SELF MADE, DUES PAID
Tattoos in most cultures are a sign of criminals and low-lifes. Luke Wessman is a prime example of why you should never judge a book by its cover. The fact that he grew up in poverty and around gangs might justify the stereotype of someone who is heavily tattooed, but the truth is far from it. Luke got his first tattoo at a young age to give himself a tougher appearance so that the others in his neighborhood won’t view him as being weak. Not only did tattoos help him stay away from trouble, it gave him a career.
Luke is known for his American Traditional style that is fundamentally sound and true to the art form. Classic traditional styles like his is the reason why I started to have interest in tattoos. His respect for the tradition of tattoo art is evident in his work and has gained the respect of OG and modern tattooers alike. His dedication and hard work along with his philosophy of respecting and being kind to everyone he meets, has made him an icon in the industry.
He is also a smart business man, turning his life story and art into a brand with a strong positive message. He has proven through his “Self-Made” life that with patience, hard work, humility and respect, that success whether it be financial or otherwise can be attained even if you’re starting from the bottom. Luke is an artist and a person that we really respect and we feel very lucky that he took the time to share some of his thoughts with us.
LUKE WESSMAN INTERVIEW
Q 1 || I’ve read that getting tattoos at an early age helped you blend in and steer clear of trouble in the rough neighborhoods you grew up in. I think even in nice suburban neighborhoods young people can have a hard time handling pressures to fit in. Besides the tattoos, how else were you able to diverge the negative influences?
I was able to diverge the negative influences in my neighborhood as a kid by surrounding myself with friends that were good people, immersing myself in job opportunities (I worked two or three jobs most of the time) and paying attention to my loud inner conscious. I was fortunate enough to cross paths with some hard-working deep thinkers and together we were able to appreciate but look past our surroundings and see more.
Q 2 || Was there ever a point early in your career when you weren’t sure if you’d be a good enough artist? Conversely, was there any specific moments when you felt like you were really getting the hang of it?
To tell the truth, I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like I’m good enough, I think any artist can relate to the torture of self doubt. The very first tattoo I ever put on someone totally freaked me out, and I remember thinking “I don’t know if I can do this”; the realization hit me that tattooing was about much more than just art – in the moment, the blood and permanency of the art overwhelmed me and I spent some time reflecting on whether tattooing was right for me. I think the best I’ve felt so far in my career was recently in New York, tattooing at Wooster St. Having helped open the space in Soho, I was in clean, cool auto pilot of grind – between the buzz of the city and the heavy flow of business, I was really connecting to my work and clientele with confidence and vigor.
Q 3 || Japanese is one of the most revered tattoo styles around the world, but ironically tattooing is still not an art form that is widely accepted in Japan. I am first generation American with Japanese parents, and although my dad is an amazing person, he didn’t speak to me for a year after he caught me with my first tattoo. He understood that it didn’t change who I was but the negative connotations of tattoos were deeply ingrained in him. I recently read your blog post on tattoo discrimination so in a way this question is a continuation of that discussion. Do you think there is something that can be done to help alleviate the negative stigma of tattoos?
Man, I’m sorry to hear about your dad. I’m sure you’re not the only son or daughter dealing with that – I hope he comes around! One of the best things that can be done to combat tattoo discrimination is also the way all discrimination can be alleviated: with education and awareness. Just like any negative stereotype, I think it’s up to the people to change perspective – little by little, one kind act, conversation or thoughtful article at a time.
Q 4 || What are some of your favorite cities you have visited and what are the places you would like to go to that you haven’t yet?
I caught the travel bug years ago and never looked back – it’s one of the best parts of my profession. A couple favorite cities I’ve visited: Nagoya, Japan – I loved walking the streets surrounded by the most stylish, kind, respectful people. In a city where I didn’t speak a word of local language, I felt super comfortable, inspired and at peace. Edinburg, Scotland is another incredibly beautiful city filled with very friendly, fast talking, beer drinking, and ever-so-welcoming people. I would recommend Edinburg to anyone looking for a European adventure with beautiful sites and welcoming locals. Next on my list is definately Israel. I can’t wait to visit with my Jewish lady, float in the dead sea and kiss the Wailing Wall. I’m told Israel is the most beautiful place in the world…. but Cuba’s definitely in the cards soon too !
Q 5 || Generally speaking, artists are usually not the best at handling business. What advice can you give artists so that they can be successful financially while maintaining artistic integrity?
The artistic mind and the business mind are famously different, and usually at war. Artists often worry about compromising their artistic freedoms in order to achieve financial stability and growth – but don’t be foolish. I would say to any artist starting out, forget that stereotype and learn how to advance in the business world. Be respectful of your art and others, but unapologetic in your pursuit of financial growth and stability. Wu Tang had it right: Cash Rules Everything Around Me. Find your balance.
Q 6 || We pick a relatively new song/track within the Rock, Hip-Hop and Electronic genres daily. I hear you’re a hip-hop guy so give it to us straight, what do you think about our Hip-Hop playlist? Also do you have a song you are currently listening to that you can recommend? (Playlist is on the right sidebar)
I just listened to the current hip hop mix you guys have up, I was pleasantly surprised. Good tracks with Method Man, Blueprint, a feature with my friend Harry Hudson, and a few people that I never heard of. Now I’m gonna have to bookmark your site – well done!
Q 7 || Do you have any projects or guest spots coming up you can tell us about?
I am constantly consumed with of all types of projects – I love working on random artistic things with inspired people, so at any given time I have like 10 going. I am just getting back to full speed after this spinal surgery thing I had in July in Germany, and I’ll be tattooing again full time starting in September. I’m almost 2 years into my @lostartofthegentlman book – a project I’m most excited about. Legally, I can’t go into details about some of my projects on deck, but I have a solo art show I’m working on, a tattoo machine launching soon, and a little tattoo flash book colab in the works.
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