Jesse Smith interview
I always had a problem dealing with tattoo art.
From tribal designs to Japanese goldfishes, to old school skulls, I always thought that most of the people involved in the business suffered a serious lack of inspiration, and a really poor sense of creativity.
Most of them are simply unable to show the beginning of a personal style, which led me to always maintain a certain distance from their so called “art”. Then you have people like Jesse Smith coming up to kick the shit out of the clichés, and to blow up all my stupid stereotyped ideas. Damn! This guy’s art is so rad it makes me feel like I want to take the next plane to the US, and get my skin inked from head to hands. Hey Jesse, how does your schedule look for next week?
More about Jesse.
WHERE ARE YOU FROM AND WHAT WAS LIFE LIKE GROWING UP?
I was born in Tacoma Park, Maryland and raised everywhere else. My father was in the Military so we traveled all over the world. I lived all up and down the east coast of the U.S. and spent about 8 years in Europe (Germany, Italy and England). Being that we moved around so much I had a lot of time to myself towards the beginning of every new place. So I spent a lot of that time drawing and hanging out with my brothers. I graduated High school in Heidelberg, Germany and that is where I feel I really started to lean towards a style. The Graff scene in Germany is overwhelming. You really can’t go anywhere without seeing an awesome production laced wall. I spent a great deal of my time in Germany doing graffiti up until I graduated high school.
SO, HOW DID YOU TURN FROM WALLS TO SKIN?
My family didn’t really have enough money to send me to college so I ended up joining the Army, which landed me in Ft. Eustis, Virginia. That is where I met this fella named Carlos who was tattooing out of his house. He taught me how to make a ghetto gun and I started lighting up some of my buddies. I initially only planned on doing a couple of tattoos, but the demand kept me rolling, and I eventually built up a pretty decent portfolio. When I got out of the Army I ventured up to Richmond, Virginia and started my freshman year at Virginia Commonwealth University to pursue a degree in Fine Arts. I rolled around to all the local tattoo shops with my portfolio and eventually landed a job in a production shop outside of a Military base (Ft. Lee) where I had tons of G.I.’s to practice on.
DID YOU HAVE A BACKGROUND IN ART BEFOREHAND?
Not much. I had taken a ton of art classes while in High school, but most of what I had to offer at that time came from drawing in my room. It wasn’t until a couple years of college that stuff really began to click.
YOUR STYLE IS REALLY PERSONAL, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE IT?
Man, I really don’t know. All my stuff looks pretty normal to me. I try and bend it as much as possible and pay as much respect to light source as possible. A lot of people describe my work as New School, but I think it leans more towards Low Brow.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE SUCCESS OF TATTOO ARTISTS IN FINE ART GALLERIES?
I think it’s awesome. It’s definitely a direction that I’ve been trying to give more attention to lately. Although I love to tattoo, painting grants a lot more freedom. You’re not limited by your canvas or your client.
ANY PROJECTS GOING ON?
Got a bunch of stuff in the works. I’ve been working adamantly on a couple of body suits and a couple large paintings. Really can’t wait to finish those up!