E.vill Monday

Walking through East Village, tracking down tattoo artists for the Metal Ink blog. Visit our website at metalinkshop.com.

Addiction Ink
120 Saint Marks Place
New York, NY 10009
(212) 420-1465

Neal at Addiction Ink

Neal at Addiction Ink

Neal Aultman
Tattoo Artist
Neal’s tattoos

MI:  You have a degree in graphic design. Was that your original career path?

Neal:  I went to Pratt in ’98 for Graphic Design. I was just going to be a graphic designer but I wound up getting some tattoo equipment somehow, and I started practicing on my friends. I guess I got good at it. I had a job as a graphic designer. I hated the shit out of it so that’s how I became a tattoo artist.

MI:  You started tattooing while you were working as a graphic designer?

Neal:  I used to tattoo in college too. I didn’t want to work in a cubicle any more. But now I work in a cubicle. *Laughs.* I didn’t want to wear a buttoned shirt.

MI:  Fair enough. That’s a good reason in my book. What was the first tattoo you ever did?

Neal:  It was a snowflake, by request. It was on a girl. I did it in a light blue. I had no idea what I was doing and I scarred her.

MI:  Are you still friends?

Neal:  No, we weren’t friends to begin with. Some girl bought me all this equipment so that I could tattoo her. But she wanted me to do her friend first, and two hours later she was like, that’s good enough and I did her. It was so much better on the second girl. I ended up doing a lot of work on her. I kept getting better, and more people found out. That was 4 and a half years ago.

MI:  Have you only been tattooing in New York?

Neal:  I started out in this little bitty shitty shop on Christopher Street. My clientele was primarily lesbians from New Jersey.

MI:  What kind of designs did they gravitate to?

Neal:  Rainbows, triangles, hearts, stars. Tribal too.

MI:  That must have been tedious.

Neal:  Yeah, it got real old.

MI:  So you don’t really like tribal?

Neal:  It’s mostly gay men, big dues, or chicks who don’t really know what they want. I don’t mind doing Polynesian black work, but that neo tribal crap is overplayed.

MI:  What style do you do?

Neal:  I mostly do portraits and traditional. Or Neo-traditional, new style traditional, still the same hard lines, gradient and colored, but weird stuff. New subject matter. You take a traditional subject and make it weird.

Traditional rose

Traditional rose

Keyhole rose

Keyhole rose

MI:  Where do you get your inspiration?

Neal:  Sometimes it comes to me, sometimes somebody will ask me for something. Ideas build off of other ideas. Sometimes I’ll be looking at a magazine and I’ll draw it in my own way.

MI:  What do you think about the west coast vs. east coast in terms of tattooing?

Neal:  West coast is totally different. New York is more business. There are a lot of shops here but not a lot of the owners care about the art; they’re more about the money. A lot of the shops aren’t even owned by people who have tattoos. Sell some bongs, you do the tattoos, make money. But people on the west coast are really about tattooing, and they’re about doing bigger tattoos. New York is one of the shittiest places to tattoo because you’ve got some of the best people and some of the worst but more of the bad people. Philly has the brotherhood of the world thing. They all know each other and they’re all tightly connected and they’re all good. New York is more cutthroat and shit-talking and being a rock star.

MI:  You could say that about any industry in New York. What city would you work in if you could decide?

Neal:  I’m moving to Seattle in the fall.

MI:  So Seattle’s the place to be?

Neal:  I have a friend who’s from there and he kinda talked it up for me. You know what, I’ve never been there but why not? Move there for a year, if I don’t like it, bail, move back to New York. It’s like, once you’ve been in New York, you can do that. I’ve been here for 11 years, this is my home. Even if I leave, New York will always be the base. I could always move back here. I’m from New Orleans though. In New Orleans, the tattoo scene is dead, from what I hear.

MI:  I’m from San Francisco. Kinda biased, but I really like the Pacific Northwest.

Neal:  I don’t go to San Francisco because I have 4 ex-girlfriends who live there.

MI:  *Laughs.*

Neal:  Some of the best tattoo artists live in SF.

MI:  Who? I’m going back to SF on Wednesday and I’m going to start interviewing artists there.

Neal:  Let’s see…there’s Grim, Jason Kundell, Paco Excel…and you got a lot of Horis, traditional Japanese people.

MI:  Thanks, I’ll look them up!

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