Tye Harris is a black and grey realism tattooer who’s been in the game for quite some time, and has earned the respect of a countless amount of individuals in this industry. He has definitely made a strong name for himself over the years and is highly sought after.
He produces solid tattoos that look even better in person because of his methodical technique and approach to tattooing.
I got the honor of doing an in-depth written interview with him below, and hope you all enjoy the read.
So first of all, I’ve seen/posted some photos that are side by side comparisons of your work when you first started compared to now, and the progress is just truly unbelievable! What would you say have been the three things most beneficial to your growth as a tattooer?
Thank you I’m glad you enjoy those posts. Those are my favorite posts and the response I’ve gotten from the progress photos has been great. I’m not sure there are three things I can think of honestly. I feel the main thing that’s helped me grow as a tattooer is my attitude. I’ve never been afraid to ask questions, and I’ve always been willing to take advice from other artists. Being closed-minded or thinking “Oh I’ve got this figured out, I don’t need anyones help.” is the worst attitude you can have as a tattoo artist. Always be open minded, willing to learn, and always strive to be better. Not just with tattooing but in every aspect of your life.
I know you used to work at Bang Bang for awhile…In what ways did working there affect you as a tattooer?
•Working with Keith was great for developing my business tactics and my view of longevity in this industry. Tattooers don’t have 401k, and most of us don’t have health insurance or life insurance and most of us guys who’ve been doing this for a while can tend to have very serious back/neck problems. Keith McCurdy has a great business mind, and he’s always thinking and planning for the future. Tattooers tend to have tendencies that have us “living for now” and not planning for the future which we all know can lead to a lot of heartache in our older years. I learned so much about where I am and where I want to go.
I know you have your neck done by Miguel Camarillo, but not sure what other work you’ve collected so far. Also, any artists you’re really hoping to collect a piece from one day?
Yeah man I’ve got a couple left on my list for sure. Carlos Torres and Nikko Hurtado have been on my bucket list for a while now. I’ve been collecting from artists I admire for quite a while now. I’ve been fortunate to collect pieces from Bob Tyrrell, Tommy Lee Wendtner, Josh Duffy, Victor Portugal, Jason Butcher, Leigh Oldcorn, Robert Hernandez, Kelly Doty, Timmy B, and of course Miguel did the tiger on my neck. I’ve learned so much just from getting tattooed by all these artist and watching and asking questions weather it was about technique, art or just life. I try to take knowledge away from every encounter. I’ve got a large piece from Josh Duffy ill be getting finished next month so I’m excited about that.
Biggest inspirations as you came into the industry?
My first big influence was Bob Tyrrell for sure. I’ve always loved the contrast In his portraits. He was the first artist I saw in a tattoo magazine that really blew me away. I spent years studying his work and trying to figure out his magical ways. Once I was about to get in his chair and watch him work, it changed my entire approach to tattooing. His ability to stay focused and always put in 100% is something I have always admired and strived for.
Biggest shifts you’ve seen in the industry from the time you first entered it up until now?
Definitely the biggest shift I’ve seen has been social media and all the different platforms for artist to be seen now. I remember back when I was starting my career in 2005 the only way to see great tattoos was in tattoo magazines or at conventions . Even then, it wasn’t like every tattoo you saw was great. They were few and far between, so it’s crazy that now you can open your phone and see amazing tattoo after amazing tattoo and these artist are popping up left and right. It’s just crazy how many amazing artist are out there now and some of the work they’re producing is breathtaking. It’s a very exciting time to be a tattooer and I’m very excited myself to have been able to witness this shift in the industry.
Changes you hope to see in the near future?
I’d like more regulation against uneducated tattooers and shops that have no business being licensed. I think a stricter set of criteria for health department applications would weed out a lot of the riff raff as far as subpar shops spreading infections and not giving the art its proper respect.
Best piece of advice you wish you could give yourself back when you first started tattooing?
Don’t be so sensitive Tye! Don’t get your feelings hurt when you don’t do as good as you think you should of done. I let my emotions hold me back for the first few years with thoughts like “you can’t do this” or “maybe you should try something else”, but those thoughts can be very negative and hold you back from your goals. Getting those thoughts out of my head and being positive and realizing that I AM learning and that learning is never ending.” If you try for perfection what you will get is progress” one of my favorite quotes.
Hardest lesson you’ve learned along the way?
Im a very instant gratification type of guy. I want results, and I want them now. The hardest lesson I had to learn along the way was to be happy in the moment and be content with where you are right then. Don’t focus your entire life on what’s next. It’s important to think of the future, but its more important to live in the moment and enjoy what you have right now.
What goes through your mind as you tattoo?
Not much haha. I’m usually thinking about what I need to do for the shop or my house, or trying to figure out what song I wanna hear next. Pretty much thinking about everything but the tattoo as weird as that may sound.
Most challenging part of being a full time tattooer?
Every tattooer is their own company and that’s the most demanding part for me. We all have to manage finances, stock on supplies, manage customers, make portfolios, book expos ect. I think developing a strong business mind is essential to the success of any company but running a business is way harder then doing a tattoo so that can definitely become the most demanding part of the industry.
Most rewarding part?
Freedom. Being free to book the work as much or as little as I see fit. Ability to go on vacations and see the world while making money and doing what I love and just having peace of mind that I’m working towards my personal goals.
Three best pieces of advice you have for the tens of thousands of tattooers hoping to accomplish what you have so far?
•Don’t base your opinion of yourself or your work on you’re social media following .
•Don’t let anyone in your life tell you what they think you should be doing instead of tattooing.
•Never be satisfied with your progress. When you climb a rung on that ladder of success don’t just stand there and be proud, look up at that next rung and keep climbing .