Ironic, incisive, and graphic: these three adjectives perfectly describe the style of San Diego tattooist Adam Hathorn- During our interview he leads us onto the imaginary bridges which connect his creative expressions – tattooing, skateboarding, and graffiti.

Read an extract of the full interview by Maggie Whales published on Tattoo Life (September/October 2018 issue) and enjoy our gallery with some of his amazing tattoos!

Hello Adam, and welcome to Tattoo Life. Let’s talk about your style, which seems to be a mix of graphics images, neo traditional tattoos, and funny stuff. Let’s start with your background and your passions: are you still a part of the skateboard scene?
Not anymore. I’m 40 years old and way too afraid to break the money makers. I have a two-year old to feed now. I definitely grew up skating, it was the only sport I ever showed any type of interest in. Skating was also responsible for my early interest in art, especially skateboard graphics. They were always graphic, gross, and funny, and played on certain aspects of pop culture. I’m sure it’s easy to see that influence in the type of art and tattoos that I do.

Are there any subjects you especially love to draw?
Yes, for sure. Actually I had a friend who described my art like this: “animals with occupations”. This is because I do lots of tattoos that involve animals, and most of the time they’re in some sort of human role. I also love doing Japanese motifs, like yokai and other weird characters that I’ve read up on. I don’t take on large Japanese pieces because I’d hate to be “the guy that puts eyelashes on a koi fish” or something like that. I try and keep my weird stuff to things that won’t be offensive to people who have actually spent forever studying certain styles.

Adam Hathorn, Big Trouble Tattoo, San Diego, USA
Adam Hathorn, Big Trouble Tattoo, San Diego, USA

Where are you working at the moment, and could you tell us about the milestones of your career?
I currently work at Big Trouble Tattoo in North Park, San Diego. I co-own it with my best bud Eno, aka Eric Kuiken.
We opened a little over a year ago, and it’s definitely been the biggest milestone of my career. There were plenty of ups and downs – as anyone who has opened a business knows. It has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. And I’m thankful that Eno asked me to do it with him. I’d never really thought about opening a shop before that. We’ve filled all six of the booths in the shop, and we have the best crew in Southern California. I’m sure that’s a bit biased, but I truly believe that we have the most talented group of weirdos under one roof. Most shops you go to have folks that do similar work. We have a very mixed bag here, but the one commonality is that we all do weird stuff. I feel incredibly lucky to work alongside these amazingly talented and creative people.

Could you list the names of the artists who have most influenced your style?
That’s always a tough one, as I always forget or leave someone out. Mike Giant is definitely a guy I’ve always looked up to for many reasons: for his art, and outlook on life. He’s definitely the person to whom I’d attribute my line weights. Dave Fox has been super-inspirational as far as being someone who’s not afraid to keep his style in everything he does. What really sparked my interest in tattooing when I was a kid was when I saw, for the first time, Dave Lums working on Victor and Stephanie Farinelli in an interview. They were and still are some of my favorites: unapologetic, bold and fucking bad-ass tattoos that only he could pull off.

When I started apprenticing in ’98, everybody was trying to have a different style from everyone else.

That wasn’t always a great thing, but at least it wasn’t thousands of people trying to do the exact same tattoo that they just saw some famous guy do on the internet. I also really appreciate a more illustrated look these days, like Matt Lambdin or Dan Sinnes. Especially very graphic looks, like the work done by Koji Ichimaru or Davee Blows. I really like to look at a tattoo and know exactly who did it without being told. Those are the people that I really respect. There are so many others like Jeff Rassier, Tim Biedron, Matt Rinks, and Mike Dorsey, the list could go on forever. I apologize to all the ones I forgot to mention.

What do you like to do in your free time?
Well, there hasn’t been much free time in the last two years, since we had the baby, opened a shop, bought a house and got married. Before all of that it was excessive drinking and painting. Not at the same time, though. I can’t do both at once. If I’m drinking, I’m just doing that and talking shit. If I’m painting, I can be left in solitude forever, listening to podcasts or the TV in the background. I’m sure that one day I’ll be able to give more attention to painting.

… And a project you’re particularly excited to do?
I’ve often talked about making a book of my art, and one day it will happen, with my friend Electric Pick. Now that I have a two-year old, all I really wanna do is play and make art collages with her. Maybe one day she and I can make a book together.

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