INSIDE THE Artist'S MIND:
Life as a full-time artist is risky, especially if you start that life in another country. Currently living and working in Copenhagen, Denmark, Pat's designs are refreshingly witty, mashing everyday objects together to create hilarious new "beings." You'll never look at a banana the same way again.
Original Drawings by Pat Bates
Originally from Tully, New York, Pat's life as an artist began the day after his 10 year military career ended. Unsure of what to do or where to go next, Pat moved to another country and found a job as an apprentice for a local Denmark tattoo shop. He tells more of his story below.
1. What do you make?
When I’m not designing custom tattoos for my clients, I’m usually making smaller designs which fit together to make tattoo flash - a sheet of paper with several tattoo designs that can be displayed on a street shop wall or binder.
Tattoo artist, Pat Bates - Copenhagen, Denmark
2. Where are you from?
I’m originally from Tully, a small town in Upstate New York about 20 miles from Syracuse.
3. Where do you live now? Is there a reason why you chose to live there over someplace else? If so, why?
Right now I live in Copenhagen, Denmark. After my 10 year career in the US Navy came to an end, it was time to choose where to settle down. My girlfriend at the time who’s now my wife was born and raised in Denmark, so it seemed like a no brainer to move in with her.
A Random Rose - Pat Bates
4. Do you have any routines? If so what are they?
If I have time to have a consultation and prepare for a design, I’ll focus on the area of the body the design will be placed on and how much space I have to work with. Certain shaped designs work better with different areas of the body and sometimes there might be older tattoos or scars that I’ll have to work around. Once those limits are established I’ll start sketching out a design until I start seeing something that I like. When I’m not making designs for customers, I try to think of a theme or direction I want to take my flash drawings. I’ll browse the internet a little bit for some inspiration and then just start drawing. Usually my designs will change several times before I come up with the finished product. They usually never resemble what I first started drawing.
5. Was there a precise moment when you realized you wanted to be an artist? If so, when?
I always entertained the idea in high school because I really enjoyed my art classes, but I was too young and unsure to commit to an art school. It wasn’t until after I had spent numerous hours hanging out in tattoo shops getting tattooed when I starting considering the idea of separating from the military to pursue a career in tattooing.
6. How did you come into contact with what you do?
Through the help of my wife, I was put in touch with a tattoo artist who had just opened up a shop right in the middle of downtown Copenhagen. Shortly after I was given the opportunity to start an apprenticeship under himself and two other well established artists, where I still am today.
7. How do the local people and surroundings play a role in your art?
A lot of the tattoos I do are typically designs requested by my clients. Sometimes I may be given a couple pictures as inspiration, other times there’ll be a unique theme or motive but it’ll be up to me to decide how I want the tattoo to look. Because I’m tattooing out of Denmark, nordic and viking themed tattoos are pretty popular. Locals want to pay homage to their country’s history and their ancestry, while tourists want to come home with a souvenir unique to their travels through Scandinavia.
8. Name one thing to change and one thing to keep about the place where you live.
One thing that I absolutely love about tattooing out of Copenhagen is that I’m slowly starting to build up a good base of loyal clientele, each with their own tastes and styles. At the same time, there are so many travelers from every part of the world who are passing through the city looking to get tattooed, so I’m exposed to so many different cultures and personalities. I can’t honestly think of much I’d like to change about Copenhagen. The winters are really dark but the Danes find ways to make up for that. The only realistic gripe I have is that I live a little too far away from my family than I’d like to.
9. How do you stay creative?
I think working alongside three experienced tattoo artists helps. I have a unique opportunity where I can sit behind any one of them and watch them work for as long as I want. It’s pretty interesting seeing them work in completely different ways yet still at the end of the day push out beautiful tattoos each with their own unique style and signature. I think exposing myself to as many tattoos and as much artwork floating around on social media and the internet as possible definitely helps too.
10. What makes you proud?
I’m pretty proud of jumping into a completely different career shortly after having just relocated to a different country. It was challenging in the beginning learning how to tattoo while at the same time learning a new language and trying to start a new life in Denmark.
11. What's next?
I’ll hopefully within a year or two start tattooing internationally and guest spotting in different shops around the world.
Who knows what’ll come after that.
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