An Interview with Joshua Bowers
In 2010, Skin Deep Magazine named Joshua Bowers one of the top 100 tattoo artists in the world. His work has appears in numerous tattoo publications, including articles in German and Brazilian magazines . He started his tattoo career seven years ago in Ames, Iowa while studying art at Iowa State University. He’s passionate about art, photography, life and fashion and applying a nice, clean tattoo.
Website: How long have you been tattooing?
Joshua Bowers: 7 years
Website: If you apprenticed under someone, who was it, where was it, and what kind of influence(if any) did they have?
Joshua Bowers: I apprenticed for about a year. It wasn’t what you would call a traditional apprenticeship, I really had to take the initiative and put myself in the best learning situations.
Website: Why did you start tattooing?
Joshua Bowers: I’ve always been fascinated with tattoos. It’s just something that I’ve always been interested in.
Website: What’s your history with tattooing? Shops/ locations/conventions/publications/ect.
Joshua Bowers: I started tattooing in Ames when I was going to Iowa State. I moved to Des Moines and tattooed at Sacred Skin for four years. I’ve been at Iron Heart for about 2 years.
I’ve attended conventions all over. I’ve been everywhere from California to Pittsburg, Phoenix, Milwaukee, and even a couple places in England.
I’ve been featured in numerous tattoo publications. I’ve had articles in German and Brazilian magazines but one of the most meaningful was when I was named one of Skin Deeps top 100 artists in the world.
Website: What and who have been your influences in tattooing?
Joshua Bowers: I have so many influences. I see things in art, photography and life that inspire me. About once a week I see things in tattooing that are fresh and new and push the boundaries of the craft, This pushes me to do better and be the absolute best tattooer I can be.
Website: If you had to classify your style what would it be? (Ex: Abstract, Realism, Surrealism, Old School, New School)
Joshua Bowers: I guess you could say what I do is Neo-traditional as well as New School.
Website: What are your thoughts on classifying style?
Joshua Bowers: It’s basic nature to classify things and put them in neat little categories. What bothers me a great deal is how most people even artists get it wrong. I’ve seen tattooers argue and say that what they do is neo-traditional or even traditional when in reality it’s obviously new school. A lot of people have no clue what a traditional style is, there’s rules, it’s clearly defined. Oh well in the end, a good tattoo is just a good tattoo.
Website: If you had to declare a specialty what would it be? (Ex: Tribal, Portrait, Japanese)
Joshua Bowers: I don’t want to pigeon hole myself into just one thing, I’m good at applying a nice clean tattoo. Whatever the imagery might be I try to put a little piece of me in every tattoo, so hopefully when it’s done somebody might recognize it as mine.
Website: What are your thoughts on classifying specialty? Ex: If an artist doesn’t like doing tribal (filling in a lot of Black) should they refer the customer to someone else? I love drawing with pen and marker, but it’s not everyones cup of tea.
Joshua Bowers: Tribal is one of the most difficult things to do in tattooing. It’s all solid fill and clean lines, I rarely see it done well. I think people should definitely refer clients to other tattooers if they aren’t capable of doing the piece well. If I feel a client would get a better tattoo from another artist I would refer them to a tattooer who can do it better.
Website: Being an artist, I create content for myself and not for others. What’s it like combining other peoples ideas with your vision? Is it even possible to do this?
Joshua Bowers: My visions as an artist come out in paintings, not in tattoos. When I design tattoos I give my clients what they want. I lay their ideas out in a clear, readable manner that looks good and flows well on their body. Some clients give me more freedom than others but that’s where the craft and the art differ for me.
Website: What kind of restrictions do you face while tattooing?
Joshua Bowers: There’s always size restrictions, you can’t get too small and too detailed. You also run into problem areas on a clients body. Like the backs of heels, too close to the soles of your feet etc.
Website: What type of guidelines do you have for clients? (Ex: Pictures of what they want)
Joshua Bowers: I like to get reference images from clients that aren’t tattoos.
Website: I know you’ve made your own Tattoo Machines. How and why did you get into building them?
Joshua Bowers: I build quality tattoo machines for myself and many other tattoo professionals. I started building tattoo machines out of curiosity. Now I build them because I prefer my own to other machines.
Website: What are the advantages of using one of your Tattoo Machines over others?
Joshua Bowers: It’s all personal preference.
Website: How can people get their hands on one of them?
Joshua Bowers: I don’t sell machines to the general public.
Website: Not that it matters, but where you trained in any way as an artist, or heavily influenced by anyone like a high-school art teacher that got you passionate about art?
Joshua Bowers: I studied art at ISU.
Website: I know you’re into painting. What do you paint with? Oil, acrylic, tempera, watercolor?
Joshua Bowers: I paint with oils and watercolor.
Website: If you had to classify your style as a painter what would it be? (Ex: Abstract, Realism, Surrealism, Old School, New School)
Joshua Bowers: I consider what I do to be Symbolism.
Website: Do you consider your tattooing and painting styles to be similar if not what are the differences? My pen/ink sketches are completely different than my pencil/painting style.
Joshua Bowers: I don’t think the styles are similar at all. What I believe makes a good tattoo wouldn’t necessarily be a good painting.
Website: I mainly paint with oil these days, but I’ve used pretty much everything and was heavily involved with air brushing for about a year. I’ve always gone back to oil because I love that it dries slowly and I can rework any part of a painting at pretty much anytime. I also love the texture I can create and my pallets are almost works of art by themselves.
Why do you choose the medium you use most often? (Both tattooing and painting)
Joshua Bowers: I love oils because of the richness you can create with them. I also like the history and classical sense it imposes.
Website: Where can people view your paintings?
Joshua Bowers: Usually have artwork hanging in Iron Heart.
Website: Besides art, what else are you passionate about?
Joshua Bowers: I’m also passionate about tattooing and fashion.
Website: What’s the best way to get a hold of you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Other.