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Gavin's Underground

December Gallery Stroll: Nutcracker Show

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2011-12-05 -
The last Gallery Stroll of 2012 and wouldn't you know it, it had to snow. Every year, the December edition of Stroll is bumped up to the first Friday of the month, due in part to the holidays and the fact that December has become the most difficult month to get artists out for exhibitions. Nearly as tough as August, which has never made sense to me anyway, but there you have it.
For this month's Stroll, we take a powdery jaunt over to Blonde Grizzly for its Nutcracker show -- fully functional nutcracker dolls painted in various forms by various local artists, including two sets made up to look like The Beatles. The man behind the Fab 4 creations is also the curator for this particular event, tattoo artist Vic Back, whom we chatted with about the show and his artwork. Also included are several pictures from the evening, which you can check out here, and that are still on display for the next few weeks.

Vic Back

Gavin: Hey, Vic. First thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Vic: I was born in Bezons, France. I moved to Utah at the age of three. I started tattooing in 1998, and had always had a strong interest in art as a child.
Gavin: What first got you interested in art and what were some of your early inspirations?

Vic: The earliest inspirations I can remember were from the Louvre, and walks in Paris as a child. My grandfather took me around to all the museums when I'd visit France every other year or so. I always admired art nouveau, and started noticing it on the metro stops with my grandfather.

Gavin: You're primarily a tattoo artist by trade. What drew your interest specifically toward tattooing?

Vic: I fell into tattooing by complete accident. I initially was drawn towards piercing, believe it or not. My sister had a friend in town from out of state who ended up stuck here for one reason or another. He offered me his equipment after being told by my sister that I was an artist. I declined. The next day, a friend wanted to go get tattooed at ASI. I mentioned this line on equipment, and he said he'd go in halves. I took him up on his offer, and then completely destroyed his arm.
Gavin: Did you seek out any formal college for artwork prior to tattooing?

Vic: I did the art-class thing all through school, but never into college. I had a few private teachers growing up, and learned mostly through the draw, draw, draw method.

Gavin: How did you break into the business and what was it like learning the skills and techniques along the way?

Vic: It's been a long road. As any tattoo artist will tell you. I'm still learning plenty of things, and have a long list of things I feel I can improve on. The industry is on a constant rise, and there’s a lot to constantly learn and take in.
Gavin: You've earned the reputation of being the traveling artist and have become a favored name with particular bands. What made you decide to go that route and what is it like for you being an artist on-the-go?

Vic: I fell into touring with bands out of a joke my friend Jeph (The Used) and I started. He was never home enough to have his back worked on, so we toyed with the idea of me just hopping on the bus with them. It turned into reality, and some of the most amazing experiences of my life have been out on the road with bands like The Used, Killswitch Engage, Slayer, etc...

Gavin: With all the opportunities that have come before you, you've still remained based out of Utah. What's kept you here and active all these years in the community?

Vic: I LOVE the tattooing going on in Salt Lake City. In all my travels, I've met only a few cities I've felt have the "scene" we have here for it. People here seem pretty open, and willing to get large-scale work. That’s not to say other cities don't have that. But, I feel that the cost of living here allows it to be possible for people. I've considered moving several times, but I have a very strong clientele here, as well, and they'd probably hang me if I left before finishing them up.
Gavin: Over time, you've branched out as an artist and have displayed in the SLC art scene. What pushed you to do paintings, and how easy was it for you to pick up a different medium?

Vic: I had painted quite a bit before tattooing. I was an artist before a tattooer, which is the more common route these days. Not many people are taken seriously when they ask for an apprenticeship, let alone when they're not already an artist. We tend to be a stubborn breed, and hear everyday about someone wanting to get into it. I'm sure it happens in many other industries, as well, and you can usually tell when there's a passion behind someone's wanting to do it.

Gavin: What's the process for you in creating a new piece, either painting or tattoo, from design to final product?

Vic: I start out my tattoo work by tracing someone out with paper laid on them. I do this to capture all the contours, bends, other tattoos, etc. on the canvas. I then do extensive referencing after discussing the idea, and come up with a red-pencil sketch for the client. After they've approved it, I use drafting pens to pick out my final lines in the sketch. Then it's a matter of making the stencil, and placing it on them. I prefer this method because there's no guessing on whether not it will fit. It was drawn for them, and it helps me to save time. Paintings, I generally just freehand onto the canvas using white paint. I then build up from there. Sometimes I'll start with a rough sketch on paper I can reference.
Gavin: Do you tend to play around with your designs while creating them, or does that old influence of finishing what you started kick in and you focus strictly on what you originally created?

Vic: I do a lot of experimenting. I try not to ever replicate something else I've done. Even if it's a dragon or koi, I try and change up small things like scale patterns, whiskers, eyes, etc.

Gavin: Tell us about the Nutcracker show you'll be curating for Gallery Stroll.

Vic: The idea came about when my wife and I decided last year to make some for our home. I had started talking to Caleb Barney about it, but at that point we were only a few weeks away from Xmas. I'm excited to see all the different ideas people come up with, and create. We're hoping this show can become an annual event, and we can get more and more artists involved. So far, the ones I've seen have been mind-blowing.
Gavin: What made you decide to hold it at Blonde Grizzly, and how has it been working with the Barneys?

Vic: I've known Caleb and Hillary for quite some time now. I love working with them, and they make it a lot easier for the artist to focus on the things they need to do, and they really take the burden of promoting, and arranging things off your shoulders. It has given me the time I need to connect with other artists on it, and gives me the time in my schedule to complete my pieces for the show.

Gavin: Moving on to local art, what are your thoughts on our art scene, both good and bad?

Vic: I think Salt Lake has a great art scen, both on canvas and on skin. We've got artists like Sri Whipple, Ben Wiemeyer, Candace Jean, Dave Borba and many more I could go on about. We've got tattooers like Mike Johnson, Rich D, John Chatelain, Oak Adams, Danny Walker, Sara D, Jared Hayes, Laszlo Barath, Phil, and many many more -- another reason I'd have a hard time moving.
Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make things more prominent?

Vic: I feel as though a lot of our artists we have here are incredibly talented and deserve more credit. That being said, I'd love to see our artists branch out into other states. I feel as though a lot of our local talent could teach a lot, and give a lot. Put together art shows in other cities/states. Show people what we have here, etc.

Gavin: What's your opinion on Gallery Stroll today and the work being displayed each month?

Vic: I've seen some great stuff! The best part is that there are so many people involved. That keeps it new and different every month.
Gavin: Who are some other tattoo artists whose artwork you've enjoyed checking out?

Vic: I've already listed quite a few. It's really hard to list without leaving a few out. And if I did that, I'd feel bad. I'd imagine it's like trying to make a thank-you list for an album. I wouldn't know where to begin.

Gavin: What can we expect from you over the rest of this year and going into next?

Vic: My wife and I are in the process of opening a new studio. It's called "27." It'll be located by the new Whole Foods and Trolley Square. We have Pat Delvar, Amanda Powell and R2, as well as the two of us. We're very excited about this, and have a lot of huge things in the works, including a tattoo-artist collective we've been working on. Anyone interested in hearing more about it, just keep checking out my Website or Follow27.com and I'll keep you posted. We'd like to work on getting everyone interested in tattooing together in SLC that opportunity -- dropping all borders, so to speak.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Vic: Please watch The U.S. vs. John Lennon. And always listen to The Beatles.


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