From Hieronymus Bosch to Mike Davis, Fantastic Imagery in Art & Tattoos
Happy Friday! Today we’re talking to Mike Davis, tattoo artist, painter, and owner of Everlasting Tattoo in San Francisco. Mike has been tattooing at Everlasting since ’92, and in the 17 years he’s been here, he’s seen a lot of change in the neighborhood and the tattoo scene, so we’re glad for the opportunity to pick his brain!
813 Divisadero St
San Francisco, CA 94117
MI: Love the artwork you have in here. Can you tell us about the paintings?
Mike: Well, I did them. I paint as well as tattoo. I have gallery shows and it’s sort of like my second job.
Mike: I’m very influenced by Dutch and Flemish painters.
MI: You’re incredibly talented! Do you have any upcoming shows?
Mike: I have one, Mondo Bizzarro, in Rome coming up in April. Other than that probably the next show will be in New York.
MI: So what came first, painting or tattooing?
Mike: Well I have always done art since I can remember. I was doing stage sets for film and theater before I was tattooing. I started tattooing out of my house as a hobby but seriously painting has been about ten years.
MI: Do your ideas for your paintings come more from your dreams or influential painters?
Mike: The ideas are sort of based on life experiences and interpreted in my own way through symbolism and imagery.
MI: Do people seek you out for your work as a painter and request these symbols as tattoos?
Mike: Sometimes but usually not. Once in a while people will have me put some of that type of element into their tattoos but it doesn’t happen often.
MI: How would you describe your style as a tattoo artist?
Mike: I’ll do whatever people want. To me it’s commercial art. I mean, that’s my job. If you’re talking about artistic integrity, that’s what my paintings are for.
MI: You said you started tattooing out of your house. Assuming that means you didn’t do an apprenticeship, did you also not go to art school? Are you also a self-taught painter?
Mike: That’s right.
MI: That’s so amazing, your innate talent expressing itself. Let’s talk about how tattooing has changed in the 17 years you’ve been here.
Mike: I don’t think it’s changed really. The area has changed, from being a ghetto to what it is today, gentrified NOPA. In terms of the clients, I tattoo more people, but I think the type of people who get tattooed and what things they get tattooed on them hasn’t changed. It’s generally the best place for tattooing in the country.
MI: How is it different from, for example, New York or LA?
Mike: We get to do more fun stuff here. You get to be more creative with the type of imagery that we do here. On the East coast, people tend to be more conservative with imagery, a lot of religious stuff and not too much crazy stuff.
MI: Right, you do see more of that here. A few weeks ago, we spoke to a tattooer on Haight named Barnaby who had just done a Grateful Dead bear carrying a Wu-Tang flag on a skater kid. But what about someone like Paul Booth in New York? His stuff is pretty crazy.
Mike: I’ve known him for almost 17 years. His work isn’t crazy, it’s dark.
MI: So is his artwork—he has paintings in his shop too! Is that how you got to know him? Through the art scene?
Mike: I know him through tattooing.
MI: Who else paints and tattoos?
Mike: There’s Henry Lewis at Skull and Sword. He’s a good friend of mine. Everybody does a little bit of something. But as far as being in a gallery where it’s totally disconnected from tattooing, not very many.
MI: Who are your buyers, typically?
Mike: Well they’re people a lot of times from a different city or country. They just look at it online. They are art collectors.
MI: What do you see yourself doing in 10 years? Tattooing or painting full-time?
Mike: I don’t know.
MI: Well, whatever you decide, I’m sure you’ll continue to gain lots of fans. Great stuff. Thanks so much, and I hope you participate in our design contest! Our members would love to wear a design made by you!