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Artist Spotlight > View Spotlights

Dave Waugh

Jagermeister Master, Ruler of Tattoos

by lucretia

October 4, 2006

Artist Profile

We all know him, we all love him. Well, for his flash anyways. Now I'll give you another reason. He's confident, very aware of his stance and position in the tattoo industry and strikingly witty. Dave Waugh SHOULD be your tattoo hero...

You apprenticed under Little Vinnie Myers, correct?

Yeah, he opened up his shop in '91. I was off my regular labor job due to an injury, and the timing for me was just right. I started hanging out until he decided to hire me! I had previously contacted a few other known tattoo artists at the time asking for advice on how to break into the biz and sent some crude art samples, and although nothing panned out for me with that, the few that did take the time to answer back did encourage me to stick with it. So Vinnie took a chance on me and I apprenticed under him for a few months. It was the early 90's and tattooing was on the verge of getting big...and we saw the potential and dove in headfirst. We both kind of learned as we went along; we hit the convention circuit when it was still considered an important event worth attending, we made friends and contacts all across the world, and bombarded the tattoo magazines (there was only like 2 being published at the time) with photos of our work. They liked us, we liked them, and we all grew and matured hand in hand. There was no Internet at the time, no tattoo reality shows, and no multiple tattoo mags readily available at the local newsstand. You had to put in real time and effort to gain the knowledge you needed...and it was a good way to learn. I think you appreciate everything a little bit more when you have to figure it out yourself.

Between the 2 shops you're working at, are they custom shops or street shops?

Both. Jinx Proof is very much a street shop, but there is a lot of custom work being done there as well. The same goes for Little Vinnie's. I do both custom and walk-ins, and it varies from day to day. Some days I like doing the quick easy walk-ins and then some days I enjoy getting back to doing the custom work. I get a little bit of both. I've had my share of the big custom stuff, its fun for a while, but sometimes you can get a little burnt out on it. I think with doing both sides of the trade your ego doesn't get too inflated 'cause I think you can get pretentious if you do nothing but big custom work. I try to keep it boils down to this: We provide a service for the customer. Dave WaughSome come in to get something fancy from you because they like your custom work; others just want a good solid simple tattoo. They're the boss; I'm here to make them happy. If I do that, I can pay my rent and continue to do what I love to do for a living. Everyone wins.

In the current tattooing climate, do you find tattooing to be heading into more of a custom direction?

It always has been and will continue to be both. The beauty of this industry is that we can use it to do whatever we want... if you want to do nothing but huge custom stuff like sleeves and body suits to show off what you can do, you can make it happen very easily. If you only want to make a cool living by doing nothing but tattooing little souvenir pieces on the faceless walk-in customer, you can do that to. A lot of us are the kind of artists that could never be "real" artists if it weren't for the medium of tattoo. It allows us to do and be both in many different ways.

If you had never gotten into tattooing, what do you think you would have done?

Well, I've been playing in the same band for like 100 years, so I always hoped that would have taken off. I play bass in Ironboss (, and been doing it for the sheer fun of it well before I began tattooing. We're a mix between Motorhead and Lynyrd Skynyrd with equal parts punk and metal fused with good ol' fashioned classic rock.

Your flash can be seen everywhere, it's very popular, how do you feel about that?

Dave WaughIt's probably the most personal gratification I've ever gotten from this job. It lets me know I'm doing the right thing that I succeeded in doing what I set out to do from the get go: Make art for a living that achieves more than just making me happy, it seems to make other people happy as well. For someone you don't really know to commit to having something you drew and created permanently etched into their skin for the rest of their lives is one of the biggest compliments anyone can pay me. Makes me feel legit, that I'm doing good. This goes for both the custom end of tattooing and the designing of tattoo flash as well. When other tattoo artists buy it from me and display it proudly in their shops, I feel good. When they tell me that they tattoo the hell out of stuff I've drawn and customers love it too, that's even a bigger thrill. And when I pick up a current tattoo magazine and see that someone has a brand new tattoo of a design that I drew 10 years ago, it makes it all worthwhile. And the fact that still to this day that I continue to crack down on bootleggers of my flash says something too. If they still consider it good enough to steal, sell, and use to make money off means I musta really done something right. And now you guys are going to feature it exclusively! The use of Internet is such a strong tool nowadays in this business; it's a natural progression.

You paint too?

Dave WaughI'm working on it. I try to when I can. I feel like I do it not nearly as much as I should because every time I pick up a paintbrush it's like the very first time. I work 5 days a week and my days off aren't in a row so it's hard to get things going. I'm trying though. I struggle through it but when I get to the end result I'm usually happy with it. Right now I have 3 pieces that I know exactly what I want to do with them, but I haven't gotten the courage to break everything out and start it. I'm doing a project on skateboard decks for a friend.

Are you happy with the direction tattooing is going in?

Sure... we keep thinking the bubble is going to burst and it doesn't. As little as 10 years ago I'd have never thought it would be as mainstream as it is now; with the reality TV shows, its presence on the Internet, 8 different tattoo magazines on the shelf and tattoo designs on expensive clothing. Some think the over-exposure may be bad, but really, if you want to talk about someone like Ed Hardy who is reaping the benefits, who better a person to deserve it? If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be where I am today. There are 2 tattoo reality shows and one sucks and the other doesn't, but I can't deny it's helped the resurgence of interest in the public. I am just happy to keep doing what I do and pay the bills. I just wish I had jumped on the tattoo t-shirt business sooner! In the end there are the minuses, but the pluses definitely outweigh them.

Dave Waugh












Dave Waugh















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