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INKED Icon December issue of Inked Magazine E-mail
Written by Brad   
Wednesday, 06 January 2010

Check out this month’s issue of Inked Magazine. Yours truly is featured in the Inked Icon section with a three page interview by Marisa over at Needlesandsins.com. Here’s a brief excerpt from the article…

INKED: This interview is for our Icon section-

BRAD FINK: What’s up with this “INKED Icon”?

That’s what we call the renowned artists we profile who have contributed to tattooing over the years and continue to advance the art.

Wow. I’m flattered, but you’re making me feel self-conscious. [Laughs.] Icons are people who are dead or at least old. I only just turned 39.

You’re nevertheless internationally known and respected in tattooing. Enjoy it.

I have a hard time with it when, at tattoo conventions, people come up and ooh and aah over me, because I feel like I just started – like I was just one of those kids who went to their first convention and saw Jack Rudy or one of those dudes and was blown away.

You’ve been tattooing more than twenty years.  What do you mean when you say you still feel like you “just started”?

A lot of times I find myself saying how amazed I am at how fast time goes. A couple of weeks ago, a guy who I used to tattoo in my kitchen in high school came into the shop to get another tattoo. Or my grade school art teacher just interviewed me for a local magazine in St. Louis.  I ended up tattooing her and she was so happy.

Of course, I’m definitely happy where I’m at and cherishing that I have three successful shops with great partners – Michelle Myles and Mark Andrews-and most recently, partners in a clothing line called Me Against the World. When I started I wasn’t thinking about where I’d end up. I just did what I did and never gave it much thought.  All of a sudden here I am, an INKED Icon.


Remember, in 1987, people didn’t put these fuckers on a pedestal like they do now. None of this reality TV shit. We were just skin mechanics, laborers, blue-collar dudes. I’m from the old mind-set. Tattooing is something I cherish and am protective of. Although I will say that with all the TV shows and media, there is more positive than negative coming from it. People are more educated when they come into the shop. 


What do you mean by more educated?

People are putting more thought into their tattoos, getting bigger work. For example when getting a Japanese work, they’re not just saying that they want a koi fish or a dragon, but many come in after doing their research and say, “I want this story.”

How do you feel about a client coming and saying, “Here is my back, do what you will?”

I like that. It shows the client respects me and my artwork and they’re open.  All I ask in these situations is to give me a starting point because if you leave it completely up to me, you’re gonna get something demented.

How did you get your start in tattooing?

Well, my mother took me to get a tattoo when I was 15. You had to be 18 years old to get tattooed unless you had a parent there, so she came with me. The man who put that tattoo on me, Mitch, ultimately taught me to tattoo.

What did you tell your mother to convince her that you should get tattooed at 15?

My mother has always been open-minded and supportive. As a child I never fit in. I was always an outsider. In eighth grade, I lost my hair and was diagnosed with alopecia; that intensified being ostracized by the kids. It was a traumatic thing for me. I believe everything happens for a reason, and it brought me to this point in life and this business. Back then I was pissed at the world. I get to high school the next year and discover punk rock-and punk rock went hand in hand with tattoos. My mother was willing to do anything to make me feel more comfortable with myself.

In high school, I had a lawn service. I was mowing Mitch’s lawn and getting tattooed my him. I decided that I wanted to start tattooing and told Mitch; he then offered to help me out so I’d make fewer mistakes. From there, I practiced a couple months in my kitchen and then started working at his shop. By no means was I at a point that I should have been working at a shop; I was just thrown in there. I didn’t have a formal apprenticeship like I am giving my apprentice. Mitch taught me a lot but there was no structure.

[As a young tattoo apprentice] Did you have to clean toilets and all the nasty stuff?

I did it but it wasn’t Mitch telling me to do all the disgusting things. It was me knowing it needed to be done and doing it myself. This leads to my disdain for the younger generation coming into tattooing today. Back then there were no references or all the information on the Internet that is readily available. Back then, I had to search and search for it. I had to go to the library, seek out Easy Rider tattoo magazines and Ed Hardy’s Tattoo Timeseries. Today, there are instructional DVDs and all this crap on how to tattoo. They even have premade needles now. When I started, I had to get to the shop two hours early to make my needles for the day or next two days. Today, people get very good in a short time, and there’s this sense of entitlement young people have in the business that everything should be handed to them.

We didn’t have a “shop person” back then to wipe people’s asses. Today, these kids want to come in, do their tattoos, and leave. Back then, I had to make needles, clean the shop, stock my station, and answer the phones.


Did you also walk miles in the snow to the shop barefoot back in your day? [laughs]

Yes, I did! I wrecked enough cars by 17 years old and my insurance was cancelled, so as a matter of fact, I had to ride a bicycle or walk to the shop. Yes, Marisa, I did have to walk to work in the snow. [laughs]

Now you have a young apprentice. What lessons are you passing down?

I teach him life lessons! That there’s more to tattooing than actual tattooing. I teach him everything from adapting to every quirky personality that walks through that door without those people you would have nothing. I’m teaching loyalty and respect. I want him to know the history and how tattooing got to this level.

What was the most important lesson that Mitch taught you?

Let your work speak for itself. I never chased media and sort of let people come to me.

You’re most known for you Japanese and traditional work. Is that what you tend to do most of the time?

Yes, but I will pretty much do anything unless it’s racist or gang-related. I’m fortunate because at this point, the people who come to me trust me and so it’s easy to tell them this and that won’t work. But I won’t be the dude to say, “Oh no, I won’t do that!” I do work on an appointment basis, so it may be harder to get into my schedule. We have so many good artists at my shops, though, that I can recommend someone else to get the client in sooner. But I’m not above anything.

Why do you think these people all come to you for that specific “Brad Fink tattoo”?

Nothing I do is really intentional, but throughout the years of drawing I’ve tried not to be completely influenced by others, and it’s just an evolution and many years of doing this that you can’t put your finger on. I don’t get satisfaction out of making something look similar to something that someone else has done. I do get satisfaction from doing something unique and dynamic. if you saw my house, you’d see thousands upon thousands of books. So much goes into influences of mine, and all these influences acquired over the years have gone into the way I draw.


So your style is more organic through your experience and studies?

Yes. It’s important for people to know that there’s so much study and preparation that goes into tattooing. When I first started, I would get so frustrated because I was under the impression that the tattooists I admired, like Ed Hardy, would just sit down and it would flow-not thinking that they were actually doing homework and preparing. Some people say, “Oh, it’s great that you make so much an hour.” And I think Really dude, I make half of that because the amount of time that goes into it beyond actual tattoo time is probably double.

People will go out and pay $150 for a pair of shoes, wear them for a few months, and that’s that-but they still have a problem with paying however much an hour for a tattoo. For example, Michelle and I were working the Rome Tattoo convention and it felt like we were tattooing at a flea market because people kept going from booth to booth – not knowing or caring about the tattoo artist they were asking. They just wanted the cheapest price. Meanwhile, they’re standing there in Gucci shoes and Dolce & Gabbana shirts. But it’s a universal thing; you see it everywhere.

I guess you’re not a billionaire yet, hanging with starts and tattooing them on their private jets?

Yeah, I’m definitely hobnobbing with some really big people. You know Sal? I just bought my breakfast from him this morning. And if you don’t know him, you’re nobody

-Marisa Kakoulas

Last Updated ( Sunday, 23 October 2011 )
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