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A Review on Jeff Gogue’s “tattoo as I see it”

By Nicki Kasper

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“In that moment, I realized that instead of trying to be inspired, I was going to try to inspire people.”

I recently ordered two copies of Jeff Gogue’s DVD, “tattoo as I see it”… Jeff is one of my closest and most genuine friends and I wanted to support his project, something I know he and put a lot of work, time, money, energy and heart into.  I bought a copy for myself, and one for a close friend of mine – an artist I thought could use some inspiration.  I didn’t know exactly what the DVD would be like, but I know Jeff, and I knew it would be inspiring, as well as very giving with valuable information and advice to tattooers… I just now was able to find the time to sit down and watch it, and it doesn’t disappoint.

I know Jeff in a couple different ways…  We’re friends; I know him on a personal level, and he’s fun, open, genuine, kind, generous, and hilarious. I’m also one of his clients, so I know him on that level.  I know how much he cares about his clients, about the pieces he puts on our bodies, about the pain we’re feeling, etc.  I know how much heart he puts into every single piece, and I’m grateful and fortunate to be covered in them.  But in addition to being a friend, and a client, I’ve also had the pleasure of working with him on side projects.

I know from experience that nothing Jeff Gogue does professionally or otherwise is half-assed.  He cares about the details.  If he decides he’s going to do something, he wants to give all of himself to it.  If it has his name on it, he wants it to be the absolute best he has to offer at that time and place.  He never thinks he’s reached his full potential, which is why we see his work changing and evolving over and over. I can relate to him in many ways, which I think is part of the reason we became instant friends so many years ago.

“You’re either a taker, or you’re a giver.”

He wants to inspire others, and that is the point of this movie.  It will inspire everyone who watches, artist or not.  He’s honest and open about his process, what he wants, his strengths and weaknesses.  It’s real, and humble and people can always relate to that.

If you’re an artist, you will be blown away at how generous Jeff is with information that will help you from laying out a piece to tips on using contrast in your work to mixing colors.  It’s invaluable information that he’s learned by trial and error over the years and he’s sharing it all with you. But if you’re not an artist, and you just want to be inspired about believing in yourself and making shit happen for yourself… About not accepting failure, and instead being driven by it, you need to watch this film.

To Jeff and Ryan Moon – You guys did an incredible job on this, and now I wish I hadn’t been such a chicken about being interviewed for it! I’m proud of you both!

11 comments

  1. There’s a lot to be said for earning experience and knowledge rather than buying it on DVD. It goes without saying it’s Gogue’s prerogative to do as he sees fit with what he knows, but i don’t believe projects like these help the industry in the least. Too much, given too easily, is the name of the game in tattooing now. It ends up producing people long on skills and short on character, appreciation, and respect for tradition.

  2. Disclaimer: i have NOT seen the DVD. I’m expressing my opinion based the above article.

  3. No way to leave this without commenting, just to be sure something negative isn’t the one an only perspective to be read here.

    Things are not ALWAYS black & white, (except to fundamentalists, of course), so it’s important to understand that more than one thing can be true at the same time.

    Yes, tattooing is sacred and should be honored.
    And, yes, Jeff Gogue is his own person, a unique talent (and person) and, YES, I believe, quite capable of creating something powerful, educational AND respectful for tattooing.

    To assume everything like this is an either/or situation is an all-too-common posture taken these days amongst some tattooers…(albeit with good reason, perhaps.) But It’s a new age, for tattooing especially, and I for one am glad to have Jeff’s voice, his leadership and his intentions, ALIVE in the tattoo-world today. Were it not for the positive, educational, productive voices in our history, (like Ed Hardy, Mike Malone, Guy Aitchison…and others), where would tattooing even be? (Perhaps NOT on tv, but surely without most of us, to be blunt.)

    Now, I haven’t seen the DVD either, (I’ll order a copy, [maybe two, Eric];)…but I do know Jeff and share his deepest intentions to do something positive for tattooing as a way to INSPIRE others. Years ago I attended a Gogue seminar and it blew me A W A Y. I wholeheartedly recommend ANY tattooer attend one of his seminars and see if something of great value isn’t gained! I expect nothing less in this self-funded, self-created DVD.

    Jeff is one hell of a dude, an extreme talent (who really wasn’t ‘given’ anything, including respect by some), and who’s heartfelt intentions are actually to have a positive impact on not just the hundreds/thousands of tattooers who have been inspired by him, but on each individual client, collector or artist he encounters.

    I don’t know many people in tattooing these things can be said of. Period. I do know (from experience) that it’s far easier to tear someone/thing down than it is to build up, so it’s important for me to point out, (as TAM has always done), all those contributing something of value to tattooing.

    Being a veteran tattooer of nearly 24 years, I certainly agree with the sentiments expressed above, in a general sense…it is our duty to learn, respect and also to SERVE tattooing. I’ve never known Jeff to do otherwise. If only more did the same…

    Respect.
    -C

    • Crash-
      I think you’re misinterpreting my comments as a personal attack on Jeff. I don’t know the dude, so I apologize to him and anyone else who takes offense to this if this is how it comes off, it’s not my style. I also can’t read his mind and know all of his intentions on the project. To draw a fine distinction, I’m not really judging his intentions either, they’re probably as noble as you claim. However, we all can make mistakes with the noblest of intentions, and it is my own opinion that projects like these can sometimes cause more harm than good in the long term. Now, as stated before, I haven’t seen the video, so I might be coming close to talking out my ass now- but it seems he’s probably giving inspiration through personal instruction, nuts and bolts type things. I know the genie’s way out of the bottle on this, and it’s not going back in, but I’ll still vocalize my opinion on it. Jeff is perceived by many people as a leader in the tattoo industry, and as such he sets an example that many will follow. The veterans and leaders in the business bear more responsibility than others, because they have more of an effect on what direction tattooing will continue to take. This is why, for me, it’s so much more disastrous and disappointing when artists I respect choose to make appearances on reality shows. Their actions bear so much more weight and consequence than any of the other run of the mill hacks on these shows, and they definitely set a precedent- if so-and-so did it, then it no longer bears the stigma it once had. The same holds true for situations like this, in which knowledge that was once held, yes, sacred is given away. Just because it’s been done many times over doesn’t mean it should be propagated, especially by those who have a bullhorn. Just because these things are the norm now doesn’t mean everyone has to accept that it’s ok, it’s a new age. I’ve been told before, in print and online, to just get over it. Well, I felt strongly enough about it to comment again here, and I’m not over it. I’ll reiterate my point that knowledge earned is held far more valuable than knowledge given. Tattooing is not and never has been like other trades. It is one of the few cases, in my opinion, where egalitarianism is not called for. It cheapens it. Yes, tattooing has gotten to amazing heights at this point, and that’s not something i’m trying to tear down. I just assert that the depths need to be respected and appreciated more as well.
      In 1994 I attended a machine-building seminar given by Mike Malone. He shared a vast amount of knowledge, and my further interactions with him were nothing but inspiring as well. However, the seminar was at a National Tattoo Association convention, which fastidiously vets its attendees as being professional tattooers as well as members of its organization. I certainly am not advocating we all have badges and ID’s but my point is that there was a discernment in who he chose to inspire and share with. I might be wrong, but i believe TAM started out only selling to professionals as well. if this is correct, I’m not trying to take a jab at you, I’m sure it’s next to impossible to maintain this kind of exclusion over time in practice as well as perpetuate one’s business. My point is only that you seemed to have similar intentions to what I’m defending.
      As far as being on a mission to inspire, well, i personally don’t think this necessitates the inclusion of hard-earned insight for all to enjoy. As I stated in the previous comment, this is Jeff’s prerogative, but if the average tattooer isn’t already inspired by what they see in your and others’ magazines, the internet, attending conventions and interacting with actual people, etc, they probably won’t be inspired by anything. Go out and make an effort to meet Jeff Gogue, get tattooed by him, show him your portfolio, attend the seminars that you did. That’s what i did with the tattooers i looked up to, and i bet you did the same. Doing this provided me with things that are far more valuable than a dvd.
      Furthermore, as far as contributing something of value to tattooing, well i’ve spent almost 22 years, more than half of my life, trying to do this on a person-to-person basis. And there are thousands more who’ve done the same thing, and more, and have chosen to decline the limelight. To have a positive impact on every individual client, collector, or artist one encounters is what every self-respecting artist and human aspires to. To speak for myself, i don’t pretend that i succeed all the time. To commit yourself day in, day out to your art and craft isn’t easy, and neither is keeping a happy face on it. To do it on a dvd, at conventions, and amongst ones peers is the easy part. Let’s not lionize anyone in an unrealistic light, there’s more than enough of that in tattooing.
      If all of this, including my previous comments come off as negative and/or fundamentalist, this wasn’t my intention, and I don’t think it’s an accurate perception. Criticism doesn’t always equate with negativity. This is just tattooing as i see it (sorry i couldn’t resist).
      with much respect,
      –erik

  4. PS: A heartfelt Happy New Year to you and the crew at TAM, keep up the good work, it’s appreciated.

  5. Thanks for the thoughtful follow-up comments, Erik.
    I appreciate it, sincerely. I’m very glad to have read more about your intentions and your deep passions, making it clear that this really didn’t have much to do with Jeff Gogue, (which is as I suspected when people let me know of comments that could be misconstrued as such.) I needed to provide an alternative perspective…though one that also includes a great deal of shared meaning with what I (correctly?) believed to be your deepest intentions. That tattooing is sacred and it deserves our very best efforts, (though how one defines what are best and/or worst efforts is indeed still subjective and worth further discussion). Please forgive me, as well…because I have never thought of you as a fundamentalist, Erik, so I apologize if you took MY broad generalizations to be personal. Not at all, man! I have always known you to be a man of thoughtfulness and humility, even when we first met at Mick’s in Zurich all those years ago. I saw not just your talent and skill, but also this drive to learn and earn the very same things you’re passionately speaking of. And which I agree with. My intention was to say- hey, this guy is worth the benefit of the doubt, and maybe you should get to know him a little. It’s worth the effort. (Since I didn’t clarify earlier- The amazing thing about his seminar, (and I’ve been to many, many seminars, as you mention), was that it had MUCH less to do with tattooing and more to do with LIFE and our attitudes toward it and our art/craft. A Truly unique take and, I suspect, it is built-in to this and any of his projects. NO ‘glorification’ intended; it’s just who I know him to be.)

    I’d like to revisit this discussion when I have some more time, but want to say that these things are WORTH discussing, and possibly the most important things we could do to benefit tattooing or to have any sort of impact on its future- that is, to (maturely and respectfully) dialog with one another about the things that DO (continue to) make tattooing Sacred. You and I have travelled very long roads, my friend, as have so many others we know and respect. The way I see it, haha, is that our ONLY hope of perpetuating the survival of this ‘sacredness’, is to pass it along to as many as we possibly can.

    In all honesty- tthat’s what the TAMblog was created for, and the ONLY reason I can explain why it’s gotten more than 2.5 MILLION views in it’s few, short years.
    90% of those blogs written by tatters. (And I’d still LOVE to have your wisdom and voice here…yes, it would inspire OTHERS to do the same…

    and that’s why the dialog matters.

    I’ll continue soon.
    Thanks again, Erik!
    -C

  6. all of the above sounds good to me crash, and as i said i’ve always appreciated what you and the TAM crew do- your magazine’s always been one of only a few that’s been consistently good over the years.
    i get your point about giving someone the benefit of the doubt regarding intentions, maybe this isn’t one of my strong suits. as you noted, my rantings were really about a few generalities in tattoo culture more than about this one specific instance involving mr. gogue. in the grand scheme of things i’m not trying to police people, i just felt the need this one time to express what’s increasingly become an alternative view. over the years as tattooing has changed at a quicker and quicker pace, i’ve had many private discussions like these with friends and artists i respect, but in public it seems to be a minority opinion. but, like you said, nothing is ever black & white, and maybe projects like his are best judged on a case by case basis… and after actually being watched haha…
    so thanks for hearing me out and taking the time to respond in length, and also for providing a forum in which i could vent! i guess it’s better than being apathetic. best wishes for the new year, keep up the good work. oh, and PS, thanks for the new shop article! i didnt realize it was going to be in TAM as well as Tattoo Culture. very pleasant surprise.

  7. Eric, it’s not a technical step by step. It’s a DVD that will inspire any artist, NOT teach them how to tattoo. You should watch it, and then comment.

  8. hi nikki,
    i started off early on with a disclaimer that i hadn’t seen the video. the conversation quickly evolved into generalizations about contemporary tattoo culture with jeff’s video as a jumping off point. no need to take things personal, read the comments above fully then let me know your thoughts. i look forward to it. –erik

  9. No, I wasn’t taking it personal. I’m sorry if it came across that way. I was just saying as the only one of us who actually saw the video that it isn’t a negative thing, and I encourage you to watch and I’d be interested in knowing your thoughts on it then. I’m not a tattooer, and I think it’s a positive, super inspirational message to anyone – artist or not. That said, I’d be curious to know if you think it’s too forth giving. It’s a great discussion and one that would be a great blog to put out there if you’re ever interested!

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