Tattoo artist and illustrator Galen Bryce has been up, down, and all around the New York scene. His work is bright, heavily illustrative, and eclectic — there’s a little bit of Garbage Pail Kids, a little bit of 1980’s horror sci-fi, a little bit of Ren and Stimpy. His color has a neon quality to it, like something that would rage under a blacklight, and his line work is reminiscent of underground indie comics masters like Lynda Barry, R. Crumb, and Kim Deitch; and his journey into tattooing is as varied and eclectic as his style is.
After graduating from SUNY Purchase with a BFA in printmaking and video art, Bryce originally started his artistic journey in a film studio straight out of school. Working in production, he worked on the likes of television, independent films, and reality TV. “It was a good gig, but It wasn't creatively fulfilling,” Bryce says. “I just needed to get away from the city and re-explore my creative options.”
Bryce headed out to Seattle after five years of hands-on production work. "I went out to Seattle to be closer to nature, but shortly after moving there, I realized that while I appreciated the beauty, I still craved the fast paced lifestyle that only New York has to offer." So his path led him, as it does for all of us, back to the city.
Once back in Rochester, New York, a friend told Bryce a local tattoo shop, Doc Yager's Tattoo, was looking for an apprentice. Hoofing it street-style, Bryce went in with his portfolio and came out with the gig. While Doc Yager was a very chill space to start out, this apprenticeship was of the shotgun variety. Bryce was only tattooing with a machine two weeks before his mentor put him on skin.
And from there he was only tattooing a little less then a year before working in a professional custom tattoo shop in New York City — New York Hardcore Tattoo. One would think this fast track would be ideal but with the lack of experience, Bryce found it to be a difficult transition. "I really didn’t know what I was doing yet. My apprenticeship was sort of bare bones. I was apprenticing for maybe three months before I started tattooing. It’s normally at least a year before you touch skin.”
Bryce bounced around the city working in shops throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan for a year until landing at Whatever Tattoo down in St. Mark’s. Going from a rural, small shop, to a highly specialized custom shop, to a street shop isn’t the usual order of operations, but it’s worked out over time for Bryce’s trajectory as an artist. After toiling away, paying his dues tattooing the usual suspects (and many drunk NYU students) on the late night St. Mark’s shifts, Bryce again found himself craving more out of his artistic career.
He left Whatever and took a solo spiritual journey abroad spending sometime in London and Thailand. "This trip was one of the most significant things I had ever done for myself up until that point in my life."
"I feel for the first time, I have an artistic direction, and a style that is unique to me ... "
" ... And now that I've found it, I'm not turning back."
Returning to to New York with a new found self-respect and spiritual drive, Bryce decided to freelance for a while until he could build a portfolio he felt was worthy of re-applying to a custom tattoo shop with, this time having felt he'd earned it. After six months of freelance, Bryce was ready, and just like he had for his first shop, he hit the streets, portfolio in hand. This walk-about eventually lead him to Hustler's Parlour in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
"This is by far the most professional setting I've ever worked in. It feels really good to work among so many other talented artists, it really pushes me to do better in my own work. I feel for the first time, I have an artistic direction, and a style that is unique to me. And now that I've found it, I'm not turning back."
Always growing as an artist, Bryce has aspirations to expand his artistic endeavors to t-shirts and pins by this summer, and will also be selling prints and originals via his Instagram.