An interview with tattoo artist, Lucas Eagleton
Lucas Eagleton and I have known each other for a while- we both studied Printmaking at the University of North Texas and during our time there attended Frogman’s Print Workshops during the same summer. He is one heck of a draftsman and I admire his combination of realism and highly stylized motifs in his artwork. He has an ability to capture the character and spirit of people and animals beyond their physical likeness. And I’ve always been impressed by how personable Lucas is and his openness to see people, things and ideas in the best light. He really is a one-of-a-kind human being and an extraordinarily talented artist. It’s been such an honor watching Lucas’ tattoo practice grow and I wanted to talk to him a little more about himself and his work…
CS: Where did you grow up?
LE: I grew up in Denton, Texas, born in 1988
CS: When did you move to Tacoma? What took you there?
LE: I (we) moved to Tacoma during the February of 2016 mostly because I had a fascination with the northwest and the tattoos I did there and to start anew after our tragic house fire.
CS: Would you mind sharing more about the house fire? At least in terms of its impact on your life since then? I imagine that is a traumatic event that is hard to move forward from.
LE: No, I don’t mind. I previously had imagined that everybody in their life has gone through some traumatic event that has greatly affected them in someway. When the fire had occurred during and after, this thought came to my mind. Because I was slightly prepared in a sense, I feel as though the impact of the fire in the whole event was a little less. I think about this event possibly once a week or more. It is something that I have strongly tried to not let affect me, but how can one truly shake off a moment in life such as the one that we had experienced? It shapes you and changes you.
I cannot say that I may ever completely heal from an event like this, but what it does is become a teacher for me to learn lessons from. Lessons like how to prepare and how to cope during times of unpreparedness.
CS: We met while we were both studying printmaking at the University of North Texas, so you were already a very talented artist by then. How did you get into art before that?
LE: I got into art honestly probably because of boredom. My father was a musician and later a photographer, and later yet, a chef. My brother is also a talented musician and my mother has a love for imagination and the arts. That was probably my earliest inspiration for the arts. Ever since childhood I enjoyed working with my hands and the arts, with creativity, followed.
CS: Your family is so creative and I love that your parents seemed to also encourage it in you and your brother. It’s no wonder you’re so cool!
What led you to tattooing and how did you work towards becoming a full-time tattoo artist?
LE: What led me to tattooing was probably a combination of fascination, curiosity, and desperation. I had a good friend ask me what I was planning on doing with my art degree after college and when I offered a less than enthusiastic response, she suggested I talk to the tattoo artists that worked at her shop about an apprenticeship. Knowing when a good offer is presenting itself, I went for it. The apprenticeship lasted two years under some very good artists and hard-asses at a shop in Denton called Aces Tattoos. The pay was $10 a night plus tips for scrubbing and sanitizing tattoo equipment.
CS: I know a lot of art students wonder how they’re going to make a living after graduation, especially for those that won’t be working in academia or design. Any words of encouragement?
LE: A few words of encouragement that I would have for anybody graduating or about to graduate or even after would be to be open to new experiences and recognize opportunities when they come your way. Say yes to the things you would normally say no to. Recognizing fear is an opportunity to overcome it. Add many new tools to your toolbox, but choose one tool that is your favorite and learn how to use that tool better than anyone else.
CS: You recently opened your private studio, The Black Bison, in Tacoma, WA. What advice would you give to someone interested in doing the same?
LE: If I could give advice to anyone opening a new private studio I’d say don’t ask me for advice. But if you press me, I’d say, be a generally more organized individual and cross your T’s (taxes) and dot your I’s (insurance). It really forces you to grow up and face responsibility. I do understand why someone wouldn’t do this but the same goes for anything in life. The harder you work towards something conceivably achievable, the more it pays off in the end. I only answer to myself, the ones above and the Gov’t!
CS: Taxes, insurance and generally running a business can seem so daunting when you’re starting out! How did you learn the ropes? Did you have any mentors?
LE: To be honest this is still an area that I have the hardest time with. As artists we tend to think about things in an abstract form and in images. When it comes to administration and background work that is where the real difficulty arises. I do have to work every day to become better in this department. I now have a financing software that I use and have learned in order to keep my records and my books. I do know that perfecting this will cause better monetary success in my business, but to me this is just another massive block in the pyramid. My mother and father are business owners and they of course have had their own hurdles, however, I honestly think that judging by the answers that I’ve gotten from my parents, they are in pretty much the same boat as I am, haha.
CS: Walk me through the process of working with a client for a custom design.
LE: To begin a custom piece, the client will first usually email me. From there I set up a consultation time with them to discuss the tattoo in further detail. During the consultation, I take a photo of the area, a tracing of the same, talk to the client and work out several ideas verbally or on paper. I then take a deposit of a determined amount depending on several factors for the tattoo then schedule the date. The client will then send me further references if requested and I will spend the week before their appointment drawing and working with their idea. I will do this with two clients max a week.
CS: What were the toughest decisions and/or sacrifices you’ve made for your art?
LE: Some of the toughest decisions or sacrifices I’ve had to make for my work is really changing my whole life for a skill/trade. I try to live as a holistic being which gives me fascination in all things. With tattooing I have to really focus my attention on one or very few things at a time. That is difficult for my mind but good at the same time. I hope to live long enough to know a very little about a whole lot but at least with tattooing, I will come to know much about a specific subject, never-ending.
Another tough aspect of creating for tattoos or drawing in general is that it is often static and what I like to call a “one player sport”. It requires a lot of attention and focus on what is in front of you instead of what is surrounding you. This makes for drawing and hanging out with your loved ones that require your full attention, difficult. Tattooing, at least the way I see it, requires much travel. This can be hard on loved ones as well if it happens in frequency.
CS: What do you wish more people understood about your profession?
LE: What I wish more people understood about my profession is the fact that art and inspiration cannot be turned on like a faucet. It is not as easy as flexing your arm. And sometimes, it can take from a month to possibly two days before an appointment for an idea to come to fruition. Many times I start massive “sleeve” tattoos one or two weeks before an appointment. Smaller tattoos I may not draw until the night before the appointment even if we’ve met for the consultation months ago! It comes to you when it does and sometimes that's later rather than sooner.
CS: How would you describe your artistic style?
LE: It’s always very difficult for me to describe my artistic style. I’ll refer to what I said a while back about my fascinations with life in general. This causes me to have an interest in just about every art style. I suppose a good term for my art would be Fusion. I am inspired by everything. I am very drawn to classical Art Nouveau interpretations, heavy black influence work, contrast, and illustration. I really love pieces that tell a story and incite question.
CS: Who is your ideal client and what are your favorite projects to work on?
LE: My ideal client is one who listens and understands the effort that is put into creating this work; a client who communicates as well. I feel proper communication is key to achieving a balanced work for both myself and the client.
CS: What music, tv shows, movies, podcasts, books, etc. are you enjoying right now?
LE: Currently, and pretty much always for a time now I have been enjoying programs about ancient history and the unknown depths of YouTube. I’m currently reading a book call “The Dweller on Two Planets” and “The Emerald Tablets of Thoth”. The podcasts I’m currently listening to are The Joe Rogan Experience, Your Mom’s House, The Duncan Trussell Family Hour, The Black Vault, Inside Skunk Works, and a Texas favorite, Expanded Perspectives! Tv shows: Forged in Fire, Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia, and Ancient Aliens. Movies I dig: Waterworld.
CS: How does technology impact your process, and how do you use it in your practice?
LE: I use technology very often in my process; that being without pencil or paper. I use my iPad for about 90% of my work, but more often these days, I’ve been going back to pencil and paper sketching. I feel it helps me to remember my flow. Nothing will quite be like the analog, but where the analog fails in conception, the digital wins out. I will usually conceptualize my tattoos using my iPad then finalize the outline by hand. After the outline is on my client, I will use my iPad to further render out the tattoo before I add color or value to the actual skin. I find this helps me vastly improve my time and efficiency and better execute my idea. It also serves to “WOW” the client.
CS: Who are your biggest influences?
LE: Some of my biggest influences are the thinkers of the past who help to inspire my mind today. For art inspiration I look all over. I have a fine collection of art books and the internet and social media is never ending for inspiration. A few of my influences are Nikola Tesla, Richard Dolan, Brien Foerster, the Paracas People of Peru, Hermes Trismegistus, Plato, Zoroaster, Thoth, the Buddha incarnations, Spike Spiegel, Jesus and Denzel Washington.
CS: Sum up the current decade of your life in one sentence.
LE: If I could sum of this decade of my life in one sentence it would be: Drinking of the cup of knowledge only leads to greater thirst.
CS: Do you have hobbies outside of work?
LE: I have a few hobbies outside of work, but since this job is so active, I try and fit them in where I can. I do much armchair research on the origin of humanity and where it's headed. This is an all-encompassing subject which keeps me very busy. I love flying drones and getting a higher perspective. From time to time I peer beyond the veil and could really use another viewing right about now! I love contemplating if listening to music is actually good for you or not which causes me to spend hours alone in silence while driving in my car. This definitely takes up a lot of time. Oh, and I have a new wife, so we kick it as well!
CS: Congrats on getting married! And for us unenlightened ones, tell us more about peering beyond the veil.
LE: To me this implies any technique method or aspect used to try and grasp more from reality than what is currently in front of your two eyes. I love to contemplate reality on my off time and usually on my “on” time as well. In this world we’re born as humans and we grow up believing that we are alone in understanding this world of course except for those who came before. The earth is a teacher. The earth provides hazards, sustenance, warmth, cold, life and death. What it also provides is an outlet to understand the deeper meanings of things. These may come in the form of plants, otherwise known as plant medicine, or even by synthetic means, which if you really think about it, that comes by organic means. If one is willing to put aside that which they suspect to be true in favor of that which teaches to be true, then you may gain knowledge and insight into that which is around you and affects you throughout life. The earth gives us that. These things or substances offer a different view of reality if you can dispel fear. From these you can learn; you can view your problems from a different perspective.
CS: How can people book a session with you?
LE: The best way to get in contact with me is through email at Eagletonart@gmail.com or through my website Lucaseagletonart.com. I also have an instagram @eagletonart. I book out far so please let me know months in advance!