at Andromeda Tattoo
Interview by Jessica
Photos courtesy of Adal
From the May 2003 issue of Prick Magazine.


Nearly six years ago, New York was introduced to an amazing artist from Chicago named Adal, who brought with him a stunning style of his own and a passion for excellence. He is one of the most impressive artists that I have ever had the opportunity to sit down and talk with. Not only was he gracious enough to let me interview him, but he also took the day off to show me around the Big Apple. After a great day in the city, we were able to discuss Adalís style, his history and his inspirations.

How did you first get introduced to tattooing?

I was always hanging out with people I wasn't supposed to, you know, the 'white trash' families (laughs), and I was hanging out with this kid and his uncle, or his moms new boyfriend, whoever this guy was. Anyway, he was a biker and he had some pretty wild tattoos ... spiders and spider webs, and stuff like that. That was the first time I thought there was something mystical about it. Then later, in high school, it was the beginning of the big tattoo movement in Chicago, and it was really exciting. There were a lot of amazing artists. Bob Oslon and Guy Aitchison were really starting to do some pretty innovative stuff, and being a punk-ass kid in the scene, I just kind of fell into it.

When did you first meet Guy Aitchison?

I met Guy when I was 16 through a friend of mine, Mike Leatherman. (Mike later went on to become Guy's piercer at Guilty and Innocent in Chicago.) Mike and I were just hanging out together and he invited me to go to one of his appointments with him. This kid was 17 with sleeves, his chest and ribcage done, and the kid was still in high school! (At that time, Guy's shop was still called Psycho Tattoo.) I was completely intrigued, so I went with him and from that point on I was converted. I realized I wanted to push my art into that area.

When did you first get your apprenticeship?

I moved to Austin, Texas after high school looking for an apprenticeship. Unfortunately, at the time, there were only two shops and no one was interested in taking on an apprentice. I went back to Chicago, where I had gotten my first tattoo by Chicago Tattoo Tom. He offered me an apprenticeship for a pretty good amount of money, but it would have been a crash course. Instead, I ended up working almost a year for him and we called it even, which was a great deal. He totally hooked me up. So, that was in February of 1992, and by that December, he told me I was ready to go - which I wasn't ( laughs ). It took me a couple of years afterwards to really know what I was doing. I think with a lot of people, even after a full apprenticeship, you still have a lot to learn.

How long have you been in New York?

I've been here for five years now. I moved here in 1998, shortly after the legalization of tattooing in the city.

What was the first shop you worked for in N.Y.C.?

Wes Wood of Unimax/Sacred Tattoo (formally Kaleidoscope Tattoo) offered me a great position and offered to help move me to New York. I had always wanted to move here, but at first I ruled it out because it was illegal at the time and I always imagined total underground, in the basement tattooing (laughs) and that kind of pacified my desire to move to NY and be an artist. Shortly after this, tattooing became legal and I decided it was a good time for me to move. I worked for Wes for the first two years I was in the city, and then I just felt it was time to move on. When I left Sacred Tattoo, I went to work on Long Island with Bruce Kaplan of Lark Tattoo, and I was doing my city clients privately which was great. New York is one of the few cities where the artists are licensed individually, which gives them the opportunity to work privately. I set up a space in Brooklyn and everything went really well for a while. Another unique thing about NY is, for the most part, people understand that there is really limited space and if they can't provide you an office, you're going to have to make a living by doing a few days here and there. So, I worked at Daredevil in Nassau County and Alternative Expressions in Queens, but all of these places were such a helluva commute, so I tried to steer it into more private clientele, which is way more rewarding - you're doing better projects. Unfortunately, you don't have the new blood coming through constantly, which is what shops are good for - they're bringing you new clients. Currently I am at Andromeda.

How long have you been at Andromeda?

I've been here about six months.

Is there a particular type of clientele there?

It's your typical street shop. It's a very high traffic area, lots of tourists. In NY, kanji and names are very popular - it's a quick and simple tattoo. It's a way for people to put a tag on themselves. Also, their budgets are a little low, so it's a good way for people to express themselves without spending a fortune.

Is there any particular style that you lean towards?

With Guy being my biggest influence, it's kind of this new wave thing - whatever that means. It definitely isn't the traditional style that attracted me to tattooing; it was the Chicago style - kind of progressive, kind of heavy metal in style. The chrome stuff of the early '90s was totally fucking cool to me.

You mentioned earlier that Guy Aitchison is your biggest influence, why is that?

As a tattoo artist, he is the closest to my natural inclination to the visuals that I have about my art. He kind of shares that. There are these other sects of people that lean towards traditional, or the Japanese styles, but I've always been into kind of visionary new age type of imagery.

What would you like to see yourself doing more of?

More sleeves!! I love doing sleeves. I much prefer it to back pieces where you are working on a flat surface. It's much more of a challenge when you are going 3-D and working with a cylinder. There's more room for effect.

In what direction would you like to see your art go in?

Lately, I have been focusing more on the anatomical fit of the tattoo and pushing special effects, whether itís negative shapes or light sources. I think that more focus needs to go on how the tattoo fits the body instead of just slapping it on there, no matter how good the art work. There is a common muscle structure that we all share and I think tattoos need to fit more into that.

Along with his passion for the unique, Adal loves helping people express their individuality, so feel free to get in touch with him and bring him your ideas. If you're interested in getting in touch with Adal, you can find him at Andromeda Tattoo located in the heart of St. Marks Place in New York City. He is also available for private appointments and will be at the NYC Tattoo Convention. He is also hoping to participate in the Inkin' the Valley convention in Scranton, Penn. this year.

Andromeda Tattoo
33 St. Marks Place, 2nd floor
New York, NY 10003
(212) 995- 2422

Tuesday thru Thursday, noon to 10 pm.
Also available for private appointments.

Check out the Adal tattoos

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