More Colorful Than Fraggle Rock: Interview with Winston the Whale

More Colorful Than Fraggle Rock: Interview with Winston the Whale

In this interview with tattoo artist Winston the Whale we talk technicolor tattoos, sobriety and the tattoo community in Portland, Oregon.

There are some artists whose work just makes you happy. It sounds simple, but it's this amalgamation of vivid color, fresh design aesthetic, and an authentic P.M.A. that just really resonates. That's what Winston the Whale's work does: it makes you smile. A portfolio full of psychedelic technicolor folk art meets pop art, I advise you to throw on Mort Garson's Plantasia record and get down with these seriously funky vibes. 

In this interview with tattoo artist Winston the Whale he talks about the unique shop that is Good Stuff Tattoo, his collaborations with companies like 420 Jars, as well as what it's been like to cut out alcohol and embrace full and mindful consciousness. 

First, What is your artistic background? Did you always want to be a tattooer and how did you get into tattooing?

It all began with graffiti when I was a teenager and over time evolved into illustration, painting, screen printing etc. Graffiti was the gateway to other mediums for me and is where I learned about composition and color theory. I eventually landed on tattooing but it really wasn't something I aspired to do. I always had an interest in tattoos but becoming a tattooer seemed like such a difficult thing to get into.

Can you talk about how your style has evolved over the years? What artist heroes, or art movements, have inspired all your vividly colored designs?

The evolution has been very organic and I've kind of tried to take a back seat and let it do its thing when I'm feeling those growing pains of change and transition. Color has been a big focus of mine and has governed a lot of the way I think creatively. Psychedelic art has been at the forefront of my inspiration, although I feel that every single experience and visual element I come in contact with sneaks its way into the subconscious and comes out in one way or another when I sit down to draw.

Good Stuff Tattoo seems like one of the coolest places on earth. What would you say was your mission behind opening the shop? Why did you choose Portland, and how do you choose artists to be a part of the studio?

Thank you! We love our little cozy shop and it's been a thoroughly enjoyable experience to work with Brittny and Olive. Before I opened Good Stuff, I had a small private studio that Olive and I shared. Over time, as I began hosting guest artists and our schedules began to fill up, we realized that it might be a good idea to expand into a bigger space. The mission I guess was to be able to host guest artists with ease and create a collective that strived to create unique tattoos and art. I'm really big into vintage interior design and am an avid collector of vintage knick knacks and I brought that aesthetic into the space, which isn't something that you don't see much in tattoo shops. It's been a fuckin blast and it only keeps getting better!

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The recent collab with 420 Jars came out amazing! How do collaborations like this work, and are there any companies/people/mediums out there that you dream of working with?

420 jars has been a dream to work with! It was really quite fluid setting that up and we worked with some imagery I had already created that we felt would work well with the jars. We are working on a new project that should be coming out some time in the next few months so keep an eye out. I'd really love to work with Big Bud Press and Mokuyobi - their styles are absolutely amazing and inspiring.

You recently shared that you’re 7 years free from alcohol. So much congratulations and props! How has this change supported your growth as a person or artist? How did you move on from something that is so pervasive and acceptable as a norm of social interaction? What advice do you have for others trying to do the same?

Thank you! It wasn't easy cutting alcohol out of my life, and being surrounded by it any time I would go to social events definitely put a strain on my will to go out as much as I used to. I immersed myself in art when I decided to pursue sobriety more seriously and feel very fortunate to have such a great support system in place. Learning to cope with feelings and life without the use of drugs and alcohol has been a profoundly growth inducing experience and has contributed a lot to my creative growth as well. If you have a problem with drugs and/or alcohol, just know that you aren't alone. Everyone deserves a chance to reach their potential and if substance abuse is getting in the way, find a way to have compassion towards yourself to recognize it and start taking action to work on it. Unaltered consciousness is a beautiful thing <3

If you could only read one book, listen to one album, and eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? If you could have dinner with any person, living or dead, who would it be?

Book - Crawl Space by Jesse Jacobs
Album - Royksopp - Junior
Food - Cheeseburger
I'd love to sit down and have a nice fat burger with Bill Nye - he seems like a pretty cool guy.

Beyond tattooing/creating art, what is most important to you? What do you wish you had more time for?

I love traveling and exploring new places, both near and far - it's been so integral to personal growth and I always come back with a fresh perspective. I wish I had more time to plan cool trips and be outside more.

Do you have any plans for 2019 that you’d like to share?


Ya know, I rarely plan my life more than a few months out these days, but if I do I'll be sure to let everyone know!

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