Tattoo artists are a dime a dozen these days – they have their own TV shows, they play golf and drive big expensive cars. It seems everyone has a friend who tattoos. But what does that really mean? Are they well trained? Do they know the history of their trade? Are they working clean? And most importantly, can they deliver whatâ€™s expected from their client?
Canada has a rich heritage in tattoo culture and over the years has produced some exceptional artists; guys who steer clear of the limelight and focus rather on providing both exceptional service and quality tattoos. One such artist is Daniel Innes. While he is at the beginning of his career, heâ€™s already displayed the qualities of seasoned veterans without the backing and support of a well known tattoo parlor. With an inclination toward large-scale Asian themes, Innes has developed a healthy client base that keeps him busy; And while he is capable of producing the goods time and again he asks that you that â€œthink bigâ€œ. Working from his Good Times studio in Toronto, Innes has generated a lot of respect amongst connoisseurs and clients across the GTA. His shop in the popular Parkdale area has that homely feel to it; just sit down and relax, youâ€™re in good handsâ€¦
â€œThere are great tattoo artists in Toronto and I donâ€™t mind referring a client to anyone of them. I’m not sure how I got this busy, maybe it’s because I’m not an assholeâ€¦â€
Format: Why donâ€™t we start with quick insight as to why you were drawn to the tattoo world in the first place?
Daniel Innes: The first tattoo magazine I bought featured these full sleeve tattoos by Filip Leu and seeing his work made something click. But overall, it was the mystery involved with tattooing that interested me most. I was working two part-time jobs throughout high school [and] as soon as I quit those jobs, I bought equipment and movedto downtown Toronto.
I started getting tattooed by Bill Baker when I was 18, and he really helped me with everything – from technical advice, to drawing and composition. I got into it because I wanted to do good tattoos, not to be a rock star. When I started tattooing I was pretty much on my own. No-one really offered much advice. I had to really push for any sort of help [but] that only made me work harder.
Format: Your consistent workload suggests you’re not at a loss for clients. How did you build that client base as to what it is today?
Daniel Innes: Well, I’ve been tattooing for nine years and Iâ€™ve had my own shop for two years. I do mostly large tattoos and some projects take anywhere between 20 and 40 hours to complete. My clients always seem eager to start something new and because of the large-scale work, I don’t need that many clients to stay busy.
I am also fairly particular about the new work I take on. There are great tattoo artists in Toronto and I donâ€™t mind referring a client to any one of those guys. Overall, the industry is flooded and I’m just grateful to be as busy as I am. Good tattoo artists will always have work; the bad ones will work out of T-shirt shops for bosses who don’t tattoo. The way I see it, it means more cover up work for the good artists.
Format: Tell us about your studio – Good Time Design – whatâ€™s the deal?
Daniel Innes: Well, as I mentioned, Good Time Design has been going for two years, I am always there and I have Paul and Sarah who are there by appointment only. Every so often a guest artist will drop by, which adds to the dynamic. Dan Smith (High Voltage) and Jonny Murdoch (Art 4 Life) have both been in recently but ultimately, Iâ€™d love to host Dan Anderson – he’s an amazing tattoo artist. He showed me such a good time in New Zealand, so I think I owe him one!
Format: You chose to specialize in traditional Asian themes. Why was that?
Daniel Innes: Asian designs are about flow and balance. Since I am interested in doing a larger scale of tattooing, these designs fit the body better and, in my opinion, look best. I’m mostly interested in using reference from old Asian prints such as ukiyo-e, sumi-e and tankaâ€¦
Format: As an artist, are you exploring any other mediums through which to express yourself creatively?
Daniel Innes: I paint, mostly with oils. I’m at work between 10 and 15 hours a day, mostly drawing for tattoos, so I haven’t done much painting in the last 5 years, but I do plan on starting again…
Format: Do you do flash – lower-back tribal and all that sort of thing?
Daniel Innes: I do â€˜40s-â€˜70s Americana style stuff here and there. Lower back tribal is a street shop thing. I don’t really deal with those people anymore.
Format: What’s your take on ink conventions? Do you travel much or attend international meets?
Daniel Innes: I do conventions occasionally, but it is a very difficult working environment. I’d much prefer to work at my studio, but once in a while it is nice to meet up with friends from different cities.
Format: Having such a busy schedule probably doesnâ€™t allow you much time to get fresh ink done, but if you could have one artist work on you, who would you choose and why?
Daniel Innes: I already have tattoo’s from the artists that I have wanted to. My bodysuit by Bill Baker is mostly done [although] I do have a bare knee set aside…