The experience of getting his first tattoo was all Van needed to become obsessed with the craft — though at the time, he had no way of knowing how dramatically it was going to shape his life. 

“I had always created art as a way to escape and self soothe but I never thought my art would be appreciated by others, I thought it was always just gonna be something I did for myself.”

He was 14 years old and it was a magical experience for him, getting inked as a teenager. He began creating art every single day after that. He became obsessed with the idea that he could create something that another human being would wear and cherish forever — and he resolved then, all those years ago, to become a tattoo artist. 

“After all, I couldn't imagine many bright futures for a teenager with a neck tattoo.”

Today his tattoos are some of the cleanest you’ll find in this hemisphere. A fact that, he admits, comes at a price. 

“I’m particular with how I tattoo. I obsess over it looking as smooth as I can make it,” he says, adding, “Also, lots of lost sleep and self loathing helps.”

Still, that sleep deprivation and self loathing seems to be working. All you really have to do is look at his tattoos to realize that Van’s neo-traditional work is simply blowing the competition straight out of the water. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone in the game who’s laying down smoother or more skillful neo-traditional ink as Van. 

“I came across Neo-Traditional tattooing and was instantly awe-struck by some of the artists I found,” he says. After spending most of art school focusing on realism and oil painting, and then spending most of his apprenticeship practicing traditional tattooing, finding neo-traditional, was like finding a match made in heaven. 

“The tattoos I found were a perfect mixture of all aspects of art and tattooing I loved,” he says. “It had both smooth color blends and soft edges of realism while also having all the essential building blocks for long lasting tattoos like bold lines and solid color.”

Van’s favorite subjects to tattoo are “lady heads and animals,” he says — but he also truly values the collaboration that comes out of working with his clients. 

“My clients often teach me things about art whether it’s intentional or not,” he says. “The exchange of ideas keeps me inspired, I feel as though there's a never-ending source of creativity that keeps tattooing and art interesting.”

Van is launching a tattoo co-op collective this summer with fellow Denver artist Tien Ngyuen. Follow Van on instagram (@Vanxtattoos) for the latest info on that shop and for info on booking appointments with Van the man, himself.