Q&Arts: Tyler Hochhalter
Tattoo Artist uses art background for his custom tattoos
28 year old Tyler Hochhalter from Calgary with a BFA in painting began tattooing full time and is now using that as his expression of art.
The Reflector: How did you get into tattooing?
Tyler Hochalter: I got tattooed enough to build relationships and start slowly investing in different artists with designs I was bringing to them for me and my friends. Eventually the time came to stop being a vagrant and attempt settling down, so kind of in desperation I asked the artist who I knew the best if he’d be interested in helping me out with a job. I was initially just hoping to get even a desk job or something to put my foot in the door but since he’d been tattooing my drawings for almost five years, he took me on as his apprentice instead! It’s been a whole new education ever since.
TR: When did you know this was something you wanted to pursue?
TH: I think from the get go when I got my first tattoo at 21, it was something I was definitely interested in. I knew it was going to be a long road but I was young and had the time and knew it was an industry where you had to pay your dues. I did some investigating and kind of decided it wasn’t right for me at the time, but eventually came back into it when I was feeling ready to tackle this level of commitment under a mentor. There were a lot of things I was against within the industry, but I found the right artist who believed in relationship, atmosphere, and excellent art before any of the ego or greed. Once I knew it was a community and not just an industry, I was all for it.
TR: What is the most difficult part of tattooing?
TH: Probably the times where I have a hard time connecting with the vision of a customer. Everyone has their own aesthetic priorities and desires, and sometimes that process is arduous and extremely taxing. What I perceive as being the best possible choice for the content won’t always line up with what is desired, so there are a lot of moments where you’ve got to fully embrace what they are after and set your own expectations aside.
TR: What do you have to say to people who think tattoos are “trashy” or look bad with age?
TH: I would say that when my skin became your business, then I’ll let your assumptions carry some weight. My tattoos aren’t necessarily a part of my identity, just an expression of my own appreciation for the things I think matter in life. There are definitely trashy tattoos out there but there are also trashy cars, trashy clothes, trashy lifestyles and none of those things define what or who we are. So when I’m old and your old and we’re both wrinkly and wise and awesome, it’s not going to matter because we’re going to be too busy laughing at the next generation from the same perspective anyways.
TR: How has your art background helped with your transition into tattooing?
TH: A lot of my training and style have fortunately carried over into this art form in a pretty cool way, I’m very fortunate. I’ve always drawn, so that came pretty naturally but having the education in composition and design have allowed to me validate my experience level with a fairly academic understanding. There are always rules and principles that you’ve got to follow, but knowing the depth of those laws also allows you to break them and create something new and wonderful. In painting and tattooing!
TR: What is your most memorable tattooing experience?
TH: I don’t know if I could come up with a singular example of my most memorable, but I would say I am quite fond of the physical reactions some people have to tattoos. It’s such a different artistic experience because pain is also involved, and everyone deals with it differently. I’ve had many moments where I needed to stop what I’m doing and laugh it out because the customer ends up doing something ridiculous in reaction to the pain. It’s a very intimate process and getting to know someone over that incredibly unique experience creates a lot of memorable moments. I will say that the first time I tattooed myself was quite a surreal experience that I won’t soon forget.
TR: What makes you unique from other tattoo artists?
TH: I would hope that eventually my style will become refined enough to be recognizable, but also that my attitude and relationships would define me more than my art. I really really give a shit about the atmosphere I create and the quality of experience I provide. I want to learn from everyone I encounter whether with customers or in the tattoo community, and let that inform my practice.
TR: What advice do you have for university students?
TH: Do what YOU want, you are not a commodity that needs to bow down to the expectations of previous systems or generations. You don’t owe anyone anything but yourself, so choose something that makes you a better human being. You can’t make the world better if you’re not seeking the most excellent position to develop the things that make you unique.
Check out Hochhalter at New Dimension Tattoos.