Jason Radcliff: Trash Polka and Heartless Bastards
Name? Jason Radcliff
Shop? Black List Tattoo Parlour
Location? Albuquerque, New Mexico
Years tattooing? Just over 17 years.
How did you get your start as a tattoo artist?
I have always been immersed in the arts be it painting, illustration, or anything expressive. As a profession, tattooing has been the only thing that I’ve ever known. When I was a kid, my uncle, who is also a tattooer moved back into town (Seattle area) and eventually opened his own shop. We were close, so he gave me the opportunity to come work in the shop when I was 14, cleaning the place in the morning before school. By 16, I was working the counter and at 17, the guys at the shop offered me an apprenticeship.
What was your apprenticeship like?
My apprenticeship, I feel, was fairly typical of the 90’s. I was put through my paces by everyone in the shop. I cleaned and sterilized everyone’s tubes, built all of their needles, and was reprimanded incessantly. The needle-building was the worst. I would . . . build hundreds of needles over the course of a few days, breathing in flux and burning myself repeatedly, only to have a quarter of what I made come back to me because they weren’t good enough. The apprenticeship lasted about 2 years before I was allowed to work on the public.
You just picked up a Spektra Xion from FK Irons. How do you like it?
The Xion is a great machine! I picked this machine up because I just felt like trying something new again. I’ve use coil machines for the bulk of my career, and I love them . . . Coil machines each have their specific purposes. I’ve found that rotaries are just a bit more versatile.
You have several finished pieces, as well as sketches that stand out distinctly from the rest of your more conventional work. What was the inspiration behind these?
That stemmed from me trying to merge realistic elements with more abstract ones, as well as trying to find my own niche. The inspiration came from all over. The two biggest influences have come from both the U.S. and Germany in the form of abstractionist painter Franz Kline and the duo of Volker and Simone and their creation titled “Trash Polka.” Both are very unique and aggressive in substance and style.
You are both an artist and owner of your tattoo parlor. Is it ever a struggle to find balance between the two positions?
It can be tricky at times. I am lucky enough, however, to have a business partner that helps keep that balance in check. We communicate constantly to make sure that everything stays on track. Time management has to be the single greatest challenge of playing both roles, if I’m not drawing for an upcoming project, I’m doing clerical work, making sure bills are paid, or trying to figure out the next move for the business. It can be daunting at times.