This week, we interview multi-talented musician, painter, and tattoo artist, Russ Howie. Russ has a soft spot when it comes to animals, which began when he was a kid, and is now being showcased in his beautiful paintings and tattoos. His tattoos take a realistic approach and many happy customers proudly display his work. So, grab a cup of joe, and settle in for a great read. You don't want to miss the part about the Easter bunny...
I mean, not to sound too simplistic but I love animals and they make awesome and endless subject matter. But if you want the “artistic” answer to that question, it actually changes depending on the day, and is also different from piece to piece depending on whatever set of circumstances are involved. Where I end up with a piece is a journey and definitely has about 90% to do with how I feel in the moment, in combination with that specific situation and set of circumstances. I consider the whole process to be the foundation for keeping myself open to inspiration. Also, I do both commissioned work and I do my own art, in my own spare time, for my own personal artistic reasons, and the inspiration for each situation is entirely different. With pet portrait commissions, my inspiration comes mostly from my clients. The relationship, personality, and connection between the client and his/her pet are what inspire me in this specific situation. With this particular type of work, the goal for me is always to capture the most prominent and unique features of the animal so that the collector can have an emotional experience with the piece in addition to the obvious decorative one. Providing this experience is my inspiration in this situation. However, in my own personally inspired -non-commissioned- artwork, when I use an animal in a piece it is definitely under a completely different set of circumstances, and therefore the motivations and inspirations are different as well. More often than not, if I use an animal in a piece, or if I use an animal as the subject in a piece, it is done as a metaphor for some underlying message either within the painting or of the painting as a whole. The message may be open to interpretation, but if you see any animal imagery in my personal work, it is done symbolically. So the inspiration behind this feature in a lot of my work is continuously changing from idea to idea, actually.
I work exclusively in oil on canvas or wood panel, watercolor on cold press or wood panel, and tattoo ink in (human) epidermis.
I honestly began to define myself as an artist at a very young age, and had a lot of encouragement around me to do so. At age 4 I was already drawing pictures of sharks and marine creatures with crayons for my mother’s dental office wall. I’m 40 now, so I would say that I have been creating at least some form of art for most of my life. And I still do art for my mom’s office wall, but I’ve graduated from crayons to paint. In regards to mediums, actually I never really ventured too far from drawing in #2 pencil, to be honest with you, until about 1998 when I learned Photoshop and studied graphic design at a university in my home state of New York. At school I was introduced to other mediums, but unfortunately I was not mature enough at that time to move on from my pencil drawings in my personal artwork beyond the work I did exclusively for school. In 1999 I was introduced to tattooing and by 2002 I had moved to California and found a tattoo apprenticeship situation. After about 6 years of professional tattooing I was introduced to painting and have been painting now for about 7 years.
To be honest, I get new favorites all the time and fall out of love very quickly with pieces that I may have been originally crazy about. I am actually very critical of my own work. Sometimes I hate a piece and stare at it long enough and eventually grow to love it. And sometimes the complete opposite. And to be even more honest, I think my favorite pieces are ones that are still in my mind and haven’t come out yet. But for the sake of answering the question, I have a desert scene tattoo that I have been working on that I am very proud of and super excited about doing more work on. And painting wise I would say that I am very connected to some of my Native American artwork because it is inspired by my father who passed away 7 years ago.
Cat woman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Donatello), Grape Ape the 40 foot gorill-ill-ill-ill-aaaaa.
It’s funny. The first thing that comes to mind is that when I was a kid, I would cry if I had to eat a chocolate Easter bunny. I thought the chocolate Easter bunny was so cute, that the thought of biting into its cute little sugar candy nose was like totally traumatizing for me. True story! And the thought still crosses my mind when they start putting the chocolate Easter bunnies out on the store shelves. Growing up, I was the kid who was always saying; “Mom, can we keep him?” I would bring home and/or feed stray cats and dogs and was always bringing home reptiles of some kind. My parents would send me to summer camp and I would ditch camp to sneak off and catch frogs and turtles with friends. Is it wrong if I say that I probably have more faith and compassion for animals than I do for humans at this point in my life?
I am currently seeking new clients who would like tattoos (or paintings) specifically of songbirds or horses done in a classic, realism style. Additionally, I am also working on a series of politically themed paintings and I am seeking models of all kinds who wish to have their images and/or likenesses portrayed in an original If you would like to have your image/likeness used as the subject of an original oil painting, please contact me @ RussFtattoo@yahoo.com for details.
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