Tattoo artist: Luke Wessman
In life sometimes you meet, talk or read about someone that earns your respect as a person and an artist. In our case we are talking, well writing about Luke Wessman from Wooster Street Social Club in NYC (SOHO section). Luke’s outlook on hard work, tattooing and woman makes him a gentlemen among men. I think his Facebook page sums it up perfectly:
“Grew up poor with a selfless mother and a working class father. Went to the school of hard knocks…..but I would not change a thing for fear I would not be the man that I am today. I learned; Humility from my poverty, Love from my mother, Art from my father, Friendship from my friends, Respect from the OGs in the hood, and Success from my self. I believe in… do unto others as I would want done unto me.” We had the pleasure in speaking with Luke in between traveling and tattooing.
AnoTat2: We know you have been tattooing professionally since 2000, what made you get into tattooing?
Luke: Timing, being in the wrong place at the right time.
AnoTat2: When you first started out did you do a formal apprenticeship?
Luke: It wasn’t really a formal one as a general definition of the term, but it was in the classic tattoo culture way. I was basically a shop helper that was allowed to be around real tattooing and tattoo conversation. Basically the helpers that had the right state of mind and a respectful nature were allowed to be around long enough to be able to piece together all the information that was being passed back and forth around you, in front of your face and take it to heart. Those are the guys that turn out great and that was a “apprenticeship” . Not this pay some asshole/new tattooer 3 thousand dollars, he’ll show you how to run a rotary machine and than sends you on your way to open a shop in a month -not that shit. Its that long dedicated, dues paying process that gives a tattooer pride, appreciation, and a healthy respect for our craft. It’s the reason I have so much respect for tattooing and real tattooers; it was hard work getting into the business pre google.
AnoTat2: Over the years as you developed your own unique style of tattooing were there any artist style(s) that influenced your work?
Luke: I’m constantly looking for inspiration as it comes from all over. Inspiration is everywhere. If I had to name a few artists in the beginning of my career; I would say Dave Gibson, Milford Barnes, Mike Wilson, Jack Rudy, Morgwn Pennypacker, Freddy Corbin, and Ed Hardy to name a few.
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AnoTat2: How would you classify your style? To me it has a twist of old school and the same style of single needle you saw from the early days of Black and Grey.
Luke: Yeah growing up where I did the first tattoos I saw were chicano / gang related tattoos and I loved that style. Than when I actually got into tattooing I learned from traditional style tattooers. Always paying attention to the streets and fine line work though. I try to mix a little of both whenever possible.
AnoTat2: I read in another publication that both your parents were hippies; what was their reaction when you started to get tattoos and make it your passion?
Luke: I was not really around them when I started getting tattooed in the early 90′s so it wasn’t a issue. I was only with them when I was a young kid for personal Issues.
AnoTat2: At what age did you get your first tattoo and what was the story behind it?
Luke: I was 16 and my older brother took me to his friends house who was tattooing everyone in the neighborhood at the time. I really wanted to look tough as I was a super skinny and getting tattooed at 16 I thought it would help my “street cred”.
AnoTat2: What shop do you consider your “home” shop as you seem to go back and forth from NY and CA?
Wooster Street Social Club aka NY Ink in Soho NYC. I do go back and forth to Cali often as I have a lot of personal ties and projects going on there. I don’t plan on making NY home for ever, although it is a magical city.
AnoTat2: From following you on Instagram and Twitter you and Tim Hendricks, another artist we respect seem to be good friends; how did the two of you meet?
Luke: I met Tim in passing in Cali a couple times in the late 90′s early 2000′s. We both grew up deep in the southern californian culture but it wasn’t until I was out in Miami working at “Miami Ink” with him that our friendship really started to grow. Over the years our friendship has grown and I am honored to say him and his wife are no longer friends, they are family now. He is a great friend and I am thankful to Ami James for bringing us together in Miami all those years ago.
AnoTat2: What conventions do you attend throughout the year?
Luke: I try to go to the London Tattoo Convention, Ink ‘n Iron, and the Bay Area one, but to be honest I’m not a big fan of conventions. It feels like its an ego and cool guy contest. I never feel cool enough to make that cut.
AnoTat2: Have you ever faced an discrimination due to your visible ink?
Luke: Yes, I have a lot over the years. Back in the day parents would hold their children tighter and old ladies would cross to the other side of the street. You really had to have thick skin and be down for it. Now parents let their kids poke you while their asking “who does your ink”. Which is fine but these young kids getting tattoos don’t know what we went through and tattooers before us went through to pave the way for their freedom of ”self expression” or whatever.
AnoTat2: What advice would you give a young person getting a visible tattoo like on their hand(s), neck or face?
Luke: Don’t! Unless you get your whole body tattooed and you run out of room then do it.
AnoTat2: You also run another Instagram account called “Lost art of the Gentleman”, what brought this about? As a father of two young girls I appreciate what values you are stating on this account. So thank you for doing this.
Luke: I started doing these romantic type post every once and a while; just thoughts I had on women and being a gentleman. I noticed there was a great response to them so it inspired me to do them more often. I was with a lady for the last 10 years straight and then all of a sudden I found myself single in the dating world in New York City. This just sparked all kinds of sentiments; I just post from the heart. I’m a old fashion romantic at heart and that wears his heart on my sleeve. I also have sisters, nieces, a mother and I always remember them when it comes to how women should be treated.
AnoTat2: You’re also known for the the saying “Self Made, Dues Paid”, can you tell us more about this?
Luke: Its not that I think I’ve “made it” or that I’m done paying dues, but coming from very very little I’ve made it very far and I’ve paid a lot of dues in a lot of different areas of life. “We are all self made but it is only those who have made something of their lives care to admit it”
AnoTat2: If someone wants to set up an appointment with you, what’s the best method?
Luke: The best way is to talk to me in person, the next best way is to email me and we’ll go from there.
AnoTat2: What can we expect from you in the future?
Luke: Well I’m working on doing some stuff with my friends at Hurley; they are doing some great things with a lot of great artists. Im doing something with my friend Travis Barker and his Famous brand. I’m working on a big solo art show at a fancy gallery in NY. I’m also planning some big things that are just in the beginning stages and I’m not at liberty to talk about them yet, but I guarantee everyone is gonna notice. All good things; I’m very blessed to have more projects then time these days. I’m very blessed – hard work and friendship pays!
Luke also has a book out, Rose Book which features over 40 of the worlds top artists and 100 pages of the best drawn roses you will every find. If you ever been looking for a rose reference this book order this book. You can check it out on Luke’s website here.
Here is some of Luke's paintings and drawings: