World traveler, convention hopper, badass tattooer, and all around hella nice guy, Beau Brady is a mainstay of the tattoo community who is known for his vivid Traditional style that blends with the beauty of Japanese aesthetics. In this interview, Beau talks about how he got into tattooing and the magic of this particular industry.
Do you remember the first time you saw or became interested in tattoos? Were you always artistic as a kid or was it a gradual interest?
The first time tattoos really impacted me was pretty early on. My dad was interested in getting tattooed, and would take my brother and I to tattoo shops while he was figuring out what he wanted to do. I remember staring at the walls and being unable to comprehend how people put them on people’s skin. It seemed like magic to me.
He ended up getting tattooed by Keely Tackett, who at the time was a pretty well known local legend. And when he came and showed me, I was hooked. I knew I wanted them. I was probably 7 or 8? I was really lucky to grow up in a family full of artists. Both my grandparents were incredible painters and gave me my first lessons in painting. I knew I always wanted to do something with art, but I was really fortunate to find tattooing and let it consume my life, haha.
Your style is famed for beautifully blending Japanese and Traditional. How has your style developed over the years?
I think I was really lucky to learn how to tattoo in a time where you had to be able to do anything that walks in the door. Doing that kind of puts you in a situation where you’re forced to develop styles and designs that maybe you didn’t think you needed to learn before. Because you don't do those kind of tattoos every day.
I always loved American Traditional tattoos and I always loved the culture, history and look of Japanese tattoos. I wanted my personal art to reflect the things about those styles that personally resonates with me. Time and pressure. Traveling. You have to push yourself to level up and create. It also helps thats I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some absolute encyclopedias of tattoo knowledge.
What inspires you on the regular? Who are your all time favorite tattoo heroes?
My friends and co workers inspire me daily! I think we’re living in an amazing time for the insane ability that people have. I love going to museums and seeking out inspiration outside of our immediate world. Japanese ghost stories and Wood block prints. Finding things that aren’t instantly a tattoo.
I think my tattoo heroes have kind of evolved over the years but some of the usual suspects: Hardy, Filip leu, Horitoshi, Chris Garver. But my every day inspirations and heroes would be: Marc Nava, Buzzy Jenkins, Regino Gonzalez, Kiku, Scott Sylvia, Todd Noble, Matt Beckerich, Justin Weatherholtz, Valerie Vargas, Grez, Chris Stuart, Oliver Macintosh, Stefano Cera, Dan Sinnes, Daniele Hoang, Nick Colella, Ross Nagle. And honestly too many more to mention. I love tattooing and everything we get to do everyday.
What have been your favorite moments during your time as a tattooer? What travel spots, studios, and conventions have really hit home why you love doing what you do? What do you love about this community?
Oh man. That’s so tough. Honestly, I love tattooing. It’s become my entire world over the past almost 20 years of my life. I definitely would have to say that the London Convention will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s the first place I tattooed outside of the United States. The Bay Area Convention is basically the archetype of how to do a crusher convention based solely around tattooing. Pagoda City is my favorite party and catch up weekend of the year. By far!
I’ve really been lucky to travel to some amazing shops and work in some incredible studios world wide: Frith St in London, Blue Arms in Norway, Allstar Tattoo in Limerick Ireland, Royal Tattoo in Denmark, Three Tides in Osaka, Wakatomo’s studio in Tokyo. Great Lakes Tattoo in Chicago, Blackheart in SF. Made to Last in Charlotte...
Like every time I’ve gone to these places, it’s like a crazy wave hits you. You realize just how lucky you are to be able to do what you do. See the world. Meet people. Experience those places. Tattooing made all that possible for me. I’ll forever be in debt to it.
Tattooers have a reputation for being hard partiers, but you wholeheartedly embrace the Straight Edge lifestyle. When and why did you get into sober life and how has it affected you positively?
I was 15 when I started claiming straight edge, so it’s been a part of who I am for my entire adult life. But that being said, at this point it’s just kinda a day to day normal thing to me. I don’t really think about it. The majority of my friends party and drink, and I’ll be the first one to make sure they're having a good time. It definitely got me through tougher times as a kid but nowadays it’s just second nature...till the firestorm comes, then you’re all fucked. ;)
How do you feel about the amount of people who are teaching themselves to tattoo? With all the information out there on YouTube, and machines available on Amazon, etc., how do you think this will affect the industry long term? What advice do you have for kids trying to get into the industry? What's the best advice you received when just beginning?
So, don’t get me wrong. I 100% think you should get a proper apprenticeship to become a tattooer. Period. But I also understand why people do it. Shits frustrating and degrading to your self esteem when you’re getting road blocks to do what you want. But, I think they’re missing out on a lot of the culture that’s developed within an apprenticeship. You also learn how to deal with people and situations. If this is what you wanna do put in the work, don’t sell yourself short or the irreplaceable experiences and time you gain from a true apprenticeship.
As far as the convenience of information and supplies. I think we’re just gonna continue to see a watering down of the culture with people who are maybe more casual bystanders. But I think the people who are truly in it for the long run will always be around. Just gotta work harder. Cream always rises to the top.
How do you balance artistic freedom and client needs? What do you think clients should know about the tattoo process that they rarely know already?
I think it’s super important to be informative with our clients, and teach them what makes a good tattoo. Not what our personal favorite style is. Keep in mind, we’re in the service industry. Sometimes we may not want to do some silly design that may look horrible. But, that silly design could be super important to that client. It’s about giving our clients our best. And sometimes our best, is being understanding and not pushing the agenda of doing a cool Instagram worthy tattoo.
It’s hard to plan these days...but what are you hoping to do during 2021? Any goals, projects, or travel plans you hope come through?
Oh jeez. Leave the country. Hahahah. No, but for reals. As soon as possible go back to Europe and Japan. Hit every convention possible and see every person I’ve missed in 2020. If things open up more, I may have a group art show in the near future. And some new apparel finally! But normal plans, catch me at GOOD LUCK NYC, Made To Last and EVERY day at Port City Tattoo, Costa Mesa.