Gunnar Gaylord: A Change in Direction and an Addition of Goals

By Gunnar Gaylord
Last year I had the good fortune of attending two amazingly inspirational conventions, that put me on the path to a brand new year in art. I had blogged on both events at the time, those being Paradise Gathering in Massachusetts and Hell City Phoenix. And I have to say the fact that it was in Phoenix, may have a more profoundly symbolic meaning, then it was meant to. However, from these events was born a new passion in art, one that I hadn’t had in years…

When I began tattooing in the mid 90s I had about five real goals, those were to be in magazines, work conventions, (which was much more difficult than, because you had to actually prove you were worth having at a convention) open a shop, develop a recognizable style that was new and fresh and lastly, to prove to the guys that apprenticed me that I could make a career out of this, despite what they thought. I am both happy and proud to say, mission accomplished.

Unfortunately for me, once I had accomplished my goals I no longer established new ones. And life without goals, is like driving without maps, even though you arrive somewhere, it might not be where you should have been heading.

The past several years I became discontent with my art. I wasn’t as confident with what I was producing and with advent of so many young great artists in tattooing, I began to really question myself as an artist. This lead me to sway from my initial path as a tattoo artist and caused me to begin experimenting with whatever I thought was “cool” or “popular” in tattooing, instead of being true to my own art and style, which not only picked away at my sense of confidence in what I was doing, but also caused me to lose a lot me my original fan-base that enjoyed the art I was creating. I was missing two major things, not just important to art but life in general, confidence and direction (goals).

I needed new goals. And as strange as it sounds those goals fell slightly hand-in-hand.

My first goal became to actually learn about art. I heard once that everyone wants to be an artist but no one wants to learn to draw. See, the problem with my confidence in art wasn’t necessarily what I was creating, but my understanding of how I was creating it. As a self-taught artist, I unfortunately missed a lot of classes along the way. I was producing art only at the level for which I had learned to produce art, and clearly as I now have discovered, I did not have enough information to create art at the level I am truly capable of. It’s not that I was a fraud as an “artist,” however I wasn’t truly knowledgeable about art. I believe a true artist works with knowledge, confidence and intent. So as a goal, I decided it was time to learn. Because, I think intent and confidence are born from knowledge.

Strangely, my second goal became to teach. Ironically, I originally went to college to be a teacher before discovering tattooing. So this idea had been planted decades back, but it was really brought to the surface by friends and peers of mine recently that I admired. They suggested I should teach the information that I have learned and that they believed I was meant to teach. At first I scoffed, because despite the fact that I have taught seminars in the past, I recently began to feel like a fraud after realizing how much information I didn’t know myself.

However, during a recent workshop I took with a master sculptor, I was told that often the best way to learn, is to teach. He told me to teach what I know, but never what I don’t and be honest and true with the information, because a teacher that doesn’t tell their students everything is a fraud. The idea was that to grow exponentially as an artist, you have to share what you know in order comprehended what you had learned. EUREKA!!! It was as if I had a new path in life again.

So I am really excited about not just being an artist now, but knowing that I will continue to grow as an artist by way of being both a student and teacher of art.

If you enjoy my art or our curious about my upcoming seminars then be sure to check out the following events.

August 31st, 2012 I will be releasing a new series of paintings in an art show titled, A WHALE OF A TALE at Jesse Smith’s Glitch Gallery. This is a series of paintings, created during my studies of the techniques of traditional master painters. Although it is a departure away from my normal “cute and creepy kids,” it is an important show for me because it was my attempt at “spreading my wings” as an artist and pushing my comprehension and application of art without being pigeonholed as a one-dimensional artist. This was an amazingly fun, yet stressful show to work on, because it was studying, comprehending and then applying the knowledge I was gaining.

For more info check out

On Saturday September 16th, 2012 I will be offering my newest seminar, IF I KNEW THEN WHAT I KNOW NOW. This seminar has been nearly two decades in the making and is a culmination of knowledge in art, tattooing and life that I have gained since I began tattooing. This isn’t just an art course or a lesson in tattooing. Moreover, it is an overview of information I deem the most important things I know now, that I wish someone would have shared with me when I first got into tattooing. Everything from art knowledge to career dos and don’ts. I try to offer practical advice that you can only get from years and years of hindsight and growth as an artist and a person. I also try to approach teaching, less like a lecturer and more like a communal event, so that students are fully engaged and can truly get the most out of the experience. I am very excited about this.

For more info check out under scheduled events at 8 – 10 p.m. on Saturday.

Instagram: @artofgunnar
Twitter: @artofgunnar
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Gunnar is a tattooer and contributing blogger for Tattoo Artist Magazine. Gunnar can be found at: Red Tree Tattoo Gallery in Columbus, OH.

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