Opening February 1, 2020, Body of Work: Tattoo Culture explores the rich history and modern artistry of tattooing as a dynamic, ever-evolving artform whose mainstream acceptance has been driven by popular culture. The exhibition features original works of art created by Northwest-based artists who demonstrate the wide range of styles possible in tattoo art.
One of those artists, Dustin Burt, got his tattoo start in 2002 shortly after graduating college, where, as an industrial design student, he tinkered with the tattoo artform “on the side for fun.”
“And by the time I graduated from college I figured out that tattooing was a more entertaining job than what I went to college for,” says Burt.
Through heavy use of blackwork, white ink, and smooth shading, Burt focuses on intricate, large-scale tattoos that are multi-layered in technique and composition.
“I want my designs to have structure and look like an actual composition in a painting when they’re done,” he says.
How would you describe the Seattle tattoo community?
Dustin: I think that Seattle has a really good tattoo community, which is one thing I really like about living here. It's not terribly competitive. I've made a lot of friends here at different shops and it's nice. If there's a piece I don't want to do or if I think my buddy's going to do a better job, I can just send a client over, and it goes both ways. It's been really nice working here.
How would define your artistic style?
Dustin: That's a tough question. The style I do just kind of developed into its own thing. Over the years I always gravitated towards darker imagery and kind of cultish imagery I guess. Flow and composition also have always been real important to me. I want to make sure that everything fits my client and everything is aesthetically pleasing if somebody else was going to look at it. I don't want to make designs that they go against people's body lines.
What are your favorite subjects to tattoo?
Dustin: I'd have to say anything that's a little bit different, kind of outside the box. I like doing skulls. I mean that's pretty common, but I try to make them different. I try to shoot my own reference photos, my own photography for my reference just so I'm not stealing images off Google. So, every skull piece that I do on somebody is unique and it's not something that's going to be duplicated.
What was your first tattoo?
Dustin: My first tattoo I got right out of high school at the local tattoo shop. Which, that tattoo is no more, it’s been lasered off. I mean it was an 18-year-old bad decision. Don't really need to say exactly what it was, but it's gone now. I've had a few removed and I recommend it. It’s been a good thing because you make room for new stuff, get rid of bad decisions. It's definitely more painful than getting the tattoo. I tell everybody that. I try to be open with them like saying, ‘Hey, this is going to hurt. It's not a good time but it's quick and the end result is definitely worth it.’ So, I recommend people get tattoos removed if they don't like their work.
What advice would you give to somebody who wants to get their first tattoo?
Dustin My best advice for them would be to do their homework. Really think a lot about what you want and once you get it narrowed down and you get your ideas, then find an art style that you really like. Find an artist that fits your art style that you want — that’s going to fit your vision in the best possible way. So that you're not just going to somebody's friend who's like, ‘Oh my friend is the best tattooer, go to them.’ Find an artist that fits your style.
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