Tell us your name, and what you do.
My name is Dan Bones, and I work as a tattoo artist and illustrator at Incognito Tattoo in Los Angeles.
How did you become an artist? And moreover, how did you make this passion your day job?
I was always drawing as a kid and went to school for film and animation in Boston. I graduated from Emerson College in 2006 and moved to New York shortly after to work as a video editor and motion graphics designer for an animation studio. In 2008, I started taking continuing ed courses at SVA for illustration and started getting tattooed at Brooklyn Adorned. I got to meet some of the most incredible tattooers in the US, all of whom I still look up to today. During the recession in 2009, I was a freelance animator whenever I could get work, but was mostly moving furniture and working as a bike messenger. I realized I hated working in offices and decided to put all my time and effort into finding a tattoo apprenticeship. It took two years before I was professionally working in a shop, and I am unbelievably grateful to everyone that gave me a chance and helped me along the way.
What is different about tattooing versus illustration?
In essence, the relationship with the client. As far as subject matter, technique and longevity, I see the fewer and fewer differences between each medium every day. The one constant is the transfer of trust, energy, and commitment between artist and client that isn't possible with freelance illustration work. Tattooing demands that you be focused 100% of the time. When I worked in an office, I felt like I was barely present. Tattooing requires non-stop attention and can be exhausting mentally and emotionally at the end of a day. Aside from the challenges in the craft itself, being able to communicate in the moment with a client, read their body language, and present yourself professionally is a skill that you're always improving upon. It's almost like a live performance aspect to a fine art, which makes for a wildly dynamic, exciting and rewarding craft.
What inspires your work?
You recently moved from New York to Los Angeles. Talk a little bit about the different of arts in both coasts, and what inspired your move?
My wife Meg and I have been in LA for exactly one month as I write this, it feels a little naive to talk about the differences between the two since LA is so new to us. The move was something we had been planning for years but was still a really difficult decision after being in New York for 12 years. I am unbelievably grateful for the clientele that I have built up in New York, all of the friends we have there, and the amazing music scene we left behind. However, I was putting way more energy into the city than I was getting back. I was spending all of my free time exhausted and miserable and started to withdraw from friends. I could go on for hours about why we moved, but in short, this was an opportunity to take what energy and hustle I still have and put it into an entirely new environment and ideally new creative outlets.
What does dark art mean to you?
What are your favorite subject matters to tattoo and illustrate?
The longer I tattoo, the more I focus on how a particular subject flows with the contours of the body, so currently, my favorite things to tattoo are snakes, birds, floral pieces, geometric work, and filigree pieces. I love doing technical renderings and architectural drawings, and I will ALWAYS love tattooing skulls, sharks, chains, tigers and anything heavy metal inspired. As for illustration, I love doing post-apocalyptic landscapes that are sort of a mix of Warhammer 40K and Tank Girl imagery. Lots of skulls, spikes, ghosts, robots, mutants and beer cans.
A lot of your work is blackwork, but I've been seeing some color creeping in there. Can you talk a little bit more about that process of potentially transitioning style and what inspired that?
Before I was tattooing I only ever worked in color! Once I started to really take illustration and tattooing seriously, I stripped my work back down to its foundations and strictly worked with lines for years before I started introducing tonal values to my work. I feel like the past five years of tattooing for me have been strictly focusing on creating stronger, more readable compositions that fit the body better, while my illustration work has been getting back to color more heavily. I'm always happy to do color tattoos, but no one ever asks me for them. I would love to do more color pieces!
Top five artists, that you think every person reading this must follow?
Ian Bederman, @wonkytiger on Instagram. PHENOMENALLY creative, wildly imaginative, super prolific sci-fi tattoos that have soooo much style. He also does all the art for the Heavy Metal Mag comic Atomahawk. Absolutely one of my favorite artists currently working.
Mark Richards, @heavy.hand I met Mark fairly early into his illustration career and was like "yeah, this dude is pretty good." Within a year, he was completely blowing me away with how insanely strong his pieces are, which he cranks out a mile a minute. His work is super expressive, it reads beautifully, and Mark is suuuuch a good hustler. I can't name many bands I love that he hasn't worked with. He also has work up in "From Ash To Flame" and I'm stoked to be in a show with him again.
Gerald Feliciano @geraldfeliciano Criminally underrated tattooer in New York currently working at Leathernecks Tattoo and Invisible Tattoo. Gerald's style is a mix of art nouveau and traditional Japanese, but his reproductions of renaissance and baroque paintings are absolutely incredible.
Kati Vaughn @Kativaughn Kati's work is the living, breathing embodiment of the phrase "that's fuckin' badass." Whether its a smutty engraving on a lighter or a hectic blastover sleeve, Kati just makes the coolest work while simultaneously being the coolest person. She tattoos at Three Kings in Brooklyn.
What was absolutely a career highlight for you? Moreover, a career low?
You can find Dan at Incognito Tattoo in Los Angeles, on Instagram, and via his website.