We had the good fortune of connecting with Dallas Clifton and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dallas, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
Art runs through my veins like giant radioactive rubber pants! It permeates all aspects of my life and has every since I can remember. So when I found out that I could make money by doing art, doing so immediately became a strong desire. It is said, “Do you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Well I definitely found that to be true, I just needed to find the right job. So I tried lots of art jobs, like comic books, advertising, cartoons, drawing for bands, and finally one day I was offered in apprenticeship at a tattoo shop. I thought to myself this job gets me almost immediate money, I get draw all day, and I get to be COOL! Now here it is many years later and I do get immediate money, I do get to draw all day, but I am still not cool.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
If you look at my sketch book, or any of the art i do fur fun, its going to have a cartoony feel to almost everthing I draw. My major artistic influences were after school cartoons. Luckily, that style transfered easily into the tattoo industry, But not everyone wants a tattoo that looks like it was created by Warner Brothers so I had to evolve and try to imitate other styles of tattoos. Now I feel confident imitating most images as long as its not photo realistic. There have only been three different tattoo shops that I have called home (Smilin’ Ricks being the longest of almost 10 yrs) and each of them had artists that I watched and learned from. I love watching an artist create a piece, even if its a medium I dont work in, there is a good chance I will learn or it will inspire me to try something new. Learning how to do tattoos in the first place was definitely “something new.” This medium took a while to learn, in part because i couldn’t just tattoo when i wanted. When learning to draw, you just pick up paper and pencil and you draw, what ever you want when ever you want. When learning to tattoo, you have to find a person who will let you tattoo them, and then THEY choose what you draw. I could draw anywhere at anytime, but tattooing could only happen at the shop. Fortunately, my teacher John, tossed people at me almost every time I was at the shop. Even if, no, especially if I was uncomfortable doing it. He told me how slow I was alllll the time, which made me faster. Tattooing is like any other medium, you work your ass off to learn. Usually there is just less access to your materials. It took a few years before i was remotely happy with my tattoos, but im very hard on myself. When I moved to New Orleans and thus a new tattoo shop, the exposure to new artists was immensely helpful. It didnt just help my tattoos but also my inspiration due to being surrounded artists who are “arting” all the time. From my experience, artists thrive on other artists so be helpful and supportive. Tattooing is lots of fun, and it does bum me out when someone isnt happy with a piece I have done for them. It hurts my soul. If given a chance to redeem myself I am excited but twice as anxious. That being said, most people wouldnt assume im anxious, but just an asshole. When folks come in with “common” designs (infinity sign, feather exploding into birds, breast cancer ribbon, you know the stuff) I will first ask if anyone else at the shop is available for the tattoo. If not then this person is cursed to have to talk to me. I have been heard saying thing like, “Cancer ribbon huh? For your grandma who passed? Is that the only thing that reminds you of her…cancer? Didn’t you share any special moments with them that might make a more meaningful piece of art? No? Alright then, lets put this bumper sticker of a tattoo on you.” When I die and my name comes up in the subject of tattoos, people will say that I truly cared about what went on my customers skin, and I tried very hard to give them something meaningful, somthing that other people would be jealous of.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Well if it were MY best friend then stuff would be weird. Denton Tx, where I live, has these cool tunnels going under the town, even under the town square. Some of them are still accessible and safe! One of the days would surely be taken up by thrifting and Chick-fil-A. Denton has an excellent collection of thrift stores that I often visit and we would just munch chicken nuggets while hopping stores. There is an awesome oddities shop in Dallas, so taking her there would kill a few hours just looking at weird stuff and tryin not to pick up cursed items. One night as long as the weather permitted, flying kites in the dark would be awesome. We attached some LEDs to the underside of the kite then put it up and watch people driving by wonder what it is! Ultimately where we go and what we do aren’t that important, but WHO I’m with that is the most crucial detail.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I guess to start with I would want to think the crazy old bastard who gave me the apprenticeship in the 1st place. John Bourque, Thank you so much for my start in this crazy industry. Most apprenticeships are unpaid, so I also would have to think the people who monetarily supported me while I gave all my time to the tattoo shop. My Mawmaw would be at the top of that list. She used to say, “oh my god, i cant believe draw on people all day for money.” But now she is so proud of me that even though she lives 5 hours away she sends customers to me. However, currently my success in life would be to these people, Ian Messerli, the owner of the fine establishment that employs.me (Smilin’ Ricks). Jordan Townsend, my best friend and co-worker, and most importantly the love and support my wives give. Rebecca Clifton (Keiko) and Rebecca Clifton (Kitten). Their strength alone I liken to a Superheroe. But combined, their strength is that of a God! And, yes they’re both really named Rebecca. 😁
Facebook: Dallas Clifton
Other: My digital footprint is almost non existent.