time I was out of highschool and a fully functioning adult, my time was spent dedicated to my artistic endeavors, be them legal or otherwise, and myt path was clear. Do tattoos and play music. Make the best Gothic rock album since Elizium. But it is here where the cards we are dealt show their ugly faces. Aces 'n' eights.
As a child, I was diagnosed as an insulin-dependent diabetic. This is a disease in which one can function normally only if maintaining control of blood sugar levels via insulin injections. Because we live in the only developed nation in which the healthy industry is a privatized, legalized extortion, mafia-esque for-profit scam, this means that I could not be without health insurance without the risk of death. This meant I would need to have a career in which health benefits were a factor. Tattoo artists are independent contractors. This means they are on their own, so to speak. Which meant I could not afford the risk, both financially nor physically.
Needless to say this was a devastating revelation. This shook up my entire world view, ultimately leading me to something I vowed to never take part in: the "normal" world. College, a basic career. God help me.
Years were spent in college, aimlessly, for the wrong reasons. For other people. Feeling resentful and bitter. First going the route of European Military History, but ultimately completing my undergrad in Criminal Law. Needless to say, this was not where I was supposed to be and remains to this day one of, if not my biggest regret in life.....not to mention the most expensive.
It was out of that negativity that I met my muse. A frequent model for my art.
The woman who would become my wife. Someone who has always been my champion and encouraged me to follow my true path, seeing how unhappy I was. She was right. and we would make it work.
So here we are. Living the dream in West Hollywood. The end of a long meandering journey but the beginning of another.
So that was a bunch of self-indulgent yapping. What does this mean in regards to tattooing? The only think you even care about and the only real reason you are here.
I take a more classic approach to tattooing. More direct, less existential. My style and opinion of tattooing is entirely hedonistic. There is a train of thought that "tattoos have to have a deep meaning to the wearer." This is all well and good for many. Tattooing can be a very important aspect to people's lives and can have great spiritual meaning, but at the same time, it is also something we use to adorn ourselves. If you think it looks cool? Do it. The end. Tattoos should bring you joy, be it a connection to a lost loved one or nothing more than "lol, look at this ALOHA monkey!" If it brings joy, that is what matters, not necessarily some profound meaning.
Style wise, my heart is in the past. I always describe my style as "Sailor Jerry and Bob Wicks mixed with medieval frescos." A darker take on American Traditional. Bold lines, rich colors. As mentioned, tattoo influences include but are not limited to Bob Wicks along with Sutherland McDonnald, Bert Grimm, Lew "The Jew", Bob Shaw, Dan Higgs and so many more. Add in an obsession with pop culture and a hyper-critical eye for lettering and there you go.
At this point, I think this embarrassing self-congratulatory post needs to WRAP IT UP!
As mentioned, I am taking submissions! So if you are into classic flash or things of that style, you know where to find it. Put on some Bauhaus. Light some candles. Spread the tarot. Check out my artist page for more examples of my work, or follow me on instagram at @artXsweeve
Enjoy your weekend and thanks!
-Baron Sweeverton von Killjoy