Dan Gilsdorf: To me, it's apples and oranges. Tattooing is very much tied up in the idea of technical skill, so whether I want to do a tattoo that has kind of a raw look to it, I need that raw look to be intentional. I need it to be something that I am able to achieve because I have a certain dexterity that I've built up over the years. I need to have control over the medium so that I can make it look the way that I want it to. But that's a technical skill.
That's different from art. You can make great contemporary art without touching anything, and without making anything. The part of contemporary art that is the most exciting to me is the intellectual component, the part that exists in the mind, in the consciousness of viewers, and in the discourse of the contemporary arts as a whole. Tattooing to me is so wrapped up with technical proficiency that it exists much more in the world of craft and craftsmanship or a trade. So, to me, in that sense the motivations are different.
Certainly the standards by which you judge the quality of a work of art are different from those by which you judge the quality of a tattoo. So for me they exist in very, very different realms, which is why my artwork doesn’t have anything to do with tattooing and vice versa.
Uncle Pauly: I think that there are a lot of people who could be insulted by that! (Uncle Pauly included judging by his posture) People who consider themselves artists or tattoo artists per se…
Sure, but they might define art differently than I do. Here's the thing…
Correct, but potentially, you know that could be perceived as awfully snobbish!
Why? It's not a value judgment! I'm not saying that art is better than tattooing, I'm saying that art is different than tattooing. In my life, I spend WAY more time and energy tattooing than I do making art.
Okay, let's say you were an oil painter.
Which I am most emphatically not!
The manipulation of that medium is a craft.
Your artistic integration into that medium is your intellectual side coming out in what you're doing. But that's through your dexterity, your skills with the medium which is more craft oriented. So I think that no matter what you're doing, even if it's on a more intellectual level… because tattooing is primal, there's no doubt about it…
And well it should be- But you're definitely drawing a very distinct line. So, in other words you're saying that tattooing is just your job, it’s how you pay the rent…
No no no, that's not what I'm saying at all. I have a deep affection for tattooing on the whole, not just putting on tattoos but the whole schmear. The idea that you and I can sit here and drink and smoke pipes together, and discuss these things; that's tattooing to me. And that is very, very valuable but it's just different from art. I like tattooing more than I like art.
(From the full article as seen in the upcoming Tattoo Artist Magazine #25)
Dan Gilsdorf can be found at Atlas Tattoo in Portland, OR