Freshly Inked Interview with Josh Woods

Instagram: @joshwoods

Someone visiting California who stops in Dana Point Studio, what should they expect? 

Anyone who happens to stop into Dana Point should expect a hidden paradise. It is one of the most chill, beautiful spots in all of the country. My wife and I fell in love with the area the first day we visited, not many people have been here or know it even exists which is fine by me. Our hidden paradise, it's a lot different than any of the other areas of California. It is a beach city so there is lots to do, lots of art, music, and it is not overly crowded. It's clean and well kept; 70 degrees and almost no rain all year. Our Shop sits right on Pacific Coast Highway and a block (or two) from the ocean, near many beaches and amazing cliffside views of the Pacific Ocean, it's unlike any area I have ever worked or lived. Everyone who has visited never wants to leave. It is about 7 miles north of Laguna beach just up PCH and it's an awesome drive. The wife, dogs, and myself do the drive quite often. Some of the best sunsets you will ever see, I have, to be honest, the area is very surreal to me compared to where I grew up or have lived in the past. We enjoy it very much. The weather alone puts a smile on your face daily. I pinch myself sometimes to make sure it's not a dream.

In your career so far, what would you say you're best known for? (Animals, people, ext.)

I would have to say I'm most known for my more animated or illustrative new school approach to my artwork. I like to be somewhat well rounded, so I like doing a bit of other stuff as well but I feel you can always see my style in whatever I do, which is either a good thing or a bad thing these days. I'd love to get more black and grey work in and on my portfolio as well. It's hard, though, because everything in my portfolio is color, so nobody ever asks me to do black and grey.
Was tattooing something you always wanted to do, or something you stumbled onto?
I'd say it is something I stumbled onto as far as a career goes. I was always into the tattoo magazines and was pretty curious about the craft as a young client and through the 12th grade of high school. I never seriously approached it till after I had blown off art scholarships. They wanted me to focus on graphic animation and I had just done a college course in high school with computers and I was not feeling it at all. It's crazy to look back now because I came full circle and all I use is Procreate and Photoshop, etc.
My life would be so different had I decided to go to College. After I had left and moved to New York, I ended up in a band on many tours. I was able to see in person many tattoos and heavily tattooed people on my journey. I started seeing large scale work and most importantly lots of not so good tattoo work. This gave me the idea that I could possibly do this and be good at it if I put my heart and hard work into it full time. That's when I first thought about it being a possibility.

Do you prefer working with artists or more independently?
To think you are better off alone is silly. Sometimes change is good, just open up the mind a bit, would be my opinion. I don't think humans were meant to be alone, don't get me wrong, I love me some alone time, but it seems I never want to be alone when trying to be creative or express my art; plus art is meant to be seen.
I always prefer working alongside talent. You never progress working alone or not surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals. I can attribute all my success from my career to working alongside many talented individuals and also My Mother, who always painted alongside me at a very young age. She is the very reason I ever cared about art or known it was even a passion of mine and or possible for me. When Working in any profession you typically always have questions or need support, whether it's a question of placement, composition, or even drawing. It has always been very important to me that you're able to take constructive criticism. In today's sensitive & politically correct society this seems to be a forgotten form of progression. This can better you as an artist and even a person, husband, wife, etc.; to take away questioning one's self, or debate, is not only ignorant but it almost takes away any progression. 

You have done a tattoo of late artist, Chester Bennington, and comical fiction character PeeWee Herman. One was more serious, one was more light/funny, which do you prefer?

For me, it is never usually something "I" only prefer. We are working with clients and what it is they want to get, that decision is ultimately theirs to make in the end. What I prefer is them giving me the ideas and letting Josh Woods do what Josh Woods does without much interference artistically. That way this gives them a custom tattoo that typically no one else will mimic or duplicate exactly as I do it. It's truly a piece of our own at that point, as soon as they start making a lot of changes it is no longer me and more so just becomes my job and the customized element is taken away. I learned after many years that it is VERY difficult to spend countless hours, sessions, even years on a project you are not fully into or your client has no trust in what you think will turn out the best.

Tattoos can evoke emotion (happy or sad) what tattoo, that you've done has given that person the most emotional response?
Being that I am an animal lover I seem to get the most emotion out of doing pet or animal portraits or my caricatures I do of them in my style. This can be a sad experience or even an uplifting experience. I love to do these for my clients and is some of my favorite sessions because of the chats we have and all the fun memories our goofy fur babies tend to give us. They do not always attract the likes and the following all the trendy tattoos do but they sure hit home for me emotionally. My two Bulldogs are my best friends ever. They have kept me busy, broke and full of love. It's been fur and slobber for nine years now and I do not know what I would do without them.

You've done A Clockwork Orange, Back to the Future, and Toy Story tattoos. What is your favorite movie? What's a character from a movie you would love to tattoo, but haven't gotten to yet?

I have many favorite movies. I love any hockey movie, sports is a huge passion of mine thanks to Dad. Just yesterday I finally did a Brad Pitt from "Inglorious Bastards," and it has always been one of my favorites. I was stoked on the outcome, and it was fun. I'm a huge fan of war movies as well. I love anything Quinton Tarantino has done, I also like comedies too because those tattoos are always classic hits. I love all the hilarious comments and movie quotes on social media, it's always fun reading them. But war movies or anything crime, serial killer or related is my all time favorite, send those tattoos my way, please!

What was your experience like tattooing professional athletes?
I have Tattooed both Roman Josi "Captain of the Nashville Predators" and Andrei Kostitsyn, who at the time played for them as well but is now in the KHL. I have tattooed and or been lucky enough to meet many MLB stars, rock stars, producers, NASCAR affiliates, the Detroit Red Wings photographer (my Favorite team ever) and all sorts. The perks are pretty cool but for the most part and from my experience with it, I have learned to leave them alone and let them be and they respect you more in the end for not being annoying. I do not get very star struck, however Meeting any NHL player for me has always been extremely rewarding. Hockey is one of my favorite things in all of life.

Have you done a large number of cover-up tattoos? What was the most elaborate cover-up you've had to do?
I have done plenty of cover-ups. I definitely do not choose to do a lot of them and usually will only do ones that I know will be successful or I will turn them away. In my opinion, if you do a cover-up and you can see what you covered up or it looks messy, too dark or confusing than you have not successfully done your job. (This is the reason I do so few.) They are very difficult and not many can do them well. The most elaborate cover-up would probably be ones I am still working on finishing: it's a space theme of animals as astronauts with floating treats and stuff. It is a cover-up of an entire outlined sleeve, it's insane.

What was the experience on Ink Master like for you?
Hmmmm...where to begin? Well to make this short, I only did Ink Master because it was the very first show and on its very first season, I would have NEVER done it otherwise. Like now everyone has done the show and it holds way less value to me that I was even on it, to begin with. I do not regret it at all but it certainly showed me how fake and cutthroat reality TV truly is. I did meet some cool people: producers and artists, but that first season was wicked stressful. 

It was very scripted at times and even rigged or we already knew certain outcomes. I was pulled aside by producers on many occasions and told I need to start being better for tv, to start arguments and talk shit create drama or I would be voted off.

At the time I think I was too naive and thought there was no way they were gonna kick me off for being myself but sure as shit that's what happened. That and the fact That I got dealt the worst reference possible by Shane because I lost a prior challenge and shit the bed. I was too nice to say no but there was no reason to have accepted that God awful reference. That was my fault, if I ever had the opportunity to do it over again I would just warn friends and family before I went on that I was gonna be a totally different person and go on TV and be an absolute dick, talk shit, create drama and I guess just have an enormous ego. That's what they wanted and I shoulda just listened, my bad again. I think if I was doing it now my tattoos would be so much better and have a much better opportunity as well being that I'm an all-around better artist from back then. Plus I'd have that fake persona I'd run with. (Haha)

Our season was very unique in that unlike all the other contestants, seasons after ours, we did not have prior seasons to judge anything by or think and prepare for what you would do if put in certain situations. That was very helpful I'm sure, I had many seasons contestants calling me or asking me what to expect, even though I have yet to watch any other season fully I have watched a few minutes here and there because of other tattooers I know being on it. If you ever see the seasons, you'll notice the first season is way different. That is because we were the guinea pigs on whether that show would be successful and move on or fail and get shut down. That being said, OUR season was and always will be the reason that shows still exists and gave all these other artists the opportunity to be so cool. (haha, you're welcome) We had crap for a budget, our rooms were leaking when it rained, we all shared rooms, we were not allowed to wear clothing with logos or dress how we normally dressed. My hair was made to be cut and dyed a certain way, etc. It was rather crazy, it wasn't me at all. We filmed so much stuff that wasn't used and we were straight up running on no sleep and miserable for most of the time but I'll be honest I had a ton of fun with all those guys and gals so no regrets.

My goal of it from the beginning was to be on all episodes in the end and make it to the last bit and I accomplished that, and I accomplished it all with my dignity still intact. So that's somewhat credible I guess. My only regret with tv was being myself, and that's kinda sad but true.
It also sucked that Instagram had just recently become a thing so none of us first Season OG's received all the Insta-famous shit and didn't reap any benefits like some of these other tatters I see out there now blowing up from being on one episode.

Do you prefer owning a shop? Or do you enjoy the freedom of working in a shop where you can focus more on your art? 

There are pluses and minuses to both. To me owning was always great because you could be in charge of marketing, and pushing something you built and having your baby, you are proud of and always trying your best to do the right things to make the shop successful and the artists happy. So many shops are not very successful because they are either lazy and go through the motions or do not do the right things to be successful. Just having a shop to me was not ever something I was ever satisfied with. I wanted to do things that made it great, that made it different, and that gave it character. When it just becomes another shop it's no fun. It's something everyone has done. Many shops start out this way and fall off. Keeping a smaller tight-knit family is key, but unfortunately, many owners eventually smell the profits like a rabid dog and they just bring in any old artist to bring in that money and or push talent away to better themselves. In my opinion, keeping it small with the right crew leaves it with greater value, better artists and it's respected more and sought after. It also produces much more opportunity and creativeness minus all the drama. As it gets too big and too many egos it becomes detrimental to everyone involved, becomes money driven, favoring starts happening and everyone can start to go against one another. I hear Artists stories about shops talking about this and that, about how things are going great and then before you know it everyone's backstabbing & hiding behind their fake personas and secret agendas. I believe doing a shop is not easy but it can be done with a small group who respects you for what it is you bring to the place and if they're all their for the right reasons.

As for not owning, I have enjoyed the hell out of it. Drama free, stress-free, nothing to worry about after or before work. Nobody to keep happy but myself, just work hard and do art. I pay a booth rent here at Dana Point so I can come and go as I please and I was treated like part of the family right from the get-go.
It is almost like I have been here forever. I cannot say enough about this crew of fellas. I work alongside some very talented dudes here and some of the most trustworthy and helpful friendships I've been a part of in Tattooing. I am very thankful to have grabbed the space. Now as far as being out west compared to back eastward, it has been a rather humbling experience. Sure, being so well known out east, central and in the south made life much easier. I was always booked many months out and sometimes even a year. Being new has been a challenge out here but I've accepted it and been busting my ass. And I am actually busier than expected. Having a big following on social media helps a lot as well. 
I've been working on bigger projects and less one and done tattoos so that has been a change as well. In between I do plenty of other stuff or styles and or just do fun walk-ins as I am slowly building a clientele out here and that is the best way to build it. I am never too good for that stuff. I actually make more money here by doing less so it evens out for sure. This point in my career, the hardest part was just starting over again in a new area where I have never been much if ever. 
Nobody knows you're here, who you are, and your style isn't hip to the trends of the west coast nor do you know anyone or have tons of friends or acquaintances. My style is rather new, or a fresh face to this area which has it's positives for sure. I feel I have that part nailed down. My shop buddies are the best, so I have them and I have my wife my dogs and plenty of new friendships started. I have so far seemed to manage and resorted back to the hustle I once learned so many years back. The upside of all of this is it has improved my artistic abilities and broadened my palette yet again forcing me to work outside the box which is always a good thing. When I am finally booked months and months out over here, I will then know I have clientele damn near everywhere I go in The U.S. and that alone will be a pretty cool accomplishment for myself. That being said, I have enjoyed working in more places than one city my whole career. It had its challenges, but it also has broadened my clientele over the years. I have no roots here, nor did I have any in Nashville or Buffalo and Atlanta. With this job I can literally go anywhere so I am never overly worried about where It is I live, that's what is pretty rad about our careers and the following I have built over the years. Having taken the risk to live in other areas has been a treat. Not many people take that risk or chance in life. You Never get to experience lot's of different things in life without taking a risk and going for it...I'm happy I have always not been scared of change.

Do you have any matching tattoos with anyone? If not, if you had to get a matching tattoo, what would it be and who would it be with?

I do have two matching tattoos. I have one on my thumb/hand of the state of Michigan outline. My brother and I gave each other them one night being we grew up in Michigan as a family... and I also Have a matching anvil with my good buddy and only apprentice "Marty Riet McEwen" I'm sure you heard of him...we got these in memory of our good buddy Steve Martin who passed away on 5/29/16, RIP.
It was his logo for a fitness t-shirt project he did very well with, it was called Ink & Iron. 

For aspiring artists, what is a good resource to utilize? What's advice you wish you had when you were first getting into the tattoo industry? 
Well, to the tattooers just starting out in the an old-timer, the times have changed completely, unfortunately. It's all sitting under your nose. Market yourself, you have social media, something I never had from the start. Work tirelessly, be original, do not be another follower, be a trendsetter... be YOURSELF! Stop regurgitating and start creating! (Many artists including myself struggle with this.) Do solid clean work and do the best quality you can. So many artists (and clients) now do not care as much about the technical quality and care more so about the imagery. What really matters and is most important besides all that is your clientele. That is special. The people that come to you specifically to get permanent ink deserve all of the above and the artists should be humbled and never take it for granted. Do what you love to do and try your best to do it in a way that nobody can mimic. Being yourself will bring special clientele forever. I'm not saying don't try different things, I do that all the time, just do it differently and make it yours and your clients creative and custom image together.

More advice could maybe be show some love of the craft. Change the view of the industry with your actions and leave ego and money hungry attitudes far away. Karma does exist, and it will slap you upside your face someday so don't be that guy. Care more about quality and customer service rather than exposure, fame, money and if you're in the cool kids club or not care what others think to say or do. BE you!! Tattooing never started in a cool kids club. It was the oddball club, circus freaks, sailors, bikers, the group everyone stared or were scared of or afraid to talk to... bring it back to the days where if you disrespected someone you got your ass whooped. 
Maybe that would help. Stop with all the sensitivity and coddling and PC rhetoric...take some tough criticism and be an adult man or woman..and for God sake, we are all just tattooers, we all have the same exact profession. No tattooer is gonna be written into the superstar history books or Hall of Fame so cut the shit. As someone once said,
"Get off your high horse you're just a tattooer..."

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