If traditional style tattooing took a bunch of acid, ate some ecstasy pills and followed the Grateful Dead around for a weird Summer of Love, the resulting style might look something like Max Kaspar’s tattoos. It’s taken him almost thirteen years to perfect that psychedelic flair, but finally, he says he feels like he’s really hit his artistic groove.
Characterized by his iconic melty smiley faces, colorful glittering accents, tabs of acid on every tongue and colors that radiate like neon, Kaspar’s tattoos are trippy in all the right places. When you see his work it’s unmistakable. It’s got a kaleidoscopic edge, second to none.
If he isn’t tattooing here in Colorado, you can probably find him in his home state of Oregon at the shop he owns, North West Tattoo. Or, living out of his van somewhere on the road in between. Either way: the best way to get your name on his books (when they’re no longer full) is to hit him up on his website.
How did you get into tattooing?
I’ve always liked to draw and paint. My whole life, since my mom had me painting really young. And I would always like get really excited about art projects in middle school and high school and didn't really care about anything else. Then after high school, I went to college for like half a term and dropped out because I was just not into it at all, and started working in a bicycle shop I worked there for a year and hated it. But there was a tattoo shop that had just opened up down the street and I took some of my drawings to them, the next day they were like, ‘these are really good.’
I was like 19 when I started my schooling or apprenticeship or whatever you want to call it. And I got done like right before I turned 21.
What kind of style were you doing when you started?
I was trying to do Satanic, traditional type stuff like Derek Noble. But it was not very good. And then Instagram came out and it immediately opened up the world, and I was seeing what other people were doing everywhere, and I was like, holy shit, I suck. So then I just started drawing and painting and not going out and just really trying to establish myself as a better tattoo artist. And it took a really long time. I've been tattooing for 13 years and I feel like I'm finally getting to where I want to be.
How would you say you developed your current style of art?
I got kind of big into watercolor art and blew up on Pinterest a little bit, but I didn't really like doing watercolor. And then I tried to be straight up like neo-traditional. That didn't work. So I tried doing nature stuff — and it seemed like the weirder I made it and the more I was just myself, the more successful it's been.
How would you describe your style?
I get asked that a lot and I don't really know. If I had to name it, I'd say like ‘Disco Traditional” … or something. I've been using the same seven colors for a couple years: So, turquoise, bright, green, yellow, orange, pink, purple. I whittled that down to be my “signature colors” (or whatever) that I use in just about every tattoo.
How do you design one of your tattoos?
Usually people will just kind of give me a rough idea of what they want. Most ideally, for example, I had one guy was like, ‘I want a trippy squid.’ And that's like what I drew.
What’s your favorite subject to tattoo?
That is a tough question. I like doing peonies a lot. They were my favorite for a while, but now I think just trying to do pretty much anything, I guess, in a way that I've never seen before. Sometimes I'll do something and then someone will ask for the same thing, and I feel like I have to keep out-doing my stuff every time. It's hard to think of new ways to do stuff the weirdest I possibly can. But I try to.