By Joey Knuckles
Tattooing is all about progression. We learn from our mistakes and we grow every day; we should all approach it with humility and respect for our fellow artists. True tattooers want to continue to grow, and to become the best tattooers, artists, and people that they can be. To do this we must get rid of the negativity. I can tell you from my own personal experiences over the past couple of years that there are already enough things to bring you down.
A little advice: about two years ago, I stopped listening to news/media/political arguments. I also fought off some personal demons, such as drinking, anger, and depression. Not only have my anxiety and stress levels dropped drastically, but also my thought process has been liberated and I’ve been able to focus on what truly matters. Separating yourself from all the negativity and drama in your life, and surrounding yourself with people who support you is so important. The people in my life, including my wife Tori, my ever loyal Philadelphia clientele, my continuously growing Columbus clientele, and my brothers everywhere, are what keep me going and continuing to progress and to further my understanding of the past, present, and future of this craft. I can wake up in the morning, work on some sketches, and just be happy and honored to be part of the tattoo community.
We are the few and the lucky to be “true tattoo artists.” We must understand that we are all folk artists responsible for handing this craft over to the next generation with integrity and intelligence. If we ever want to progress as individuals and as artists, we have to understand fully what builds a true “traditional tattoo.” Not that everyone has to work in a “traditional style,” but everyone should understand and be able to accomplish the fundamental tattooing techniques. We must understand the tools involved in this trade, and resist relying on shortcuts such as tracing other artists’ work, Google images, and using programs like Photoshop to create graphic images that are unrealistic in the tattoo world (never mind Photoshopping tattoo pictures to create colors and vibrancy that do not exist in nature). As the saying goes, “Don’t confuse the menu with the meal.” People in the beginnings of their careers in this industry are learning these days with rotaries right from the start, without taking the necessary 5 to 10 years needed to master working with coil machines, among other aspects of tattooing. It seems everyone is rushing into fame without absorbing the knowledge required to become a “tattoo master.” So let’s take this note from one of our forefathers in tattooing, which has been a personal motto of mine, so that maybe we can all treat each other, and our craft, a little better: “I ‘Joey Knuckles’ am in the business of rendering a service to this community for the small group who choose to have their bodies decorated in some way or another…I choose to pursue my profession with intelligence and skill, wishing not to offend anyone, but instead with my love for mankind do what good I can do before I die…” —Pledge by Stoney St. Clair.
Joey Knuckles has been tattooing since 2003. Beginning his career in Columbus, Ohio most notably at High Street Tattoo, where he honed his tattoo skills in a fast-paced environment under his mentor Giovani. He then moved to Philadelphia in 2008, working in legendary shops like Philadelphia Eddies, Olde City Tattoo, Art Machine Productions, and Black Vulture Gallery, over the past five years. He has now returned to Columbus full-time, after inheriting High Street tattoo from his good friend, mentor, and High Street Tattoo founder Giovani. Joey prides himself on being a well-rounded tattoo artist specializing in anything ranging from cover-ups, custom lettering, floral work, to large-scale illustrative designs.