Tim Hendricks is one of those personalities whose charisma can be felt today, and has always been felt, starting when he was a young guy who called himself “a product of his environment” and managed to leave his neighborhood and travel the world. And then came the shop, the TV programs and lots of satisfaction.
Today, Tim’s style is simply called “Tim’s style”, because it is so well-defined by him and his hand that it cannot be called anything else… unless we call it energetic and powerful, with a background in cholo black and grey fine line, a bit of punk humor, and the purity of traditional.
You can read the full interview on Tattoo Life Magazine (January/February 2020 issue).
Hi Tim. As you know, this section of our magazine is called “Chat at the Top”; it’s devoted to in-depth interviews with the big names in tattooing, people who can talk about and explain their own experiences to fans of this art. So let’s start there: in the 90s, when you first started tattooing – first as a personal passion and then as a profession. In many of your interviews, I’ve read that you always say that tattooing found you, rather than you searching for tattooing. Can you tell me more about that?
Well, the reason why I say that is because I didn’t really go searching for it, but I ended up in places that couldn’t have been planned more perfectly for that aim. For example, I met Rick Walters’ daughter Krystin through a friend, and she helped me get my first professional tattoo machine from Rick. It was a Catfish Carl machine, aka Jim Dandy, and I had to drive down to Bert Grimm’s in Long Beach to get it. Back then I had no knowledge or appreciation for how lucky I was and how influential that shop was. I know now, and I’ll never take that for granted.
I believe a lot of things “find” you in life, and it’s up to us whether or not we take advantage of these fortuitous events.
What differences do you think there were between West Coast tattooing and East Coast tattooing when you got started?
When I started tattooing I literally knew nothing about tattooing outside of California. I had heard of Mark Mahoney, Freddy Negrete, Corey Miller, Jack Rudy, Mike Brown and Kenny Schofield. I also knew of Danny Romo and Eric Masske because they tattooed in my neighborhood. There were really only two shops in Fullerton then, Romo Ink and Classic Tattoo. Then I bought the Ed Hardy book on Sailor Jerry and learned about a whole generation that I’d never had a clue of before. After that, I feel like it just started snowballing into learning about all ends of the spectrum. The West Coast was always known as the birthplace of fine line black and grey, and I think we still got that pretty much on lock down, but I will say there are a few bad ass black and grey East Coast wizards out there.
You shifted from the gangs’ style, like cholo black and grey, to color, attracted by the purity of traditional. How would you describe your style, in a nutshell – a style which has been so clearly definable in the world for over twenty years? Who are the mentors from the past and present with whom you have a relationship?
Well, I have a lot of people who I would consider mentors and teachers. I’ll try and name some names and if I forget anyone and they’re reading this, I’m sorry and I still love you, I just have a bad memory. Kevin Gulio, Dan Dringenberg, Corey Miller, Frank Ball, Chris Garver, Bucky Crispin, Mikey and Tommy Montoya, Tom Tilden, Kat Von D (just kidding), Joe Miraconda, Darrel Pinney, Freddy Corbin, Juan Puente, Rick Walters and last but not least, my father. As far as my style goes, I don’t know if I can be the one to properly label my style; I see my work differently than anyone else and often times I’m unhappy with it in some way or another. I guess it’s just Tim style, a mix of it all, I don’t know.
Do you think you’ve ever been influenced by various passing trends? Both as an artist and a person?
Trends? I don’t know, I was pretty into chrome tats in the 90s and early 2000! I wasn’t really into tribal work but that style made me a lot of money back then. Trends come and go, and sometimes they come back; some of them are pretty annoying and some are quite fun. In the end, they help us all make money. Have they influenced me? Maybe. But if they did, I never swayed too far from my original style. I want to make tattoos that will last my clients’ whole life through, not tattoos that have to be touched up every five years, like the current passing trends.
What have been the fundamental steps to your growth?
That’s a good question. First and foremost, absolutely loving what I do! Stay learning, the moment you think you know it all is when you end your career. Always trying to keep myself aware of what’s new and staying in close contact with new generations, I love them, they’re so damn smart and talented – well some of them, anyway!
The last and most important thing: hard work. There is no elevator to being a good tattooer, you have to take the fucking stairs.
You’ve always been attracted by the fact that this work involves travelling. Is that still true, or has travelling become useless for you as a form of research?
Traveling has now become more about visiting my tattoo family, conventions are like family reunions. But it’s been harder to travel for tattooing now in my life because I have children, two glorious little boys, and I can’t bear to be away from them and my wife. Traveling will always be one of the best sources of research though, I still believe in that. You can stare at other tattooers’ work online all day long, but you’ll never be able to understand how he made that tattoo, how his hand works when he whip-shades his greys, or what needles he’s using for a certain type of line. Sitting in rooms with other tattooers and watching them tattoo is how I learned some of my most important skills.
So now I constantly invite friends to come guest spot; if I can’t come to them, well then I’ll talk them into coming to me!
You are still really rooted to your own territory today, right?
My tattoo shop, tattoo supply company, and home are all within five minutes of each other in the town I grew up in. Some of the guys I did my oldest tattoos on in my teenage years still come by the shop to hang out and say hi. I love my city, but I had to live all over the country to realize that.
What do you think are the shortcomings of this profession, at the moment?
Ha! We don’t have enough pages in this interview for me to write about that. Seriously though, when something starts out as a sub-culture, turns to pop-culture and then become mainstream just in the last 25 years, there is a lot to gripe about. But I’m not one to complain much, I’m just grateful for what I have and that I can still tattoo; I’ve been living a 25-year weekend for god sakes. If I had to say one thing I’d just say this: there are too many damn tattooers these days and not enough of the right ones. That is all.
What are the small satisfactions that you can indulge in now, professionally? Things you can say and do now that you couldn’t at the start?
Shoot, I don’t know, I never thought about that. I don’t think I’m entitled to say or do anything more than anyone else. Yes, I have paid a lot of dues but hey, I’m still paying them. I guess I’m just glad that I know so many important people in this business now that I’m able to introduce my younger generation friends to the old schoolers, to help better their knowledge and career path.