Q & A Session with Chris Allen from Inkproof
Q- What is new in you work life right now Chris? New projects?
Oh man, that’s a loaded question. Ha! Honestly, I have to say it’s been an insanely productive year for me in my art life. I’m constantly tattooing and have had the opportunity to travel some more the last couple years, to visit clients that bring me in to do exclusive work on them which is awesome. I just tattooed at the Toronto tattoo convention, had a painting in the latest Gods & Monsters Gallery show in Minneapolis, Just had a new tee design drop in Spring with Black Market Art out of California, my site (inkproof.com) got a whole new revamp and I keep that steady updated. and have a couple collaboration projects under way I can’t quite mention yet… it’s kind of on the James Bond tip where I can’t open my mouth about them yet. Let’s just say I’m hyped for all the work I’ve been doing lately and excited for future projects too. Funny thing though, since my son being born Feb of ’16 I’ve produced more paintings and prints (along with tattooing full time… woosahh) than I have at any period in my career so far. Not sure what the hell that’s about, but I’m running with it… Not much sleep included, but I’m no stranger to that. Ha!
Q- What is new in your family life?
Things are good, and moving along. My girlfriend Krysta is an amazing Mother and like most newer families were finding the balance of our schedules, our son’s schedule which is always changing as expected, and taking it all in as it comes. I am lucky as hell in the department of having a very supportive partner when it comes to my career and all it takes to be an independent artist and tattooer. She realizes what it takes and sees me work my face off daily, and knows it’s all for the big picture. Plus, we are both so damn independent that the alone time we both get is nothing but a good thing when needed. I never understood those 24 hrs a day couples, that shit’s insane to us both and we laugh about how crazy that would be for our characters. (I’m not saying it doesn’t work for some people, but definitely not us) So all’s well on that front, just for me it’s a constant balance of needing 28 hrs in a day instead of 24… I know many can relate all too well.
Q- What is some advice you wish you received as you were building your own brand?
THAT is a bad ass question! I really wish someone would have let me in on just the right time you have to put your foot down and say what you’re worth. I used to confuse confidence with ego and it’s a BIG mistake… typically ending up with the artist losing until they learn to stand up for their worth. Sometimes it’s monetarily, but more so after being in the art world for a while, proving yourself and how you can produce your art… (and I have tons of musician friends that know this so damn well also) just when to say “Actually I’m going to be spending about 20-30 hours after working a full day, on that project… so I’m sorry you have 100$ in your budget but this is my job… how I pay rent, and put clothes on my kid’s back and food in our mouths.” It may sound harsh, and I never talk to potential clients rudely, but man if people sometimes just don’t get it. Ha! I’ve learned a shit ton of lessons in my brand over the years and in my career so far, but one of the best lessons I’ve learned is with every tattoo, painting, wall, project…
I’m new. Not in skill, just everyday. There’s always more to learn and there will ALWAYS be amazing artists out there to look up to, but being in control of my art and what I do with it is amazing in my career. Lastly, I would have wanted to know just all it takes to build a brand. I think it’s about being smart and concise, of course using social media now and days cause why the hell not… but HAVING a website and clean portfolio is key and looks more professional in my opinion than just “Here’s my Instagram…” or “Check my Tumblr”.. Those are definitely dope tools to get your work out there, but I’m super grateful I learned the importance of digging my own hands into not only the work I was making over the years… but how it’s seen by people.
Q- How have you grown as an entrepreneur and business person over the years?
I think… (and hope) a ton. I have a hell of a ways to go with the process, but tattooing full time has been an amazing outlet to other art forms and clientele, as well as affording me to do other things within my art. I really like to take an inventory at the end of every year and see where I’m at. Was I slipping in this area? Was I not as aggressive in this area? The dope thing is it’s always up to one person in the end, me. I’d say the area I’ve learned the most in, is stepping back some and realizing what projects or walls to take on and just what I don’t have time for or what won’t fit well in my portfolio and realizing that’s totally okay. Not every project fits for every artist.
Q- What are two of the biggest lessons you’ve learned about having your own brand and business?
It’s most definitely about the process making my work, not being “done” with a piece or tattoo, or bank account statement. I most definitely need to stay busy and I do, but I have to enjoy the projects I’m doing while I’m making them.
I’ve learned not to make work solely on what I think other people wanna see. I’m well aware that a “style” or individual flow is important to keep an audience… but fuck if I don’t just love pouring out certain ideas into paintings not knowing what’s gonna happen with them.
Q- I am constantly struggling with taking on too much and having little to no personal balance as I build i40 Marketing, what advice would you give to folks out there who lose themselves so easily in their work?
Wow this is an important one, and one that will always baffle the independent artist/business mind. I can tell you that between not much sleep, (working on that one for the last ohhh, 20 yrs or so) Dad duties, and constantly thinking of the next tattoo, wall or painting… it’s a lot. I make sure to give myself a solid hour or so every couple days (and sometimes it’s at an absolutely ridiculous hour or the middle of the night) to get back to the roots. Meaning, center myself best I can and look at what and where I am that week creatively. Sounds textbook, but honestly with how crazy hectic my life is now, I have to.
Also I try my best to make even traveling tattooing gigs or work trips, into small sanity trips also. In the end, it really is about working hard as hell and then playing harder… so I plan trips for us as often as I can, and that is definitely a perk of being my own boss as well… Losing yourself in your work WHILE working on it is great, not losing yourself because of how much you’re working.
Q- As an artist how have you seen your skills grow and take form to what they are right now? What do you think makes an artist grow?
Hmmm, I think this is a tough one to answer easily cause I’m the one answering it. I do believe technically my art has grown a hell of a lot since coming to Montreal from Minneapolis in 2012. The flip side to that is, I have a lot further to go personally and in the art/tattooing world once you’ve reached “the top”… you’re royally fucked. I signed up to NOT work a 9-5 (sometimes it’s a 9am-2am day or week) and that’s okay. I love it, it’s just it comes with sacrifices some people don’t get or understand until they are near you daily or are in a relationship w/ you. There is no “top of the mountain” and you need your sense of self checked at that point. I am proud of where I am now in my work, but it’s always evolving for sure… thankfully.
I think being open to new ideas, but more than anything being open to getting out of your comfort zone in your own work is key. (hard as shit, but man is it freeing) Especially if there’s an expectation on what is typically seen on the work, it’s all that much more important. That and trying different mediums. I fell in love with watercolors about 6 yrs ago, and as much as I love acrylics… there’s something about wanting to get way better technically with watercolors that keeps me hyped monthly on sketching new painting ideas when I’m not tattooing.
Q- Are there days where you don’t love what you do, or want the day off? But you still get up and tackle what you need to tackle? If so what drives you now?
HA!!! This is amazing. Yes. I used to be afraid to answer yes to this one, but fuck yeah. Having your own business, or even join ton trips occasionally to “unplug”… I’m still working somewhat, at least my brain is. But of course! It’s not so much that some days I don’t wanna be doing or making my art… but that I’m just tired as hell or literally have a creative block that keeps an idea from forming the way I want it to. By no means am I saying this “over” confidently, but anyone that knows me knows I work my ass off in my art daily. I’m proud of it, but I don’t make that part of it define me. There’s tons of artists that work hard and deserve all the shine they get, I’m just proud and lucky as shit to be one of the kids that had his head down in class drawing all day… that made it work as a career so far. I try every day to look at it as new, fresh, and a clean slate creatively. In what I do, I literally DO have to have new ideas daily, weekly, monthly, 365. It’s just how they flow or what I make of them. One lesson I’ve learned is to walk away from a painting when I’m stuck on an area I’m not feeling or need a different color blend… again, I really have been trying to make use of the “quality over quantity” method. Banging out 50 paintings in half a year is great, but I have to ask myself what the hell am I grinding on them for? No disrespect to ANY artist doing that to make ends met, (was there for years and I fully get it and it helped mold my work ethic and bring me here now) but for me personally now I’d rather knock out 6-7 solid watercolor paintings a year and be proud of the start to finish element of them all… Even if it means my wallet suffered a little from it. It all comes back around if my intent is real to who I am and where I wanna go creatively.
A lot drives me now… my family, my baby boy looking at me first thing in the morning now no matter how early it is, (good espresso never hurts a morning), and good music to work to. Music is on near me about 12 hours if my day so it’s pretty damn important to my life. All that and focusing on my breathing lately. Honestly, lately even during bigger tattoo sessions I’ll give myself a good 3-4 minutes to breathe and get centered again… pretty sure that never hurt the process.