Forrest Henderson Is Chasing Perfection, One Tattoo at a Time
"Most of the time I’m my own worst critic."
Forrest Henderson knows he was meant to tattoo. His childhood obsession with art has grown into a decade long career in the tattoo industry and he is still always pushing himself to the next level. Chasing perfection, one tattoo at a time. His work can't really be confined to one style as he can pretty much do it all, but his use of traditional color palletes and clean lines create timeless tattoos with his own added flair.
Shop: All Sacred Tattoo (Denver)
Years Tattooing: 10
Before you started tattooing, what was your journey like as an artist?
I don’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t creating something. As a kid I drew a lot of comic book characters and anime related stuff. I enjoyed making my own comics and illustrated stories. I wanted to grow up and make animated films, but eventually tattooing caught my eye and I never looked back.
What led you to tattooing?
I got my first tattoo at 15, from another teenager in my friend group. After that it just kind of clicked for me. I knew that this is what I was supposed to be doing and why I had spent my childhood years obsessed with art. They weren’t even really on my radar before that, but once they were I became absolutely obsessed. I ended up getting my own tattoo equipment in high school and doing shitty basement tats on other kids who were down. I knew that I wanted to get into the industry legit after that though, and as soon as I graduated high school I started an apprenticeship.
How long have you been tattooing for?
This October will be ten years. A decade. That makes me feel like an old man.
How would you describe your style of tattooing?
I think I’ve got a little bit of everything in me, which is why it’s hard to nail down one specific style. I guess most of my tattoos fall into the neojapanese/neotraditional category though.
What are some of your favorite subjects to tattoo?
Tigers, flowers, lady faces and frogs are my very favorite. I also love things like snakes, skulls, daggers, and Japanese masks or demons.
Do you prefer using stencils or free hand tattooing more?
I like a blend of both. Lately I’ve been drawing the main imagery beforehand, stenciling that and drawing the background on. I think that by drawing the background on I am able to achieve a more seamless and flowing look that if I were to try stenciling everything. I over obsess about flow and harmony between the imagery, and the way it fits the body. I think that flow, coupled with longevity, is the most important part of making something timeless and classic.
Color or Black & Grey?
Color! I love black and grey as well but I especially love the expression and emotion color can invoke. I don’t think I’ll ever fully stop making black and grey tattoos, but I always am wanting more color projects.
How do you feel about cover ups or adding to other artist’s work?
My perspective on this question has a lot of layers to it. I’m fine doing cover ups if the tattoo underneath is manageable sized and the client will relinquish full discretion in my design choice. I also prefer my cover ups to be a small part of a larger scale tattoo. For example, you have a tattoo on your upper arm you want covered and you’re wanting to get a full sleeve.
As far as adding onto other peoples work, I generally dislike it. If you want a small traditional tattoo in a gap, that’s great. I’m not interested in finishing off someone’s sleeve from another artist though. I think there’s always something that gets in the way of me doing my art to the best of my ability when I have to work with someone else’s ideas and placement.
All of this being said there’s always exceptions to the rules. The best advice I can give to someone looking to add onto an existing piece would be to build a relationship with your tattooer. Get another tattoo in a blank area and build trust with that person. It’s hard to want to fix or add on to something without knowing if the relationship is going to be entirely built on working on someone else’s ideas. Most tattooers don’t want to post pictures to their portfolio of things they didn’t initially create.
What motivates you the most?
The chase. Most of the time I’m my own worst critic, because I’m always chasing unrealistic perfection. I’m always chasing the euphoria I get when I know I crushed my tattoo. It’s so rare and fleeting.
The shop you work at (All Sacred Tattoo) is well known for their involvement in the community and helping the underserved populations in the Denver area, can you talk about some of the causes that mean the most to you?
I don’t have something in particular that means the most to me. I always love the opportunity to help out in any way that I can. I think the larger picture of helping as a whole, even if it’s in a small way, means a lot to me. I feel particularly blessed doing something I love as my career. If I have the chance for it to mean more than just a cool picture of someone, I don’t really have words for how special that is.
What do you like to spend your time doing when you aren’t working?
I love to spend time with my family. When I’m not tattooing I'm such a homebody. My son and wife are my favorite people and I want to spend every minute not tattooing around them. Other than that I like to play video games, or watch anime. I read a lot of comics and folklore.
What other forms of creativity do you like to explore?
I secretly make music when I have time. I’ve been producing and rapping since I was 16, and I find an incredible amount of fulfillment in shaping a song. Maybe someday I’ll release an album when I get over being shy about it.
What is the most fulfilling part of tattooing for you?
I think it’s the growth in myself as an artist. I’m constantly trying to one up myself and push my tattooing to my limit. When I look back on where I started, it’s really gratifying to see where I am now. It’s also the hardest part, I know that in the grand scheme of things I have so much farther to go until I am where I would like to be. So much of tattooing is a double edged sword like that, but I like the challenge. Everyday is new, so it’s hard to get bored. I feel like rising to the occasion and growing is fulfilling for everyone, regardless of what they do.