When you meet Brian for the first time, it looks like you’re entering a fairy tale. A tall, very tall man from Portland, he could be the classical imaginary gentle giant. His world is enchanted and made up of marvelous tattoos, a mix of magic, dreaming and fairy. An unconscious sign links him to painters as Pre-Raphaelites, his iridescent chromatic elegance makes him a unique artist. Animals are his main and probably favorite subject (in fact Brian is Vegan), and in his works it looks like these animals are talking to each other…
Brian Wilson, let’s talk about you and your personal history. Where are you from? When did you use a tattoo machine for the very first time?
I’m originally from a small town in north western Nevada close to Carson City and Lake Tahoe. As for the first time I used a tattoo machine… Well, the shop that I was apprenticing at had me tattoo a couple of grapefruit, but as far as the first actual tattoos I did was in 1996 when I was 21. My apprenticeship didn’t go all that well and I never actually tattooed anyone there. My first time tattooing was in an abandoned church in Eugene Oregon. I had lived in Eugene briefly when I was 19 before moving back to Nevada and starting my apprenticeship. I still had some friends that lived up there. One of whom, Phil Jackson, gave me some money to buy my first two tattoo machines providing he be the first person I tattooed! Anyhow, I did five tattoos over two days. Really, really bad tattoos. Haha, I was so nervous. I remember tattooing a tribal arm band and being too scared to fill it with a seven round (I hadn’t even heard of a mag at that point) so I filled it with a tight five liner! It was so fucked up!
Let’s talk about Scapegoat, your tattoo studio. When was it born? Who’s actually working inside it?
I started Scapegoat in September of 2005. Right now we’ve got an outstanding line up of artists. Ryan Mason has been with us the longest starting in 2007, then we have Silje Hagland, my brother John Wilson who started out working the front counter and pretty much anything else I needed done before he started tattooing, Aron Dubois, And our newest additions Greg Whitehead and Cody Zeek. I’m really lucky to have found/been found by these folks and to work with them every week.
Which subjects you love the most and the least?
My favorite subjects are things that are kind of fantastic. I love folklore and fairy tales, legends, mythology the occult, alchemy, anything that has strong imagery and narrative that I can extract a little piece of a story from. As far as style, I really like to play with texture and light. I get a lot of influence form turn of the century book and science illustration. Skulls, monsters, animals…
Least favorites. Although I love good lettering and sign painting especially, I don’t think I’m all that good at it. Mechanical things, again, I just don’t like the way I tattoo them, which is too bad because I love science. And of course the usual, I don’t like tattooing pointy “American” tribal, colour portraits, people portraits, pet portraits. It depends on the day.
You love travelling, you respect and love animals so much that you decided not to eat anything coming from them.
Some months ago you were traveling worldwide for work, can you please tell us where have you been?
I do love to travel. All of my travels have been in either North America or Europe so far, but I’d like to add to that list.
Most recently I was in London at Jayne Doe, Kitarsis tattoo in Barcelona, Rome at The Ten Bells of course, One Love in Prague and Love Hate in Edinburgh. I had a great time everywhere and I fell in love with Rome! But, I had a wonderful host, so I’m sure that helped.
I do try to respect life and the planet.
I feel like it’s one of the most environmentally sound and compassionate decisions a person in an industrial society can make so I try and do what I can to lessen my impact be it food, work, clothing… that, and I know that I wouldn’t want to be eaten!
La foto in home è © P-Mod photo