Tattoolicious has been giving the good people of Honolulu, Hawaii an amazing custom tattoo experience for the last 13 years. With seven tattoo artists on board, there is no shortage of creativity or talent in a variety of tattoo styles; from Japanese work, to portraiture, to traditional and everything in between, Tattoolicious does it all. With artists like Roman Abrego, Carlos Torres and Mark Longenecker guest spotting, it’s no surprise that Tattoolicious has earned the prestige and reputation as one of the best tattoo shops on the island. The largest shop in Hawaii per square foot, Tattoolicious artists are always growing and pushing each other to produce newer and more exciting art, pushing their boundaries and elevating tattooing to a new level. Owner/artist Sean McCready, 40, took the time to answer some of our questions; read below:
Hey Sean, lets get the basics out of the way. Where were you born? Where did you grow up? What were/are your hobbies outside of tattooing?
I was born in Southern California. Spent childhood years in Covina California and a couple in the Florida Keys, adolescent years in Huntington and Newport Beach and moved to Oahu's North Shore. Skateboarding was a huge one for me however surfing is my mainstay due to concrete and knee problems. Sadly but awesome as well, if I don't skate then I can surf all I want.
Are you an artist outside of tattooing? ie: do you paint, sculpt, draw, sketch, play music, etc..
I do paint in a couple different mediums and play a mean didgeridoo!
How long have you been a professional tattoo artist? How/when did you realize that tattooing was your calling and you wanted to pursue it as a career? Were you an artist as a kid?
I’ve been a tattoo artist for 13 years. When I was sick in the 90's of people telling what I couldn't have on my body for work reasons. I wasn’t artistic at all as a kid, I totally arrived in the transformation of my sobriety from drugs and alcohol. A tattooist and friend at the time named TJ inspired me to pursue it.
How did you become a tattoo artist? Did you go through art school or an apprenticeship?
In the tattoo world I kind of had to learn it the hard way, by making mistakes and realizing that's not what I wanted to do. But mostly, I learned from other artists that I could take inspiration from or lessons of what not to do.
What tattoo styles do you prefer to do? Are there any that you excel in? Do you have any restrictions on what you will or will not tattoo on somebody?
Color realism mixed with a blend of americana traditionalism. I’m beginning to really get into color portraits. I won’t tattoo anything absolutely overtly degrading and unclassy, and not into the 666 thing and upside down crosses really.
What’s your relationship with your clients like? Do you build long lasting friendships with customers? Do people travel to get tattooed by you?
My relationship with clients is usually kept at a professional level. I absolutely love to treat them with kindness and hospitality but I have too many friends already that I don't keep up with and can get spread too thin as it is. I rather have quality friendships rather than quantity and that has always been a challenge in my life by having to many associations.
Are there any artists that you really admire? who are they and why? Have you ever met and/or worked with any of them?
Roman Abrego, such a dedicated hard worker and amazing artist. Carlos Torres for his black and gray, and his dedication to art in itself. His paintings are off the hook! Both of them are some of the humble and friendliest people in the industry I have come across. I have worked with both of them.
Do you have any memorable tattoo stories or experiences? What is your wildest tattoo related story? Be it somebody you tattooed, somebody that has tattooed you, or anything in between.
A client who came in pissed off at the world and happy to communicate clearly about it, he was actually pretty offensive. I gave him a listening ear and shared some life experiences with him. Next thing you know he's a soft crying mess spilling out many of his hurts instead of his earlier venom at the world. He realized some great trespasses that have happened to him along the way in that tattoo session that freed him from a lot of anger he was holding in against some really hurtful people in his life. I personally have a lot of recovery work that has helped me and seeing someone else begin to go down that road of emotional recovery is one of the greatest highlights for me to go through as with them as well.
How do you feel about Flash vs. Custom Designs? Do you prefer one over the other? Is flash dead? What is your preparation process like for a new tattoo?
Our shop mainly focuses on custom designing of tattoo work, however we have no problem helping someone wanting a piece of flash as well. It's there to help people that aren't so creative to help them figure out what it is they want, especially for their first tattoo. We definitely let the clients know they are free to let us design something unique for them as well.
There are purists that keep certain styles alive, however many styles are borrowing from other styles just as the fashion and music industry does. And then there is the full force induction of styles working off of one another completely. We are in an exciting time of tattooing and art, where the freedom of art is so influencing the industry right now.
Cover can be tricky business; can any tattoo artist do one or does it require special training? What are the hardest parts of covering up a bad tattoo?
I would imagine any artist could do a cover up, but it seems that there are those that really understand what the limits are and what it really takes to do a cover up well. Some view a cover up as just distracting from the old tattoo and others view it as something new that in no way shows what was underneath in the first place. The training takes place from experience and the drive it takes to do something really well and also the courage to turn down something that isn't meant to be.
Do you think tattoo culture has gone mainstream with the amount of TV shows on the matter and athletes and celebrities publicly endorsing and sporting tattoos?
Yes. On one side it has provided a lot of new work and clients for us in the industry while also bringing in some really unrealistic expectations on us as artists. The time it take to complete a tattoo is not portrayed correctly. The most important thing to mention is that the drama in the shows should go bye bye.
From your experience, how has the tattoo industry changed over the years?
The quality of art is going off and blowing my mind all of the time, new styles are forming and old ones are being infused to new and better ones. People are actually investing in to better atmospheres in shops these days as opposed to the old classic 4 wall that’s all you get type shop and the closed mindedness to tattooing is dropping of in crazy numbers these days.
Do you have any advice for somebody looking to get their first tattoo? What should they take into account when searching for the perfect design and artist?
Find an artist that does the style you're looking for, but do a lot of homework finding the styles that are available out there to choose from. Don't micromanage your artist to pieces, give them clear instruction of what you want but let them do the work they're known for. Artists minds can get blocked real quick when a client is pushing too hard at crazy little details. Don't over saturate the tattoo with too many meaningful items for content, you'll lose the beauty in art real quick that way. Simpler things come out way more amazing.
Could you sum up your philosophy or outlook on tattooing as a whole; where does it stand in the trajectory of art? how has it evolved?
Tattooing is such an incredible outlet for so many people and a much more productive addiction rather than many other things. However anything can be taken too far. I feel like a lot of that is happening today with people trying to find the next unique cool place on their body to get a tattoo. Well, we're running out of places and that means people should get more creative than just throwing some jenky artwork on their face just to get attention. That too has a price and not always an affordable one, if you catch my drift. I just hope it doesn't bring back the bad connotations to tattooing that we have worked so hard to come out of in the recent past.
Eloquent, ambitious, passionate and most of all talented, Sean McCready along with the rest of the Tattoolicious crew represents everything that is right with the tattoo industry today. Check them out at 1909 Ala Wai Blvd, Honolulu, HI.