Danika Massey, Killer Tattoo Artist

Danika Massey, tattoo artist

Danika Massey, tattoo artist

Big Daddys Tattoo
1426 Pacific Coast Hwy
Harbor City, CA 90710
(310) 325-2129

MI: What did you go to school for?

Danika: Sequential art, which is a fancy word for comic books. I went to the Savannah College of Arts and Design and I graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of Fine Arts. I was trying to get into the comic book industry, but I’m just not a lucky girl—you need to be in the right place and at the right time. Even when I was dating the comic book stenciller and inker, I couldn’t get a job doing the coloring. They (management) didn’t want to put someone new on the payroll, so someone else less talented got hired.

MI: That’s too bad—their loss completely.

Danika: So I decided to make a web comic series about day-to-day crazy things that happen to me. I recently did a comic about a bum that came into our shop and decided to pee on the floor. I’m still working on a style guide right now, but it’s going to be about tattoos, relationships, working as an artist, all those things.

MI: What was your first tattoo?

Danika: The first tattoo I ever got was a Chanel symbol on my foot. I’m usually kinda broke so I can’t afford expensive things. Now I’m always in style.

MI: Do you have any other tattoos?

Danika: I wasn’t planning on getting more tattoos. But I did, during my apprenticeship. I was living in South Carolina, working 2 nights a week at a club as a shot girl, and on a whim one day, I rolled up to a tattoo shop and asked if they needed apprentices. They told me to bring a portfolio, so I came back with mine, and they were like, wow when can you start? Most people who roll up don’t have a portfolio and can’t draw.

MI: And there you were, prepared with your portfolio and your formal training. What do you like about tattooing?

Danika: I like going to a place to work and talking to people. I get to do different things every single day instead of getting stuck doing the same page of a comic for 10 hours.

MI: What’s it like tattooing in California compared to South Carolina?

Danika: Well, I’m definitely doing a lot less tattoos with the rebel flag! I have a couple of pages in my portfolio dedicated to my redneck tattoos. Overall though, I would say people really aren’t that different. It really hasn’t been that much of a culture shock or anything. There’s definitely different themes: Browning deer heads, rebel flags, anything pro-America in the South. In California, it’s flowers and a lot more beach-y themed stuff.

MI: What are Browning deer heads?

Danika: There’s a company called Browning that makes hunting equipment. If you’re in the South, people have these stickers on their cars. I thought it was a man on fire, but it’s a deer head.

MI: The antlers were like the flames from afar?

Danika: I guess I don’t look at things the way most people do, maybe because I’m creative. I thought, oh that’s a man with his head on fire. The deer’s ear looked like his head, the face looked like his arm.

MI: How would you describe your style?

Danika: I really enjoy color, I enjoy black and gray too…I’m trying to get into portraiture right now. I don’t think I have a style yet, I’m still too new to it.

MI: How has your background in art prepared you for tattooing?

Danika: For me, it’s about learning the medium, not how to draw. A lot of people come into the field just knowing they love tattoos but not knowing how to draw. For me, with the background and formal training, I find it helps to already know about things like art composition, and all the things that can make or break a design.

MI: Looking at your blog, it’s obvious you like to draw and execute your own tattoo designs.

Danika: I’ve always been in love with drawing, ever since I was a little kid. Flash is kinda fun in that you get to do someone else’s art and put your own spin on it. It’s more fulfilling personally when I get to do something of my own. It’s meaningful when someone wants to put your art on their body for the rest of their lives. I think most people who really draw, like to draw their own stuff.

MI: Tell us about the zombie girl tattoo.

Danika: When I was in Alabama, one of my clients and friends gave me carte blanche to do this tattoo because he really liked my work. He told me he wanted a pinup girl, so a dead girl, zombie pinup girl was my interpretation. I know it’s not necessarily traditional, but I try to do things that are different, try to shake it up a little. The normal pinup girl is in one of 5 positions, whereas I did her skirt and I really liked it and went from there.

MI: Tell us about the goat tattoo.

Danika: It’s actually a sheep. I remember reading this book in high school called Angela’s Ashes. There’s a quote that I really liked, “It’s better to hang for a sheep than a lamb.” It means that if you’re going to do something then you might as well go all the way and get in trouble for something big. I always liked that saying, so I drew a sheep getting hanged. I was thinking of drawing a banner over it, but I decided to be subtle. Multiple meanings instead of being ham-fisted. These days, entertainment, movies, TV and even drawings tend to be so ham-fisted.

MI: Who did you tattoo it on?

Danika: I had a friend who liked it and let me do it on him.

MI: Last tattoo—where does the Chippy guy come from?

Danika: That was based on a television show that helped me get through tough times.

MI: What show is that?

Danika: It’s called Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job.

MI: Adult swim?

Danika: You got it.

MI: Who is this character?

Danika: So they do this thing, they show a scene like a dinner table set with food, and someone says, “Where’s my Chippy? Where’s my Chippy? Come out here!” And then he comes out from behind the turkey leg and they circle him and they say, “There’s my Chippy!” I guess like things from B culture and cult things and making them into tattoos—I took Chippy and combined him with an Asian tattoo theme. That’s more indicative of the kind of work I like to do, stupid humor things, like that Chippy tattoo. I’d love to do some Golden Girls tattoos. I’ve got so many ideas for things like that. Horror movies tattoos too.

MI: We had a horror-themed design contest last year! The winner of the $700 cash/$300 credit prize was David_M for “Undead Moon.” You should enter your work next time. Thanks so much for talking with us, and we hope to see your artwork on metalinkshop.com soon!

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