Zen & the art of Japanese Ink: David Ronin's traditional Irizumi style tattoos
"I was nine-years-old when I first showed interest in tattooing"
In the two decades he’s been working a tattoo machine, David Ronin has refined a lot of different styles: from Chicano, to graffiti, new-school and American-traditional. But, as a Buddhist, when he found Japanese traditional art, he fell in love. The bold lines, the bright colors, the folklore, and tradition of the style all enamoured him. Today, his portfolio is full of Hannya masks, Irezumi dragons, koi fish, cranes and cherry blossoms.
What got you into tattooing?
I always wanted to be an artist. And ever since I was a little kid, I definitely had a knack for drawing. Then I started watching my sisters get their tattoos — I would go to their tattoo appointments and just those little shop feelings, the smells of the shop and all the flash designs and being able to get lost in the drawing ... I was bound for it. I think I was nine-years-old when I first showed interest in and doing tattoo art.
How would you describe your tattooing style?
I just like doing good tattoos. Nice, clean drawings … But if I do a drawing on my own, for myself, it's going to be Japanese. I love Japanese art. It brings me peace and joy to be able to compose that style of art. It's just- it's hard to describe.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your Japanese art?
Well, you know, the style is called Irizumi … a lot of it came from covering up tattoos that prisoners would get to signify that they were prisoners. They would get these black bands covered up with heavy black and white and colored imagery on their arms … So, even in some of my more new school art or neo-traditional style art, you'll see I have these black and gray backgrounds with colored foreground images.
Who are some of your favorite artists to follow?
Right now, Johan Svahn. I also just recently bought an Ichibay Book, he's a tattooer from Three Tides Tattoo in Japan, one of the only marketed tattoo shops that has been open legally in Japan. And let's see... Shige, Yellow Blaze Tattoo ... he's one of my biggest inspirations, especially for what I want to do with my art moving forward.
What is your favorite aspect of tattooing?
When I can do a tattoo on someone and you know that they're just, at home or whatever, getting ready for their day and they look at their tattoo it just makes them happy. That's probably the coolest thing. Tattoos don't always have to have some inherent meaning. You can just pick something that brings you joy to look at — if it brings you happiness, ultimately, that's what I think is the coolest thing.
Shop: Tribal Rites, Boulder