tattoo interview with Danny Elliott | Mansfield, Texas 30/01/2016

Hello Danny Elliott! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions for our web magazine. You have very interesting coming up on the tattoo scene, so we decided to share your little story with our audience...

I was born and raised in Grand Prairie, Texas - right in the heart of Dallas-Fort Worth. I began drawing very young, inspired by Saturday morning cartoons and video games. As I grew older, that curiosity turned into passion with taking art classes in school and the opportunity to compete against my peers - entering and eventually winning both hometown and regional competitions. That very small taste of success early on was enough to drive me onward, it felt like confirmation that I should pursue a career in the arts. After High school, I took a semester of college to further my education and gain some formal training. It was during that time in 2009 that I received my first tattoo, and being from a fairly anti-tattoo family, it was a game changer. I knew there was something special about that experience, and it lit up a path before me that had never been considered. I left college that December with high hopes for a future in tattooing, but not before I had reached another goal as well. I began my tattoo career in January of 2011. It was something of a journey to get to that point, and since then I've worked very hard to make myself versatile, only recently pushing more towards realism in all my work. With each mark in a new tattoo, I continuously aspire to better myself as an artist. After 5 years of tattooing, while I’m very proud of my accomplishments, I fully understand that there is so much more to learn.”

Q: It's been five years of work, learning the skills of tattooing, getting in touch with all kinds of people on daily basis... What was the hardest part in getting into this business? How did you learn the basic skills of tattooing, did you apprentice?
A: The hardest part about getting into this business for me was just that, getting my foot in the door. I did not have an apprenticeship. In the beginning, I built an art based portfolio, looked all over town, but shop after shop that I went to either didn’t have space or simply didn’t want to teach me the trade. After months of looking, I decided I’d just have to teach myself. Admittedly, It wasn’t the best Idea, but it allowed me to build enough of a simple tattooing portfolio to land a spot in a local shop. Then I just had to prove I belonged there.

Q: You do almost all styles, which one you find as most inspiring?
A: Realism. It’s challenging and honest - it either looks convincing, or it doesn’t. I try and incorporate realism into all my work.

Q: Nowadays, people are coming up with many interesting and not so usual ideas for tattoos. Tell me more about the creative process, do you draw a few sketches before the final result?
A: After meeting with my client and discussing the concept, I do sketch to get a general layout. Occasionally, I’ll refine that sketch until I have the final product, trying different layouts along the way, but I tend to work more in photoshop now than ever before, it’s a really useful tool. It allows me to move, turn and size each piece of the puzzle until everything fits just right…without having to redo the entire drawing every time.

Q: Would you say tattooing could be an expressive job? How much does a custom piece give special credit to the artist?
A: Yes it can be very expressive. When you look at some artists out there like Jesse Smith or Nick Baxter, they’ll do an entire sleeve or back piece and every drop of ink has their own distinct signature, you can spot it and know the artist from across the room - That’s incredible to me, and that’s what I aspire to. Occasionally, I will get a client that tells me “do whatever you want” but as it stands, I see tattooing a a collaboration between artist and client, I can design something unique for them, but they also give me a sense of direction with the piece.

Q: How much the drawing skills play a big role when it comes to tattooing?
A: It’s probably the single most important thing. Drawing is the basis of any art form, tattooing is no different, and your skill on paper directly translates. Even if every design isn’t drawn out of your head, your technical skills, and the fine hand motions you learn through the years apply as well. If you don’t know how to pull a straight line or shade smoothly on paper first, you won’t be able to figure it out on the skin.

Q: You're more into realistic style of tattooing. Why? Do you find it as most challenging? Gotta mention, the portrait of Dali is awesome.
A: Thanks! Realistic tattooing is definitely the most challenging for me, that’s why I like it, it makes me constantly want to improve. Even when you have the technical side down there is still more you can do; right now with my color realistic roses I’m trying to use a more unexpected color pallet. It’s more interesting to the eye to make a white rose out of blues, greens, pinks, yellows, and purples with minimum white…while still having it look correct. It’s very fun.

- What details are the hardest in creating a portrait tattoo?
With a portrait tattoo the hardest part for me is the hair, hands down. It’s a very fine line between too much texture and not enough, I’m still working to find the right balance.

Q: Do you also work on other mediums such as painting? Tell me more about that.
A: I do paint actually. Any second medium we work in as artists will improve upon all the others, I find oil paint to be the closest thing to tattooing for me. Right now I’m working on a short series of realistic surgical paintings in oil called “Incision," where each one depicts a life saving procedure. The first installment can be seen on my website and the next two are still in progress.

Q: Where are you located now? Please share some basic info about the shop you're working at.
A: I’ve been working at Sparrows Tattoo Company in Mansfield, Texas for 2 years now alongside a really great team of artists. You can get all my contact info at either of our websites or find me on Instagram:

IG: @DannyElliott_ink

Q: Well known now in your area, after this period of time, what are your plans for the near feature?
A: My plan for the future is to keep pushing myself to improve. Eventually I would like to open my own studio, but that's a little down the road.

- Would you visit some of the coolest tattoo conventions and try to get your name out?
This year I do have a few conventions lined up that I’m very excited about. you can find me on the road at:

Best in the Midwest - Council Bluffs, IA (FEB 5-7)
Boston Tattoo Convention - Boston, MA (APR 8-10)
Tahoe Tattoo Show - South Lake Tahoe, NV (JUN 24-26)

Q: Do you have any motivational words for the beginners?
A: I remember when I first started, I’d flip through magazines and think “how the hell did they pull this off?” One day I came across an article that discussed that same thought. The apprentice saw an incredible lion portrait and asked his master, “is there some special tool to make every tiny strand of hair in a lions face?” His reply was simple, “No, they actually made every single mark.”

That was a revelation for me, and that's the key here. There’s no magic dust or selling your soul to the devil to jumpstart your career. Just 10,000 hours of hard work and grinding it out day by day. So draw your ass off and don’t be scared of a paintbrush. Surround yourself with people who are passionate about our craft and want you to succeed. Never stop seeking self improvement.