ADAL TATTOOS IN NEW YORK
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
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
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.
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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