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Doctor Woo

A Conversation

 

When did you start tattooing?

I started apprenticing for Mark Mahoney in 2007 and apprenticed for two years, and then I think I started officially tattooing in 2009. I still do apprentice stuff and help out, but I started tattooing in the shop in 2009.

How did your apprenticeship come about?

I don't know. I was a designer before I started tattooing. I've been getting tattooed by Mark since I was like 17-18 and ever since then, he was always someone that I looked up to. I was just kind of hanging out and I think Mark was looking for someone to come in. He asked me if I wanted to apprentice and learn to tattoo from him. I mean, how do you not want to do that? That's an opportunity I never would have missed. The rest is history, I guess.

Two years sounds like a solid apprenticeship.

Yeah, I didn't touch a machine for two years. I cleaned the shop, ran the books, did everything that they needed me to do and tried my best.

Do you feel that there's something honorable about that, getting into tattooing in that traditional way?

I take pride in the fact that I did a proper apprenticeship and I got apprenticed through a shop and by a tattooer that is real deal in the game. I respected the tattoo as a culture. This is about taking part in a certain history that I respect. I can hold my head high and say, "Yeah, I apprenticed." I had guys like Mark Mahoney, Freddy Negrete, Rick Walters...that I look up to help me out. Without Mark I don't know where I would be now...he gave me everything.

I take pride in the fact that I did a proper apprenticeship and I got apprenticed through a shop and by a tattooer that is real deal in the game.

How is tattooing on Sunset Boulevard?

Man, Sunset is crazy. It's always crazy. Rock and roll, celebrities, drunk people, rockstars, all that shit. You always have every type of person coming here now and we work late, we're a night time shop.

Do you feel like you get a real street shop atmosphere on Sunset?

Yeah, that's how I cut my teeth. I did walk in tattoos. Whatever they wanted, right there, you just give them what they want, and do your best. It can be a portrait or it can be tribal, it can be any traditional tattoo or a fine line tattoo, a micro portrait of their pet pig on their fucking butthole. You got to learn to do it and then you do it.

I know you're a big motorcycle enthusiast and really love that culture, as well.

I love riding. It's the anti-social behavior. It's fun, and I like the old classic choppers. They're fun to work on. It's fun to collect parts, and they look great. It's kind of riding a piece of art with a motor in it. You can really express yourself and have your own style. There's no right answer to it. It can all be wrong and bad.

Moving forward, what do you hope to achieve in life and your professional career?

You know, my family, my son, my wife are very important to me. Family is important to me. Family and friends. I think you just have to be down for your shit and do what you like to do. Hopefully, it's cool enough that other people want to be a part of it. That's kind of what I want my tattoos to do. I want to do my best in the way of presenting how I think of an idea should look. If you like my style, then that's cool. If you don't, then there's plenty of other people who are good. I don't want to try to please everyone. I want to do my thing, and have everyone kind of enjoy it with me if they're into it. That's kind of what I'm about. And I think everyone else should do the same.

What advice do you have for young tattooers out there? Advice on getting started?

The only advice is the same advice that I was given. Quit now, because we don't another motherfucker in our pond (laughs). But if you must, do it through a reputable tattooer and just treat the craft with respect. Because it's a craft. It's not art. It's a craft. That's all. That's what I think.

What parts of the culture are the most important to you?

Tattooing is something that's so sacred that even before the history books, you could trace things back to every culture. There's some form of tattooing in them all, it's something very special. There's a lot of different religious and personal spiritual beliefs about it. There's also just purely aesthetic things, but it's something that's been around for so long. It's cool to keep an honorable craft like that moving forward to present day, and this shit's been going on before fucking Columbus discovered America. It's kind of cool.

You first got into more traditonal tattooing, right?

Yeah, I still love it. Love the traditional. I started drawing traditional flash, bold lines. Sailor style, that's what I liked. Learning from Mark and these guys, I have a newfound respect for the black and gray fine line. It's something not a lot of people do, and not a lot of people do it well. These guys over here do it so well. It's an honor to actually see that work every day and pick things up constantly. I still love doing traditional tattoos. I'm glad that I came in the way I did, because I was familiar with old school, and then also picked up black and gray fine line stuff. Now I can do both.

Do you feel at this shop you really learn how to become a solid fine line tattooer?

When you're working for Mark, you see these amazing detailed tattoos - the tattoos have so much more to them than others. You can look at them more like a story and you can look at them for minutes or a half hour. You can look at it like it's a movie, so much going on. That being said, traditional tattoos are fucking cool. They're timeless. They're classic. They look good now, they'll look good 50 years from now. They'll never be tacked onto a certain era, like 80's tribal or anything like that. I think the most important thing I picked up working here is that regardless of whether or not you're a good or bad tattooer, you have to have a style. Someone can look at the tattoo and go, that's a piece by so and so. I think that's the coolest thing. That's what I want to do. I want to develop my own style. I don't necessarily want to be the best tattooer in the world. (continued below)

I think you just have to be down for your shit and do what you like to do. Hopefully, it's cool enough that other people want to be a part of it.

9026 W Sunset Blvd West Hollywood, CA 90069