Walter McDonald on mindfulness, storytelling and reinventing the wheel
Tattoos have colored most of Walter McDonald's life -- he got his first ink at age twelve and has been tattooing professionally for more than twenty years. Originally from Houston, he has lived in Colorado for 26 years, becoming a well-known name in the industry. He's now the owner of Lifetime Tattoo, where he has worked since it opened in 2001.
Images courtesy of Walter McDonald
Westword caught up with Mcdonald, who talked about the importance of mindfulness, being a storyteller and reinventing the wheel.
Westword: How long have you been tattooing?
Walter McDonald: I did my first tattoo when I was twelve, so 29 years ago.
How did that happen?
My step-uncle, he was a tattooer and went back to prison and left his tattoo kit. So me and my friends, being mischievous, tattooed ourselves.
What did you get?
I got an anarchy sign on my knee. We were punk rocker kids.
Was that your first exposure to tattooing?
That and bikers. My dad was a biker. That was probably my first exposure. But what got me into it, though, was the whole punk rock hardcore scene.
Do you have a favorite style of tattooing?
I like working in all styles. I don't have a preference. The aesthetic that I like, more than the style, is I want it to look like a tattoo. Even if it's some sort of medieval image or if it's some anime cartoon, or whatever it is somebody wants, I think it should look like a tattoo. It should have that presence.
A lot of the people I've talked to say the industry has changed because tattoos are so prevalent now. Having been in the industry for a long time, is there anything you miss about the way it was when you got started?
There's definitely a nostalgia. It's way different, but it's even different from ten years ago. And then ten years before that it was different. There's certain things that I miss, but for all the things that I miss, there's new things about tattooing that I love. For instance, I love the competition that's bred out of social media and out of tattooers looking at each other's photographs on Instagram or on Facebook. Most people just copy, which is not bad, that's what every good artist does. But every once in a while, there's a breakthrough or something that happens that isn't planned, and I think that's good. It's good for the whole of tattooing, pushing tattooing to the next level or just making it better. Even if it's just reinventing the wheel.
Continue reading for the rest of the Q&A with McDonald.