Tattoo Artist: Paul Kirk, Bare Knuckles Tattoo
Our artist spotlight is on Paul Kirk from Bare Knuckles Tattoos. The shop is located in Charleston, WV where they offer custom tattoos.
Another Tattoo caught up with Paul after returning from a road trip attending one of many tattoo conventions he attends a year.
AnoTat2: How long have you been tattooing for?
Paul: I have been tattooing for 20 years this year.
AnoTat2: How old were you when you got your first tattoo? What was it?
Paul: 14 when I got my first tattoo, it was a little guy with 2 smoking pistols.
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AnoTat2: We hear there is a good story behind your first tattoo and how you started your apprenticeship.
Paul: As soon as I got my first tattoo I knew then that I wanted to become a tattoo artist. I asked the man that was doing my artwork how do I go about getting into tattooing. He introduced me to the owner of the shop I was at and he spoke with me with the utmost respect for being interested in becoming a tattoo artist. He then told me to go out and learn a little more about life, I then proceeded to tell him with my head held high “only if you knew”. After the talk and a handshake less than a year later I walked back in with a folder (not very well put together) with some of my artwork. At the time he was down an artist so he took a look at my work and we spoke a little more and then he spoke with my father. At the end of the discussion I had an apprenticeship. The first day I learned how to set up a proper station and break it down and took blood-born pathogen (class). 2nd day I learned how to make needles properly and I mean all day . I also learned the workings of a tattoo machine. 3rd day I tattooed everyone that walked in the doors. (Not the way an apprenticeship should go at all) I fucked up a lot of tattoos for the first 3 years. I won't mention the name of the street shop that I started in, as the only credit I can give them is that they opened the doors to where I am now in life. I can start giving credit for my learning to Jay Fish of Acme Ink in KY. Shawn Carol and Graham Fisher, I got to work with these very talented artists in Blacksberg, VA at Danny’s Ancient Art. From there I got introduced to the workings, ins and outs of a mag by Shawn and it was on like Donkey Kong.
AnoTat2: What artist(s) have influenced you and your work over the years?
Paul: I’ve been influenced by many artists over the years- Jay Fish of Acme Ink and his very talented top notch crew, Bob Tyrell, Jack Rudy, Joe Cap, Flip Leu, Henning, Sailor Jerry, Marshall Bennett, Dave Tevenal, and there are so many more.
AnoTat2: We see from your website and Facebook page a variety of styles of tattoos, what is your favorite style to do?
Paul: I can say that my favorite style would be neo-traditional, bold color. I really enjoy custom drawing the tattoo and keeping in mind clean line work where less is more. Less lines more impact and detail put in the color and layers. I also enjoy the challenge of a cover up also known as a tattoo nightmare. To see the smile on the face of the client when they see their tattoo that once was a mistake or a regret, now is a life changing piece of artwork. there is no better feeling on this planet.
AnoTat2: I have seen you working at the NC Tattoo Convention and know you will be at the Asheville Tattoo Fest in March –how different is it to tattoo at an event or your own studio?
Paul: Tattooing at an event is always very exciting. For one you’re just surrounded by talent; I always say “you’re only as good as who you surround yourself by”. The only disadvantage I have encountered is just being out of my comfort zone of my studio and my everyday norm but after the 1st few lines of the 1st tattoo it's back to the daily grind. The hardest thing on the road is being away from my wife and 3 kids.
AnoTat2: Most tattoo artist we spoke to had turned away work due to either the person’s attitude or what they wanted to have tattooed on them – have you ever turned anyone away? If so what was the story behind it?
Paul: There is so many crazy moments I can think of through the years where I turned away/threw out people over ignorance but if the tattoo can not be done large enough to where it can age and still be clean and bold from 50 feet away, I think it doesn't need to be done.
AnoTat2: What do you recommend for aftercare?
Paul: 1st day wipe tattoo clean daily with hot water. 2nd day start use of Curel Lotion by apply a small amount and wipe dry. Apply no more than 3 times a day for 2 weeks.
AnoTat2: What advice would you give someone looking for a new shop to get a tattoo (whether they are new to the area or their favorite artist has moved out of town).
Paul: Research shops in the area, always look at a portfolio first and cleanliness, also how you are treated. You don’t want to be tattooed by an assembly line shop where its about the cash and not the art work. Remember the art work is what you are there for and you have to wear this for life. So just stop and think and go custom, don’t get something off Google or some flash set. Use these ideas as inspiration to create your own tattoo.
AnoTat2: As a shop owner in this economy how do you keep people coming back beside turning out quality tattoos?
Paul: Be involved in your community; start with giving back – the more you put out the more you receive. Always treat people the way you want to be treated. Don’t trash other shops or other artists; let your artwork speak for itself. You’ll stand out from the rest.
So if you are in the West Virginia area or plan on attending any of the above tattoo shows make sure you check out Bare Knuckles Tattoo and get yourself some new custom ink.
Make sure you follow Paul on Instagram @Bareknucklestattoo.