If you’re expecting Wes Hogan to look back fondly on his time as an Ink Master contestant this season, you may want to think again. The veteran tattooer has carved out a place for himself at one of the top tattoo shops in Southern California at Yucaipa’s Artistic Element Tattoo, and although the brief stint on cable television may have helped him get his name into some extra homes, Hogan feels it wasn’t exactly worth it just to get to a larger audience.
“Ink Master is crazy,” Hogan says. “It’s a lot of standing around and waiting, and it was cold as hell. It was just kind of awkward, and it just wasn’t for me. I didn’t have a good time and I don’t think I’d ever do it again. It’s one of those things where you can’t believe everything you see on TV because — if you saw me on it — we look terrible. I’m excited to close that chapter.”
But well over 20 years before he’d ever contemplated going on a reality television show, Hogan was introduced to tattooing through his friend’s older brother. For a 14-year-old who had always maintained a passion for art, seeing his older kids with tattoos was all it took to get him hooked on tattoos. Of course, that was back in 1994 when tattooing didn’t actually seem like a viable career for most artists, so it took Hogan quite a while longer to actually begin his ink-slinging journey.
“It just felt like something I was supposed to do,” Hogan says of his decision to start tattooing. “I’d always loved art, so it didn’t really seem like a choice. I had a job servicing backup generators for jet engines and all that stuff, and then I got laid off from that company and realized I didn’t really like doing that kind of work. Then I went and got an apprenticeship and started tattooing.”
Now that he’s put well over a decade into the tattoo world, Hogan can’t help but look back fondly at some ways of how tattooing used to be. Although it’s certainly a bigger and more successful industry than ever before, the popularity and improvements in skill have also brought about a change in attitudes surrounding tattoos. With platforms like Instagram allowing artists and clients alike to see the work of tattooers all over the world, the standard for tattoo design and execution is higher than ever — meaning that some of the coolness of just getting a random tattoo isn’t there anymore.
“The ability to find good artists has changed a lot,” Hogan says. “I remember back in the day, we would have to wait for the magazines to come out to see who was doing what and get inspired by that. Now with social media, you can get everything pretty much daily. It’s also not cool just to get tattooed anymore. Now it has to be the best tattoo, which isn’t something that I like. Back when I got into it, just getting tattooed meant you were a badass with tattoos.”
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Along with those changes, the advancements in tattooing technology — from needles and inks to iPads and Photoshop — have allowed many artists to create tattoos that weren’t thought possible until recently. For Hogan, it means spreading his elite black and gray skills into the realm of color tattoos and experiencing the pros and cons of portraying a realistic color image on skin.
“Color is harder for me for sure — it’s probably harder for most people — because it’s more time-consuming and you have to rely on the person’s skin more than you do for black and gray,” Hogan says. “If they’re real tan, the color’s not going to look as good. You kind of have to look for chubby, pasty, real pale people for color, whereas black and gray it helps to be lighter, but it doesn’t matter as much.”
Artistic Element Tattoo, 34247 Yucaipa Blvd., Yucaipa, 909-797-8280, @awesomehogan