From one side of Florida to the other, Steve Oker has been making waves in the Central Florida tattoo community for
several years now. Although tattooing wasn’t Steve’s originally intended career path, he took to it like a fish to water – quickly making a name for himself and carving out his own little niche in this unique industry. I first met Steve during his time at the internationally recognized shop, Hart & Huntington Tattoo: Orlando, but finally got a few moments to catch up with him while I was covering the Tampa Tattoo Arts Convention late last year. Check out the rundown of our Q&A below!
Let’s go ahead and get the obvious questions out of the way first—starting with, how long have
you been tattooing?
I started my apprenticeship in 2008 here in Florida.
What drew you to the tattoo industry? Was it something you always knew you wanted to do
when you were young, or did you find it later in life?
I never actually had the desire to be a tattoo artist. The concept in itself was cool but I didn’t know it had the capability to be what it was or what it’s become. I knew I wanted to do something art related so I started branching out my options. At the time I had a friend who was in the industry who told me I should give it a shot and well, I haven’t quit since.
You were working for Hart & Huntington Tattoo in Orlando, Florida but recently switched to
NiteOwl Tattoo in Tampa. Did you find your clientele changed when you switched cities?
This is one of the many reasons why I love what I do. I’m forever grateful for the people who follow me and like what I do. If it weren’t for my clientele current and potential, I wouldn’t have a career. I’ve actually felt since the move I’ve gotten a lot busier with tattooing. So thank you to all of those who have made this possible!
I’ve had the pleasure of watching you work on several occasions now and each time you have
put forth beautiful, yet unique watercolor pieces which seem to be bordering on illustrative. Is
that your favorite style of tattooing or is it just something you’re really good at and seem to get
a lot of?
Ever since I started tattooing I’ve worked in every style there is. Watercolor came about much later in my career and it’s been a style I’m constantly molding. It’s a lot of fun. There’s so much freedom in it and you aren’t limited to specific subject matter that will work best for the style. It’s definitely one of the most requested styles that I do. As far as it being the only style I like doing? No, I also love tattooing neo-traditional and realism as well.
If you could do any piece you desired on a client—what would it be?
This one is so hard to limit to one thing. I’m a huge nerd so anything that falls into that category whether it be a movie or comic character, a video game or anything you could find at a comic con gets me super excited.
Every tattoo artist has an off-the-wall funny story about a client, a situation, or a tattoo that has
come across their chair. If you had to pick a story that strikes you as the funniest of your
career—what would it be?
Man, when isn’t there a funny story? I’ve had so many over the years that it’s almost impossible to narrow it down. I’ve had some pretty strange requests for tattoos though. One of which was a gentleman who requested to have woman’s underwear tattooed on his lower back so that when he bent over you could see it. That one is definitely top five.
When it comes time to tattoo, do you generally use music to get into the “groove” or do you
find you need silence or white noise in the background? If you utilize music, what type do you
listen to and does it change by piece?
Music all the way. I honestly don’t know that I could tattoo without it. The genre always varies but having that sound makes for a much more fun experience both as the artist and for the client.
What is one of your biggest pet peeves in the industry?
This is an easy one. Cross contamination. I see it all too often and it bothers the hell out of me. Every artist should be up to the highest standard of cleanliness and safety not only for themselves but also the client.
You travel the convention circuit quite a bit—do you prefer the in-shop experience or the
convention experience better?
Tell us a little about your home life. Do you have any hobbies that aren’t tattoo-related? Pets?
Anything else we might find interesting?
If you could tattoo anyone, living or dead—who would it be?
I’ve been asked this before and honestly, celebrities are pretty cool to tattoo. You get to hear their story on a personal level and I find it fascinating to see that side of a person in the limelight.