creates a style of his own
by Chuck B.
Photos courtesy of Watson Atkinson

Mural by Watson Atkinson.

Watson Atkinson is a modern master of many forms and styles of art. He has made a name for himself in Georgia and is now on his way to worldwide recognition as a fine art tattooer. He is one of those artists who gives artistic integrity to tattooing and pushes the limits as far as they can go.His work has been popping up in PRICK since the very first issue and has been in various tattoo magazines as of late. We are proud to bring him to you as the featured Artist of the Month.

To begin, what got you into tattooing, how did you start, etc.?

Looking back, it was just under ten years ago when I was in art school at Indiana University. I actually did not want anything to do with the idea at first because I was getting a degree in painting. My adventurous twin Mitch sold an old jalopy chopper motorcycle and bought a tattoo kit. I have been working in this medium full-time since that package came in the mail. I dropped out of school and have aggressively pursued the medium with an obsessive fervor ever since.

It's obvious that you have developed you're own original style and not just skeezed and borrowed someone else's. Did something just click or was it a natural progression?

That is actually a very challenging question to answer, simply because my style has gone through so many distinct changes over the years. I have worked in three dramatically different styles, each lasting roughly two to three years. With all the research and development I put into my work, my ideas naturally grow and evolve, and with that mindset, change is very welcome. The style that I have been currently working in has had a total monopoly on my work for a few years now. I have enjoyed it so much, and have received undying response from it, that I have resisted this process of change and growth I have been accustomed to. Over the last few months the transition into a new style has reluctantly been forced onto my drawing board, and I have vigorously made the plunge into a new era of work. My styles have definitely been discovered through almost a decade of trial and tribulation, and this question of "style" is sort of a wild melting pot of countless influences and my own reckless and uninhibited use of design and composition, all coming together in one unified front.

Watson in action.
Tattoos by Watson Atkinson.

Who or what are some of your influences or inspirations?

It is safe to say that my influences and inspirations do not reside in one genre or era, but can be found in the whole epic history of image (art) making in general. I have no loyalties to any era or movement over another, and enjoy Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel with the same enthusiasm as Pollock's "drip" paintings. If I was to attempt to pin down a major influence on my psyche it would have to be Fantastic Realism, also known as Surrealism. Surrealism for me has been my lifeblood for as long as I can remember, and continues today to inspire me with the new generation of Fantastic Realists. Collage, a branch of this school has had an enormous impact on my process and overall use of composition, and has radically changed my tattoo style in the last few years. The obvious influences have been Japanese art and tattooing in general; all areas of Eastern art with a specific focus on Tibetan painting; Traditional Americana tattooing; and the onslaught of tattooers that are part of my generation, our predecessors, and the younger ones rising up to share the limelight.

Most of your imagery is spiritual or minds eye type of art versus cartoon or graffiti styles. I'd call it psychedelic surrealism. What would you call it if you had to classify it?

I rarely hear the term psychedelic and always hear the surrealist reference. Putting the two together is a first for me. The psychedelic description is quite appropriate since that era of illustration is celebrated for its use of super bright over the top colors, and often fantastic use of subject matter. I would call it a multi-headed hybrid octopus with tentacles reaching out in countless directions assimilating everything in its ever-growing path. The spiritual, minds eye card I entertain a lot in my work, gives the piece a mystical, otherworldly feel that satiates my fantastic disposition that I want my work to have.

One of your most recent large scale artistic accomplishments was painting a mural on the entire facade of Atlanta's landmark punk/alternative superstore Junkman's Daughter. Describe the hardships, steps, methods and joy of such an endeavor.

This was my second mural project to date. My first attempt was a considerably smaller scale at Phoenix Market, executed in Athens, Ga. The Junkman's mural took fifteen days of work in the sweltering summer heat. I roared through 190 cans of Krylon spray paint for the whole wall. The Athens wall only took 60 cans to complete in comparison. The best part about the whole thing was the twenty foot scissor lift we had to rent, so that I could get up high and maneuver easily over the whole face of the facade. The worst part by far was the heat and sun that pounded down on me with no mercy. I had to use umbrellas and sun screen to combat that variable. I do not see myself tackling a project of that scale anytime soon. I do have some smaller projects in the making that will not be as exhausting to execute, and will be done in the fall during the cooler months.

You are currently running a one man tattoo studio out of Junkman's. Tell us about that and the road that got you there?

I have been talking about coming to Atlanta for some time now and this was a great way to jump in without opening some big expensive shop or working for someone else with some ridiculous cut, both of which I had no interest in doing. In comparison to running a shop (Pain and Wonder in Athens, Ga.) with an all too often crew of apathetic and unmotivated artists (which generally tends to be a problem in this trade), this set up is low-maintenance and manageable. I am very proficient at dealing with my own fast schedule and keeping up with the endless projects. The best thing about running this one man shop is I only have to deal with myself, and no one else's shortcomings and negligence. Another major difference from the old shop is I do not provide walk-ins and flash, which I adamantly detest. Everything is custom drawn with a three hour minimum on the project. I always envisioned prevailing past the flash market that has such a horrible stranglehold on so many talented artists who desperately want to do serious, large-format work. This shop is, in a way, a statement that orchestrates my desire to take this medium to the higher place it deserves to be, and there is an ever growing collective of phenomenal talent around the world that has the same objective.

What is your favorite thing about tattooing?

Clients who have no fear of hot pink and teal colors.

Least Favorite?

Any kind of arm band tattoo whatsoever!

Where do you see yourself in the future, any specific goals?

In Barcelona, Spain, retired from tattooing and obsessively painting nude studies of my wonderful woman Sambara, with sporadic breaks of heated love making in the hot sun, while our little dog runs circles around us singing "Love Me Tender" over and over. Outside of that, I have no other goals.


Located inside of Junkman's Daughter in Little Five Points
464 Moreland Avenue
phone. 706.338.4676

For more of Watson Atkinson's work, visit www.blndsght.com

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