Shamus is a traditional tattoo artist from Montreal, Quebec. He works at MTL Tattoo and when he is not working he is spending time with his wife and two kids.
Trinity: Tell me your journey. Describe what made you the artist that you are today?
Shamus: I studied Illustration and Design at Dawson College. During my studies I was getting tattooed by Stacey West at Tatouage West. Talking with her about my studies she was interested in seeing my portfolio from school. When I brought my portfolio in she asked if I was interested in learning how to tattoo. I had never really considered it before but I figured why not, it’s another art tool like painting or air brushing. I started my apprenticeship with Stacey and Vince West. They showed me everything, it was a great apprenticeship. I left the shop to seek more walk-ins to practice and ended up at Totem et Tabou. I worked there part time for 4 months until I was let go because I couldn't afford to work full time. I ended up going to the USA for 6-8 months and had stopped tattooing. It was really hard to get started. When I moved back to Montreal, I decided I was going to work hard and tattoo. I started working part time at Tatooage which is now MTL Tattoo. It has been 9 years of full time tattooing. I've never really treated tattooing as a job, it's a passion. Therefore, going to the shop each day and doing what I love is amazing. Couldn't ask for anything more.
T: Describe your style?
S: I hate putting a title on my style but it's traditional for sure. I try to make each tattoo as clean and solid as possible. I want my work to be seen from far, I want to stand out. My style is bold, sharp and clean. I push myself to produce the cleanest tattoos I can.
T: As you've been in the industry for quite a while, tell me about the changes you have enjoyed the most?
S: The quality of the machines and needles has been the biggest change in the industry that each tattoo artist has surely noticed. Machine builders keep pushing the limits with designs and the quality of materials used. Because of them, tattoo artists are able to produce cleaner tattoos and speed up the healing process.
T: What do you think still needs improvement?
S: Lighter travel equipment would be nice. I'm still looking for a travel friendly arm rest. I've got one but I've had it for 8 years now. It's time someone makes one please!
T: What is your artistic outlook on life?
S: My artistic outlook on life? Well it started when I was young. I use to draw a lot of comic illustrations. I would draw all the time. After going to college I couldn't stop keeping myself busy drawing or painting. I always had ideas of stuff I wanted to illustrate. You can get ideas from anything you see in daily life. Just the other day I took a photo of someone’s curtains because the design appealed to me. I do that a lot, shopping with my wife, looking at carpets. You can find the best designs at Winners haha! I get excited about stuff like that, being able to find designs that inspire me and to think that this might be tattooed and become a living, walking piece of art. It's pretty cool when you stop to think about it. Can't stop producing, can't stop thinking about it. It's something that I have a hard time dealing with; being able to separate family life, work life, and my own painting time. There's never enough time in a day! Sleep is over rated haha!
T: Most artists decide to open their own shop when they reach a certain level. Why is it that you decided not to open your own studio?
S: I've decided not to open my own studio for many reasons. MTL Tattoo gave me a shot; they took a chance on me in the beginning. I didn't have many tattoos in my portfolio but a lot of paintings. With that, they decided to hire me so I owe it to them to stay. Also, MTL Tattoo is my baby. I helped build that shop. All the paintings on the walls have created an atmosphere in the shop. It adds to the warmth of the shop. I enjoy working in a shop with a lot of other artists that each has different styles. It helps you build you as an artist. Plus, it's a family business. I love MTL tattoo, it's a great shop, and we have a lot of great artists.
T: What do you like and dislike about the industry?
S: I love that tattooing allows you to travel. It's really amazing to travel, always keeps you fresh and motivated. Rock star attitudes are the worst, people pumping themselves up to be Mr.Cool. It's really unfortunate that people end up down that route but oh well.
T: What do you enjoy the most outside of tattooing and why?
S: The thing I enjoy most outside of tattooing is family. Family has a way of bringing you back to reality. It's easy to get caught up in the tattoo world and lost in your work. Family has a way of snapping you out of that life, keeps you grounded.
T: Name three artists you like to compare yourself to.
S: I can't answer that question. I don't want to compare myself to anyone. I work hard to create something new for each client. I'd like to think that I stand alone haha.
T: Have you ever met artists that you admire? If so what has surprised you the most?
S: I have met many artists that I look up to with the greatest amount of respect. I won't name names but these artists are the nicest people, very relaxed and so smooth and easy to talk to. It's really nice to see that not all big named tattoo artists have been poisoned with the rock star attitude.
T: You had the chance to co-organize a tattoo convention. What is your funniest memory of it?
S: Getting hammered in the Sailor Jerry trailer and forgetting time even existed hahahaha!
T: What lesson did you learn from that experience?
S: It's a lot of hard work and if you're ever going to do it, you'd better be prepared to invest a lot of time to it. It's quite demanding. You need a good team that works well together, it can be stressful.
T: If you could do it again, what would you do differently?
S: Just a lot of minor details. I'd rather not get into it but just little things here and there that would make it smoother for the artists.
T: If you had one question to ask to one artist, what would that be and to whom?
S: Probably would be Filip Leu. I want to know what's in that black spray bottle he puts on his clients to allow them to sit through a tattoo for so long.
T: What couldn't you live without?
S: My Stalhammer rotary!!