Dave Regan on his busy lifestyle, tattoo trends and the importance of education
A tattoo artist, teacher, writer and musician, Dave Regan likes to keep busy. Originally from Baltimore, he has lived in Colorado for almost five years and currently works at Landmark Tattooing. He also writes for Tattoo Artist and Tattoo Culture magazines. In his latest article, he chronicles his motorcycle road trip, crossing eighteen states and tattooing all over the country. Westword just caught up with Regan, who talked about balancing his busy lifestyle, the trendiness of tattoos and the importance of education in the industry.
Photos courtesy of Dave Regan Dave Regan likes to find creative ways to spend his time.
Westword: How long have you been in Colorado?
Dave Regan: I moved out here five years ago this August. I got a job at Bolder Ink and I really haven't looked back.
How long have you been in the business?
Fifteen years in the business and twelve years tattooing, I've been at it pretty much since I got out of high school.
Did you find any differences in the industry when you moved here?
The industry, collectively, has changed so dramatically since day one for me. The first couple of years was sort of like the end of the golden era, I would say. When I first got into it, the passion that went into it in the early '90s, everybody -- clientele included -- had a lot of really interesting ideas coming through. It seemed like it was just this really burgeoning creative force that was really unstoppable, and then somewhere along the line it just kind of caught on, I guess. Unfortunately, when you have something like that, you have -- I call it the "magic," you know, and I think as time progresses and people are exposed to it, it sort of begins to lose it. It doesn't mean those pockets don't exist, by any stretch, but I think generally it feels like it's kind of dumbed-down a little bit from where it was. It was always kooky, but lately it's very trend-driven. It's always been that to some degree, but I guess with the prevalence of it everywhere, you see more and more of the trend, Pinterest tattooing, that kind of stuff. If tattooers were the ones influencing tattooing, I would feel better about it. When media influences what we do -- it's changed an awful lot. And it's a double-edged sword. Certainly, in some aspects it's changed for the better and in a lot of other aspects it's changed for the worst, I think.
How do you deal with balancing the ideas a client has and your own vision of what might look good?
I do a lot of fine art stuff, I teach drawing. I actually worked with Will Thidemann last summer teaching classes for free at Kaze, which was awesome. I really enjoy teaching. I don't have a formal background, but it's something I'm good at. Basically, when I'm at work I'm a designer, and when I'm making art I can be selfish. That is the division for me. Of course, I try and make suggestions that are gonna help the client in making a better decision for themselves, because a lot of the time people just aren't aware of what's available to them. I kind of try to get in their head and see what it is they want, and it may be different from what they came in with initially. But ultimately, at the end of the day, if you want it, I'll do it.
I actually just wrote an article -- I've been writing for Tattoo Artist and Tattoo Culture magazine for almost two years -- and I talked about that quite a bit. I make pizza. If you want to have good pizza, come on in, I'll make a killer slice of pizza for you. If you want me to make pizza out of spaghetti, I will, but it's not necessarily going to taste like pizza. At the end of the day, it's about giving people what they want. You do have to sort of put yourself on hold to some degree, because it's not about you. Sometimes it is hard not to be dismissive when people are hell-bent on making a decision that may affect them negatively down the line, but you can't be everybody's parent. Keeping a customer base that's informed will only further benefit everyone. It's nice to have that educated community and clientele.
Continue reading for the rest of the Q&A with Regan.