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 Montreal artist Guillaume Couture.
Guillaume is living proof that passion will overcome all obstacles - from humble beginnings, to painting cinema sets, to today's top tattooing. He uses tattooing as a permanent platform for art and a way of life... - Patrick Coste
Name: Guillaume Couture
Years tattooing: 26 years
Year actually good at it? 😅 ummm!! I was just getting good at it before COVID
Place of business: Owner @StudioGusTattoo, Montreal, Canada
PC: Guillaume!! Gus!! We usually see you at a few select conventions of your choosing. You’re now one of those old-timer tattooers...you can slap me later for that haha!! I mean you've been at it for over 25 years. Your Japanese-style tattoos are out there, you’ve making a living doing art since your very humble beginning as a street artist. How’ve you been, you humble beast!!
GC: I will slap you for sure hahah! I’m doing great, thank you for reaching out. Last time was at the amazing MTL opening right?
PC: YES, seems like aeons ago - how did it go during the past few months?
GC: Well, like many long-time tattooers, we rarely take a break. That greatest break of 2020 was for me, and I apologize if anybody struggled during this time, but it was sort of a blessing otherwise we work work work and never look back.
We enjoy the art, we’re passionate about it, so yeah it felt good to take a break. I had some renovations my lady (the boss) had me do that were overdue, haha. When you’re passionate, you often immerse yourself in your art/shop and forget the rest.
I also did quite a few prints as it felt really good to go back to doing less “on demand artistry” and more art for art’s sake. I wanted more but it was all about letting go for a bit.
We were also somewhat in tune with the whole thing as we took few days off prior in Mid-March and when everything stopped, we were already at home. So we were confined here...I was nervous to come back to work, haha. When I came back, was it like riding a bike? I can honestly say I did not book a huge tattoo with sharp lines though haha.
PC: Another hot topic in the past few months, and I know it’s got some significance to you and your life, is the Black Lives Matter movement. What does it mean to you and your family?
GC: For sure! I'm so glad we’re not in the States - my beautiful wife is second generation Haitian and then there’s my son Elyam who is mixed race. Myriam was born in Montreal and has the best of what the “Montreal Vibe” means, multiculturalism, and we love it! For sure it’s something that touched Myriam and I humongously.
We’re lucky enough here in Quebec to be okayish with all that. Often I see ignorance more than hate and miscommunication is pretty much the recurrence I notice, “clumsy talk”. Nonetheless, when it happens, we have to stand up to it.
PC: Music is also very important to you, what’s your favourite genre of music?
GC: Music is a big part of my life besides drawing, it brings you back and helps when you’re going through changes and remembering emotions and moments. I love so many genres of music for sure.
I’m a 1974 boy so, older Metallica, Sabbath were and still are my classic go-tos, but with grey hair comes the need for smoother stuff. I love trip hop and the slightly heavier stuff, but still smooth to my ears like MGLA, Godspeed...ambiance is also nice. I also love those with samples in a loop, anything that helps me when going through drawings.
PC: Haha with all that, life has been great to you. You own a nice shop on the Plateau Mont-Royal, your team is among the sweetest...was the move a hard one? Tell me everything!!
GC: It was perfect timing to be honest. My wife was up for the administrative challenge after many years, and I always had the entrepreneurial fire so I went for it.
PC: Talk to me about the early days for you.
GC: It’s funny you’re asking about this because I recently covered up my 1st tattoo, haha!! It was a cover-up of a cover-up, haha. Not sure I wanna show you this! Lol.
I have to be straight and say I started by scratching, big time. In between the famous Les Foufounes Electriques, to little spots…but I always had an interest in drawing and art, so it became ok at one point.
Really it was in 1993 with Reynald Asphalt Jungle, a frenchman (France) in Montreal, that I really started to learn the trade. He gave me my chance and I took it. He sold me my very first Spaulding Supreme with a black power pack. What a rough time, haha! After that it got a bit calmer.
In between the beginning, I also did some cinema set painting. I was painting brick walls, scenery of all sorts... My very first job was to paint bullet holes in “styrofoam” around doors and windows. I painted on “The Score” with Robert DeNiro, and “Nuremberg” with Ben Affleck, but before that I did Christmas decorations on set and all that was fun.
A lot of it helped for my painting and brought me to a whole new place in effects like rust and others, very inspiring. Not tattoo related, but brought my artistry to a whole new level.
PC: But then the tattooing really, rrrreally started right? I mean you’ve been with some of the greatest shops around?
GC: Oui, the next few years were a constant reminder of getting better everyday. The challenge was real. Being surrounded by people you admire, and others that are jealous makes it a bit hard, and in tattooing both can be very high for some at the same time. It propelled me, and in all honesty it made me who I am.
Coming from humble beginnings, to top tattooing can happen, and with the people you meet it becomes real and fun. One big moment was when TINTIN took time to talk coil machines...it forever changed my craft.
Those were also the good/crazy years of tattooing and we appreciated every single bit of it. For me, if you have fear you cannot evolve. When you do, it’s so rewarding. In my concept of life, fear is in and I beat it every day to get ahead, because not everybody works as a rockstar and makes doctor-money. You’ve got to go to work and apply art every day.
PC: Let’s talk about what we love so much: tattoos. You’re rock solid when it comes to Japanese-style tattooing with an illustrative spin.
GC: Yeah, I like Japanese-style. We all have our twists and spin on Japanese tattooing, and man there are some great artists out there. I like skulls, nature, animals and I like to experiment with those. Realism is also strong these days, so I try to bring that forward when I have a chance. You know, more string to my bow.
PC: You do it so gracefully Guillaume, I hope this short read does you justice. Your art is spectacular!!! Thank you very much for the chat, you‘re the best!! Say ‘Hi’ to everyone at the shop and be well!!