In an interview with Sista Ink Magazine, Danny offers valuable insights on the proper application of color tattoos on dark skin, and takes us back to the beginnings of his personal journey as an artist; investing in self and pursuing his dream.
By Dawn Hockaday Editor in Chief
You describe yourself as starting from the bottom, starting from nothing. Can you take us back to the beginning?
The beginning for me was when my dad died and I wanted to get a tattoo in remembrance of my pops, so I went to the local tattoo artist in the city. I felt like the artist didn’t know how to draw, he just put ink in the skin. I never took classes, but knew how to draw; I just had fallen back with being focused on it. I was always what people would call a hustler; finding a means to make money, in a positive way, and I saw it as an opportunity. I just invested in myself right then.
When did you start drawing?
I was drawing in elementary school starting in second grade. I got awards in middle school for being the most artistic. When I got into high school, that’s when it kind of fell back a little bit. It was every now and then that I would draw. Tattooing brought the drawing back, and it just went from there.
You’re mainly a black and grey artist but your color tattoos, especially on darker skin, definitely hold their own. Is there a connection between the two styles in regards to the application on dark skin?
I do use the contrast of black and grey shading with colors. So instead of using one tone on darker skin, like a red, I’ll use two tones of red to give that contrast between a darker red and a lighter red, so it’s like when I’m doing color I’m still using the same methods as I would use in a black and grey piece. I will go from dark dark shading to nothing, which would be your skin tone, versus using dark dark coloring. So it’s kind of the same concept.
What advice would you give someone with a darker skin tone who wants to get a tattoo with lots of detail?
My advice on that would be to go bigger. You need to go bigger so you’re able to put that detail in those pieces. The detail has to be bigger as well. Say you’re doing a rose on a dark skinned person, the rose petals and the rose itself needs to be bigger so that you will have a bigger range. It has to be a little bigger than normal because when you’re working with dark skin with black and grey, your lightest black is going to be the color of the skin tone, it’s the same. A dark dark brown versus a light black is kind of hard to see, so you’ve got to have big spacing to show that detail.
Tell us about the piece you’re most proud of, that piece out there that you were like, “this is a masterpiece!” What was your process in making that piece?
My most recent masterpiece was an elephant I did on my wife. She wanted a tattoo so I just started brainstorming and I came up with an animal, then it went from an animal to an elephant, and then I didn’t want to just do a regular elephant I wanted to do something with some jewels like a queen of elephants if there was one. On dark skin what I like to do is implicate black and grey, it’s a black and grey piece but with hints of color. I wanted to do multiple shades of red, variations of dark reds, pink reds, bright reds, just breaking it down. I was proud of that, I was happy with how the overall piece turned out. It was better than I had envisioned it and I’m kind of like my worst critic which keeps me pushing, so for me to satisfy myself, that was kind of big.
What would the one technique be that you would share with an up-and-coming artist, or someone who was curious about how to improve their skill in tattooing darker skin?
My main thing would be proportions. It changes the whole perception of a good tattoo on a dark skinned person and a bad tattoo on dark skinned person. You can know how to tattoo but if you choose the wrong steps to achieve what you’re trying to achieve it might not turn out. For example; imagine if you put a small version of a David and Goliath fight scene on darker skin, that’s going to look like a blob, but if you take that piece and you go from elbow to shoulder in a broader way, that piece will look very nice. One of the biggest things is that you have to darken your background so it makes what’s inside the background shine, it makes what’s in the foreground, pop out.
I’m a dark skinned person and I understand. I don’t want to be hard on people but the darker you are, coming in to a tattoo artist, you have to apply these rules in order to get a nice tattoo. I turn down tattoos because I know what the outcome is going to be and I can’t have my name attached to something I don’t want to do. I’m going to do it the way that it should be done, the way that’s going to make it shine.
What is your favorite tattoo that you have? And who was the artist?
The funny thing about that is I really don’t have a favorite tattoo on myself. I have tattoos from before I became a tattoo artist, so I’m not one of those artists that have the nicest art on them. Not saying what all I have is trash, I’m just saying it’s nowhere near what I do. What I do is what I like. You have to remember, I came into the game of tattooing off of that artist that I felt wasn’t really applying artistic art into his tattooing. I don’t blame him or anything like that, I just saw it as an opportunity that I could provide better.
You’re a business owner; you own your own your tattoo shop, and quite a successful one in Jacksonville, Florida. What’s it like managing not only your clients but trying to run a successful business as well?
I’ve always been a hustler, that’s really my passion, being a businessman, opening up and managing shops. My team is also strong, you’re nothing without your team and my team is very strong. Everybody stands on their own, everybody holds their own weight so it frees me up to get a name out there. I have time to do that because my team is so good. We move together as a unit and we try to capitalize.
What’s next for Danny what’s next for you?
Now, I’m branding myself as an artist, “iamdannytattoo.com” so just taking myself to the next level of exposure doing more industry tattooing, the mainstream part of it. I’m on that road that’s the road that I’m on. I’m trying to get into the mainstream of tattooing, that’s my dream.