by Geoffrey Stephenson
Photos courtesy of Troy Denning & Invisible NYC
From the November 2005 issue of Prick Magazine.

The Invisible NYC crew: Regino Gonzales, Marco Serio, Dan Vu, Andre Malcolm,
Troy and Jesse Denning. Photo by Kara Collier-Ibanez.

After fifteen years in the tattoo industry, Troy Denning has already established himself as one of the best in the business. He has worked alongside some of the great artists in San Francisco and New York City. He has also traveled extensively throughout Europe and Japan, constantly creating solid work and continually learning and improving upon his craft. To add to his legacy, Troy, along with his wife Jesse, opened the sleek, fusion tattoo studio and art gallery Invisible NYC in April of this year.

Invisible NYC combines the artistic elements of a tattoo studio and art gallery into a friendly and inviting environment. The art gallery portion is run by Jesse, who has a masters degree in art from NYU, and previous gallery experience. Jesse organizes exhibits that showcase works "which exemplify the best of current multi-media art." The gallery has already featured exhibits by eclectic artists including Juan Puente, Jesse Jones and Justine Reyes.

Jesse and Troy Denning.
Marco Serio at work.

Troy has surrounded himself with a highly talented and diverse staff, yet somewhat nationally unknown. Along with Troy, currently residing at Invisible NYC are tattooers Marco Serio, Regino Gonzales, Andre Malcolm and Dan Vu. Looking over their works you can see that each artist enjoys doing traditional and Japanese style tattoos, but they all are also proficient enough in their skills to be stylistically flexible and to bring something unique to the studio.

Born in a small town on the outskirts of Lisbon, Portugal, Marco Serio has been tattooing for four years. Marco first discovered his passion for tattooing as a teenager when he "saw friends tattoo each other with homemade machines. However it wasn't until I was 24 that I started my life as a professional tattoo artist." This decision led Marco to New York City, where he met Troy and began working at Invisible NYC.

Regino Gonzales.
Andre Malcolm.

Originally from California, Regino Gonzales got his start over ten years ago with an apprenticeship under Daniel Adair at Soul Expressions Tattoo. He graduated from the School of Visual Arts in NYC in 2001, and Regino now tattoos at Invisible NYC while taking on other graphic arts projects and illustrations.

Andre Malcolm was born in Jamaica, and moved to the U.S. when he was six years old. He's lived in the Bronx for twenty years, and began tattooing three years ago at Tuff City Tattoos. Andre joined Troy at Invisible NYC in May, and he "hasn't looked back since."

We had wanted to get Troy's amazing work into our magazine for some time. We recently got lucky enough to ask him some questions about his work, life and new studio.

Tattoos by Troy Denning.

Geoffrey: First off, how did you get started? Did you do an apprenticeship?

Troy Denning: I didn't do an apprenticeship - only because I couldn't find one. I started tattooing my friends out of my house. A lot of them wanted to get my drawings tattooed on them as well as getting free tattoos. Luckily, I was also in San Francisco in the early '90s when tattooing was extremely popular. San Francisco was sort of the Italy of the Tattoo Renaissance. I eventually became friends with Aaron Cain at Everlasting Tattoo who then offered me a job. That was my professional start in the business.

Do you have any formal art training, and do you think that it is important for a tattooer to know how to paint?

I don't have any formal training. I am completely self-taught. I have spent hours upon hours doing research, as well as ceaseless time spent perfecting my art both on paper and on skin. Tattooing is a medium unto itself; the elements that make up a good tattoo don't directly correlate to any other style of art work or theory. Most of my favorite tattoo artists have absolutely no fine art training.

I actually think that a fine arts background is non-applicable to the art of tattooing. A lot of tattooers will disagree with me, but there is a lot of imagery floating around in the tattoo world right now that has absolutely nothing to do with what I do or with what I personally consider to be good tattooing.

You've worked with a lot of great tattoo artists over the years, and we've had several of the artists we have interviewed mention your name, and give you props. What was it like to work alongside such talent? How much did working with them help you to develop your skills?

Everything I am at this point is a distillation of lessons of the great artists I've been exposed to, for better or for worse. I feel very fortunate to have been at the beginning of the tattoo "Renaissance" in San Francisco, as well as what I consider the second tattoo "Renaissance" in NYC with such artists as Chris O'Donnell, Kaz, Mike Rubendall, Marco Serio, Horizakura, Regino Gonzales and Andre Malcolm.

Tattoos by Troy Denning.

After over fifteen years in the tattoo industry, how do you stay creative?

Constant exposure to new things: tattoo artists, travel, fine arts, as well as the competitive nature of the craft in which you're always struggling to stay on top of your game.

How do you feel about the emergence of tattooers in the fine arts over the past few years?

I think it's a natural progression. I particularly like when tattooers cross over to the fine arts world and stray from obvious "tattoo" themes and imagery in their work. I think that is very cool. Juan Puente's photographs (while he may photograph tattoos) are works of art that could stand their own in any arena - they aren't purely pleasing to a tattoo-minded person.

You, along with your wife Jesse, opened Invisible NYC earlier this year. What made both of you decide to open your own shop together, and what was it like? Was the art gallery a part of the original design?

Both of us had been working tediously for other people for a long time, but didn't feel like we had much to show for it. We are both very hard workers and extremely dedicated. We figured that it was worth a shot to see what results would come about if we poured all our energy into something that was ours. So far it has been completely worth all our time and energy and I wouldn't trade it for anything. It feels really good. We are both so much more motivated and creative than ever.

Initially, we didn't think we would be able to show the art to such an extent, we thought our space (since we live in NYC) would be very limited. But we lucked out with an amazing set-up and so we were able to allow both the tattoo side as well as the gallery to flourish.

Jesse Denning.
The crowd at an art exhibit.
Troy Denning at work.

How did you come about your current lineup of outstanding tattooers?

When I decided to open up my own studio I started scouting all of the young, local tattoo artists. I wanted to find guys who were hungry and hadn't yet been spoiled or corrupted by previous situations, people who didn't have to unlearn bad habits. I wanted tattooers who were very talented but weren't connected to any other tattoo legacy so that as the identity of Invisible NYC grew so could all of our own identities as tattooers - I see this as a new beginning for myself as well.

How much traveling do you do?

I was a bit complacent and overwhelmed by New York City before. Now that I've opened Invisible NYC, my motivation and drive as well as an over-all sense of happiness has been rekindled. Now I am trying as hard as I can - it's difficult with a new business, however - to travel to tattoo conventions and do guest spots as much as possible. I'm trying to do at least three tattoo conventions a year.

Who are some of your major influences outside of tattooing?

The Rza, Marvin Gaye, Bruce Lee - anyone who has taken proscribed rules and ideas and reinvented them to create something even better.

What do you like to do outside of tattooing?

I really enjoy film, music, and such. Recently I've started boxing, which I really like. Tattooing is hard on the body, so it's important to stay active. Mostly, I love spending time with my three dogs and my wife - not necessarily in that order.

What do you think you would be doing today if you weren't a tattooer?

After achieving what I have in this industry, I know now that I could have done anything I wanted to. But at that time, when faced with the prospects at hand, my options were pretty slim. At the point that I started to tattoo my options weren't very optimistic - it was tattooing or nothing.

Do you have any future plans for either your tattoo work or in the art gallery? Any special art exhibits coming up soon?

Jason Loui will be having an exhibit of his paintings in November and December. Grime is also putting together an exciting show for February 2006!

A lot of the tattoos I have recently started are some of the best work I have ever done and I'm excited to finish them and start more.

Invisible NYC
148 Orchard Street
New York, NY 10002

For more info on Troy Denning, Invisible NYC and its artists, visit, and

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