Russ Howie - Get Animal Inked | Outlaw Kritters Gifts & Jewelry for Dog, Cat & Animal lovers.
May 17, 2016


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Russ Howie - Get Animal Inked

Russ HowieThis 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...





 dog painting by Russ Howie

How do animals inspire your artwork?

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.      

 owl tattoo by Russ Howie

What medium do you work in?

I work exclusively in oil on canvas or wood panel, watercolor on cold press or wood panel, and tattoo ink in (human) epidermis.


cat tattoo by Russ Howie

Do you own or have you owned any pets and if so, tell us about them?

I had an awesome dog growing up. His name was Bosco and he was a collie mix with maybe lab and possible Rottweiler.  Most chill dog ever.  The place could be getting robbed and all he’d want was his belly rubbed and a piece of cheese.  Aside from Bosco, I’ve kept fish from time to time throughout my life.  Back in San Diego I definitely had an aquarium obsession going.  We had about a dozen or so tanks in the studio at one point, not to mention a few terrariums with lizards and poison Dart frogs and stuff.  That carried over to about a half dozen tanks in my tiny 2 bedroom house.  It was getting a little out of control and my incredibly tolerant and laid back girlfriend at the time was starting to trip about it.  After a few years I moved and had to tear down the tanks and then never really got back into it.  Aquariums, if done right, are a lot of constant work and that makes it difficult to maintain and a very involved and time consuming hobby.  Which I didn’t mind and it was something I very much enjoyed, but my schedule became tight and the aquarium hobby moved further and further down the priority list.  Next thing I knew there weren’t enough hours in the day for it anymore.  You know how that goes sometimes.  However, about 6 years ago I had up to 4 cats at one point including 2 Bengals.  Now I just have one tuxedo cat named Tiva who’s been with me for about 15 years.  She’s the OG.  She doesn’t really meow, but instead chortles.  Kinda sounds like some strange alien language, but the tone of it is very matter of fact-like.  It’s obvious she assumes I can understand her language.   I don’t, but in a weird way I swear I can communicate with this cat.  It’s crazy.  Anyway, she looks exactly like the Johnny Cat logo (pink nose and all) and is an amazing friend.  She never got bigger than about 4 – 5 pounds and is a lover.  Very personable cat and comes out to meets strangers rather than hides.   She loves being pet and loves any human interaction really.  About a year ago she started this thing where every time I’m on the phone with an immediate family member (mom, sis, bro) she comes running from wherever she is in the house and gets all affectionate and stuff rolling around on the floor at my feet and licking my toes and purring in my ear.  It’s like she knows its family on the phone.  Super weird.  And she’s super persistent and it only happens with immediate family members.  It’s like some amazing next level animal instinct mojo.


Dog portrait by Russ Howie

How long have you been creating art?

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.  


dog tattoo by Russ Howie

What is your favorite piece of artwork you’ve created?

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. 

 Indian on Horse Painting by Russ Howie

What are 3 of your favorite famous animal characters?

Cat woman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Donatello), Grape Ape the 40 foot gorill-ill-ill-ill-aaaaa.


turtle drawing by Russ Howie

How would you describe your feelings toward animals?

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? 

 Horse drawing by Russ Howie

Anything else you would like us to know about your artwork or yourself?

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 @ for details. 

Want to connect more with Russ? Follow him at the following locations:



Instagram #tattoo_russ

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