Each week our intrepid artist liaison, and generally jovial Eikon staffer Patrick Coste, sits down with a tattoo artist to get to know them a little better. This week, he's catching up with Newfoundlander Glen Decker.
From fisherman to tattooer, I’d say that passion, dedication and willpower can sum up what Glen is all about in his daily grind - Patrick Coste
Patrick Coste: What's up fisherman!! Your story is sort of a Cinderella one right? haha...
Glen Decker: NEVER say that again, hahaha! What’s up Patrick?
PC: I’m great, thank you! Lol! Your story is a testament to the “I can, and that’s the goal” sort of story. You taught yourself how to tattoo, not in a “scratchy” way, but you actually learned the old ways quickly then evolved into tattoo realism. Tell me a bit of your story.
GD: You’re not far off with the Cinderella story for real, haha, but it didn’t happen overnight. I was fortunate enough to have met a painter in my little town. My parents saw me already drawing, and when I was around 10 or 11 or so, they got me painting lessons and that's up to today what I follow for light, landscape technique and the basis of colouring etc.
Growing up I naturally picked up the pencil. At that time my friends and I loved to play hockey, so we did that and reproduced Mario Lemieux, Patrick Roy and other deck cards. It was sort of a fierce competition, ha, and we had a moment when we had competitions where we’d “shit talk'' about bad faces when poorly done, and compare them to make sure we had the perfect shades that made the best replica haha. Also at one point I did a lot of album covers.
PC: Thank you so much for sharing this. I knew you painted...you did a beautiful one of “Greeny” the Eikon coil tattoo machine. I’ve gotten to know you a bit, and I’d like everyone to know the rest of your story. I find it quite surprising, and it shows a bit of what you can achieve when you set your mind to something.
GD: Yes and here’s the thing; I definitely taught myself how to tattoo. It wasn’t traditional by all means, but I did my research and learned the right way. I bought a Mike Devries book, did lots of looking around. I was able to say that I became a professional tattooer at 27, and at that time I was good enough to make a living at it. At the time, when I decided to start tattooing I was working hard at construction in Alberta and with my first pay, I got my machine.
PC: Did you start with realism, or was it a progression?
GD: I always wanted to do realism no doubt, but I was obviously taking on quite a few styles at first. I never really got into new school, neo-traditional as I didn’t know the rules... You know, every style has rules and theories, very much like music - you can play the blues but there are some rules to it…
At one point I dropped everything again, ego and everything, and relearned through books once more. Colour revolution books changed everything at that point.
Another pivotal moment was the 4th Lethbridge convention, spring 2010. I can pinpoint that’s where I realized that I had a place, as long as I had realism in mind. Lots of support from the start, on the road at conventions and guest spots are where I learned a lot. Even though my local tattoos provided me with a good career, the guest spots were what brought my tattooing to another level.
PC: You sure learned by yourself, but really you had good support... A lot of people believed in you, and you had a bit of a magic touch when you think about it.
GD: To drop some names here, Will and Ash Wood (Lethbridge Convention) provided a huge amount of trust and help. It’s in a sense where it all really, really started. At one point they decided to change the date and city of their show... it was sort of a weird show, but it’s where we sort of all met for real. Not only do big shows change things, being present and showing your passion is the key.
That show, I met Chiwon and Saga who were working across from me, all doing realism in different ways. They were also youngsters, having only tattooed a few years. They also had the same drive that I had.
There’s also Monty Ricken, who was already established when I started, who became a part of the realism club years later. I’m pretty proud of that. After that, Jesse from Red 9 and Mike Mullaney. These are good people and good examples of how all learning from each other can go a long way.
PC: WOW... Way cool man! But now you’re in fair demand, you have a clientele and... and... you decided to be a fisherman!!?? WTH??😳
GD: Don't worry, I still tattoo big time. In a way we’re in the golden age of tattooing. Many tattooers can decide to specialize in one style and because of that I’m booked a fair amount, and decided for the past 4 years to honour my ancestors and be a lobster fisherman for 2 months a year.
I got my lobster fishing license and I'm taking time off to fish with my uncle who's in his 51 season straight - never missed a single one. My family, having been fishing lobster for over 100 years here in Baker’s Brook, taught me the work ethic I wouldn't have had otherwise.
I actually just shortened my season a bit to go back to tattooing and make sure everything was ok, then I went back to finish the season with my uncle. I usually go from my place to the capital (St-Johns, NFLD), work for 14 days straight then go back home across the island and so on. Similar to fishing really. I even did a 30 day stretch once, Hahaha!
PC: Amazing. You’re crazy! Lol. You travel too... Man you are so active!!! What’s the best trip you've done?
PC: Iceland, as far as travel was the coolest in my life. You dig into Norse culture and my personal interest in the history of the North Atlantic, and you get the other side with Scandinavia and all. Art and history are my passion.
Here in Newfoundland we have a rich history, from Vikings to the English colonists. We’re quite lucky, and I love it. I also loved my trip with Saga to Amsterdam, hahaha, good times!
PC: One last question man...You decided to ground your shop in St-John’s with Justin Poirier and Mandy Mo. Did you have to adjust the shop drastically post-COVID lockdown?
GD: Yes and no. We’re lucky enough to have three different entrances for 3 artists. Our main room is divided when needed, and we allow one customer per artist per day. We can very easily sanitize in between customers when needed and those entrances keep the room open enough and help with not getting in close contact with other artists and tattooing.
PC: Wow this is a great thing. Such a great story. Thank you so much for sharing it with us - all the best!!!!
Follow Glen Decker on instagram: @decker_art