Owner of award-winning ABT Tattoo in McDonough, Georgia, Todo Brennan is a world-renowned tattoo artist with over thirty years of experience.
Although the shops Todo tried landing apprenticeships with back in the 1980s pretty much kicked him out the door, that didn’t stop him from pursuing his dream as a professional tattoo artist.
He’s dedicated. He’s professional. He’s talented.
Here’s how one man followed his dreams and paved a road to success with his own two hands.
When did you discover your artistic inclinations?
At just five years old I would sit beside my Grandma, shading my coloring books with crayons. That’s where it all began.
You have an impressive list of rock star clients. Care to name drop?
Slash from Guns n Roses, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, members of Gwen Stefani’s No Doubt band, as well as Stone Temple Pilots, just to name a few.
I’ve also created custom artwork for Ozzy Osbourne and Poison’s Brett Michaels.
What’s the most rewarding part of being a professional tattoo artist?
I think it’s the discovery of new styles. Every day I tattoo, I learn something new. I never get bored and that’s probably the best thing about it. Tattooing teaches me how to do other art as well, such as painting; and then painting teaches tattooing. Everything feeds the other, artistically.
Did you serve a traditional tattoo artist apprenticeship?
Back in the 1970s when I first started tattooing it was all underground. The shops I tried to obtain an apprenticeship with back in the 1980’s looked at me like I was crazy and pretty much kicked me out the door. I had no choice but to learn on my own.
What’s your biggest challenge as a tattoo artist?
I’d say staying ahead and competing with all these young artists today that are popping out of the woodwork, schooling me. I look at them and wonder “Holy!” How the hell did you learn so quickly?
I’m always trying to stay on top and push the envelope. I thank God I have that I have a lot of great artists in the younger generation that can give me some tips here and there and we’ll discuss new techniques.
In turn I can teach them old school tattoo basics.
Care to share a few old school tattooing basics?
Artists should be checking their needles and being very clean about their procedures. Without this training, most of them just trust needle companies and tattoo suppliers.
I made my own needles for fifteen years. A lady back in Oregon taught me to make needles and she was just so picky. I would go home every night and make roughly thirty sets of needles. I would bring them back to work the next day and she’d throw nearly ninety percent of them away, and tell me they were bad. “What do you mean they’re bad?” She would show me what to look for. This affects the quality of the work and how a tattoo heals.
What advice would you offer aspiring tattoo artists?
They need to practice old school tattoo machine building. Figure it out yourself and respect it rather than take things for granted. Tattooing is a minor surgery if you really think about it.
What would you like to see change in the tattoo industry?
I believe mainstream TV shows are helping society accept tattooing more. I’ve been asked to be on over five different shows and it’s really all about the drama.
How would you like to be remembered in your profession?
I’ve opened up a new era with chrome on skin back in the 1990’s and received a lot of awards for that. Most of the tattooing style back in the day was black and grey Realism tattoos, and Freddy Negrete and Jack Rudy pretty much cornered the market.
When it came to color Realism there was very little of us doing them. I think I pulled off the formula of chrome on skin and so far it’s lasted over fifteen years on the skin. I was an experienced air brush artist.
How many conventions do you attend?
I try to do some of the best shows out there, as well as guest spots at places like Off the Map tattoo in Massachusetts. They opened up the doors for new artists to gather and collaborate. I also do Comic-Con and Dragon-Con.
What was your biggest professional mistake?
I became an arrogant rock star tattooist back in the day. Those chrome robots went straight to my head.
Thankfully Todo stayed true to his calling and showed the world that with determination and talent, a man can open his own doors to success.
There’s no place like home.
Be sure to check out Todo Brennan and the ABT Tattoo team in McDonough, Georgia, by visiting their Member Profile.