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Interview with Legendary Tattooer Jesse Rix

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Jesse Rix is an unbelievably impressive tattooer working out of Keene, New Hampshire who I have recently got the chance of connecting with.

His style is truly like no other, utilizing intricate geometric designs along with vivid full color surrealism work and blending the two together brilliantly.

I got the chance to do an interview with this highly respected and sought after tattooer, and hope you all enjoy.

So you are obviously an incredibly respected tattooer these days. What three things would you say have been most beneficial towards your growth and success as an artist?

Thank you first of all!     

I think above all is hard work. It’s easy to look at others success and think that there was a secret to their success or that they were born with a talent but unless you’re willing to work harder than everyone else around you you’ll never see the level of success you’re looking for. 

Second would be passion. Unless you’re passionate about what you do you won’t be able to sustain the long hours and hard work required to reach your goals. 

   Third would be knowing exactly where you want to be in your career and what the goal is. You have to know where you want to be in order to start taking the right steps to achieve your goal. A lot of artists have great work ethic but have a hard time focusing on one style or knowing what kind of artists they would like to be. 

What’s been the biggest roadblock or challenge you’ve encountered on your tattooing journey so far?

Probably me. When I started tattooing 15 years ago everyone told me I was crazy and that it wasn’t a real job. I think In the first half of my career, at least somewhere in my subconscious I believed them. I worked at it anyway, but always felt like I had one foot in the door. I think sometimes the biggest hurdle as an artist is not believing that you are worthy of success. I would always find myself trying to do what I thought my clients wanted instead of just trusting my instinct and doing what I thought would be the best tattoo. I had my idea for my 3-d pieces way before I did them. I was just afraid nobody would like them. 

      Once I finally decided to create the Art I knew I was capable of, everything fell into place. 

Where do you draw the inspiration towards your creativity or does it all just come pretty naturally?

I do think a lot of my creativity comes from my mind never stopping. I’m always thinking about all these ideas I have. The hardest part is picking one and sticking with it. My Dad says I’m a scatter brain and I come from a long line of scatter brains haha. It’s probably just ADD. But I see a million things every day that spark an idea and get my mind rolling and I have to get them down on paper before I forget or lose interest.

4. What are you usually thinking about as you tattoo? 

 My back hurts and I’m hungry. 

5. Who do you most respect in this industry and why? Anyone you’d love to get tattooed by yourself?  

 That’s a really hard one. I respect a ton of artists. When I moved to my private studio 6 years ago I remember every time I got stuck on a design or worried about what a client was looking for in a piece I would ask myself “what would Nikko do” haha. It sounds dumb but it really helped me. But as far as artists I’ve met I would have to say Russ Abbot. We’ve read a lot of the same books and have a lot of the same ideas. Sometimes he says what I’m thinking as I’m thinking it. I don’t know if everyone else has had the same experience with him but I feel like we’re the same person sometimes haha.

 He also approaches everything he does with integrity and a meticulousness that most people don’t have. We’re in this point in the tattoo industry where everyone is busy. It’s really easy to put a bunch of google images together and call it done. And slap it on someone. Then take a polarizing filtered photo and photoshop that and get tons of business. But to put so much thought into each clients piece, how it will sit on the body, color choices that will hold up over time… I respect anyone who puts that level of thought into anything they do. 

6. Ideal client? Three things you wish they all knew without having to explain?

Someone who is a true fan of what I do and will not limit my creativity. A lot of people get stuck on what they’ve already seen in my work, but they don’t realize there are so many more things we can do. A lot of people want what they’ve already seen, which is safe and I understand that, but nobody ever came up to me and said they wanted a 3-d cube chest piece until I did my first one. Someone who gives me full creative freedom or picks one of my own concepts, can sit well, has great skin that they take good care of, and who has a budget that won’t limit what we can do. 

7. Most bizarre experience with a client?

All my clients are pretty tame these days haha. But I’ve had a lot of weird experiences. Most of which were in the early days of my career. 

The first guy who ever passed out on me was in a basement in a pub in Iceland. Not sure if it’s true but my friend told me that the guy who got me in there was some Icelandic mob boss haha. It was his friend who passed out. He fell backwards in his chair and hit his head on the floor. The mob boss guy ran over and was feeling for a pulse. I thought I killed the guy and was getting ready to grab my stuff and run!  He woke up, puked, and when I told him I think we should finish it another day he was like “fuck you! We finish it” so we finished it. I eventually tattooed the mob boss guy who was a very nice guy 🙂 We did a spider next to a cute little butterfly tattoo on his shoulder blade haha. 

8. How long have you been tattooing? Biggest changes you’ve seen along the way?

  I started tattooing in 2003 so 16 years?  There have been soo many changes. Obviously technology changes and evolves but also the level of art that is able to be produced. Even being able to take a million pictures till you get the right one and then instantly post it in a portfolio that thousands of people see is crazy. I remember taking like 3-4 pics with a disposable camera and being like, “yeah we probably got one. “  

9. Changes you hope or predict to see in the near future? 

 I hope that the industry still continues to grow and become more accepted in the art community as a real medium. I think we are going to continue to see some amazing artists innovate and creat new genres. I also think we are getting to a point where fundamentally almost everyone will be able to create a clean solid tattoo.  Trade secrets used to be tightly guarded and there was also a ton of misinformation out there. But like most other art mediums, now the information is out there. Artists success is going to be determined by what you can create out of your head and what you have to say with your work. Not just whether or not you can create a clean tattoo. 

10. Most rewarding part of being a tattooer?

 Meeting my clients and making them happy. 

 Also being able to help other artists with their careers. I’ve had quite a few tattoo artists reach out to me over the years who have been stuck with certain aspects of their career. I’ve been there and I know that sometimes it just takes an outside perspective from another artist to help you see the light. 

11. Any personal milestones you’re hoping to reach as an artist?

 Just to keep learning and grow as an artist 

12. Three best pieces of advice for the countless amount of tattooers hoping to reach the level you have?

  Know what you want out of your career. Having a general direction of what kind of work you’re hoping to do will always give you the clarity you need to make the right decisions. 

 Work your ass off to reach your goals. Once you know where you want to be, work harder than anyone else to get there. Working hard just for work sake won’t get you anywhere, you have to know what your working towards. 

  Never stop learning. Don’t believe all you’re friends and clients who are telling you how awesome you are. No matter how great you think you are, there are a million other people who are better than you. That doesn’t mean to give up or that you suck. It just means that if you want to achieve that level of success, you have to stay humble and learn as much as you can from as many people as you can. 

Thanks for your time Jesse!  I am honored that you took the time to do this knowing how busy you are.  Be sure to follow Jesse to see more of his incredible work- @Jesse_Rix

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