Inkerviews > Tattoo Artists > Big Gus Art Book Interview


Inkerviews features the work of tattoo artists and collectors, as well as fine artists, in a series of interviews. With an exciting lineup already in place and endless more to come, I hope you will check back often to read about these incredible people and enjoy their visually stunning talents.

Today’s level of artistic talent is awe-inspiring. Sprinkle in tattoo-inspired techniques and a focus on the black and grey genre, and one will find that the field is brimming with exquisite accomplishments. So when one artist who is a leader amongst the tattoo greats in the black and grey field gets an idea to bring all of that talent together, you have got one exciting project on your hands. Enter, the one-and-only, Big Gus.

Hailing from southern California, Gus is a maestro with black and grey tattoo designs, as well as the drawings and paintings he produces. Because of his passion for this style, he often finds himself surrounded by other amazing artisans and it was one day in 2008, while flipping through his phone’s address book when a light bulb went off and he realized just HOW MANY people he knew that were excelling in this area. That was the moment he knew that compiling a book full of this inspiration was an important goal to work towards.

And so the journey began…Gus chose the artists and commenced with his planning of the project. But he knew that he wanted this book to be about even MORE than just magnificent artwork - he wanted it to have an impact in a bigger way as well. Because his godson is autistic, and he was dedicated to not only him, but additionally, to bringing about autism awareness on a larger scale, Gus realized that this book, Black and Grey’s Finest, was the perfect opportunity to incorporate artwork and awareness.

Black and Grey’s Finest is a stunning collection of artwork from some of the world’s top artists. Just check out the impressive artist list and see what I mean. Each piece is a one-of-a-kind original, created specifically for the book. And not only was each done with great care and focus in mind, but all of these artistic accomplishments will be available to purchase through an upcoming auction at Timeline Gallery in San Pedro, California; with proceeds dedicated to autistic-related charities (book proceeds will also be contributed). A win-win for everyone involved!

It was such a pleasure to speak to Big Gus about this project, which means so much to him on so many levels and learn more about the process of bringing it together, what it will entail and offer to readers, and what he learned along the way. I hope you enjoy reading more about Black and Grey’s Finest. Don’t forget to pre-order your book and enjoy black and grey work from some of the best-of-the-best, while giving back to a cause that needs love, support, and many more “Big Gus-es” leading the way.

How did the idea for Black and Greys Finest first come about? What inspired you to begin the project?

The first time the thought of this book came about was about three years ago, when I was chilling at a convention and was feeling good (ha ha). I needed to call one of the guys, so I started going through my address book and I was, like, “Damn, I  know a lot of great artists.”  As I scrolled through the numbers, it hit me that I should do a book featuring these people, and since I love black and grey, and that’s what I’m known for, BANG, the idea of Black and Grey’s Finest was born. Just like that!
My inspiration was my love for art. I was curious if I could get my friends to do a black and grey design only, and I was curious what we all could put together since a lot of us are in this stage where we paint and draw all the time.

I am assuming it was quite a labor of love. How long did it take to put everything together?

OMG, really, this was the hardest part - collecting 120-plus pages from some of the world’s top artists. It was not easy and took over two years to collect the pieces. As you all know, tattoo artists, with their schedules, conventions, shops, traveling…this was very hard, but well worth the time that went into it. I’m so happy to be able to tell you that all of the art in this project is taking book art to another level, thanks to every single person who submitted a piece. Sorry to all of them for the constant emails, phone calls, and for being a stalker at shows. =)

Can you give us a rundown of what the book covers and what it will offer to readers who purchase it?

First, you will get a small write-up intro into my project, and also some insight about autism and awareness of this disorder in children. From there, you will get artists' pages with their artwork side-by-side; about 130 pages of submitted artwork.

Also, you will get all of my artwork that I have collaborated with Sullen on, as well as my new set of flash. Since people have been asking me about the flash, I decided to include 10 pages of my personal flash set.

Near the end of the book, we feature a short story on the art show that we are having at Timeline Gallery on March 26th, plus photos of the event and the artists who will be there that night. I want people to get the whole project, from start to finish, you know?

The history of black and grey tattoo work is fascinating and diverse. How does the book help to honor this long tradition of tattoo art?

It honors the tradition by featuring artists’ submissions of some of the very finest black and grey artwork. From old school/traditional to some of the most realistic. It covers all areas and all kinds of genres throughout the tattoo art tradition.

What type of artistic styles and genres are displayed in the book?

Traditional, new school, photo realistic…you name it, it’s in there!

The lineup of artists is outstanding! How did you go about selecting the work that you choose to be in the pages of the book? How was it working with your colleagues on a project such as this?

Well, I didn’t select any art, I just selected the artists. The rest was up to them. It was fun and interesting; it was also the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It is a lot of hard work to put together a book of over 120 original pieces. Dealing with artists’ schedules and very busy lives, and trying to collect the artwork was one of the biggest challenges, but everybody pulled through. Only took two years! (LMAO).

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Are there personal stories and bits of history in the book as well?

After chose the artists, I wanted to do something original with the pieces I received, so instead of giving the pieces back to the artists, I decided to ask them for permission to donate it for a fundraiser for autism.

I first heard of autism when I met my girl, Ruby. She has a nephew, who later became my godson, and he was diagnosed with autism. This is where Art For Autism was born. All of the artists were more than happy to donate their pieces for such a great cause. The more I talked about autism amongst my peers, the more I noticed how many people were affected by it. So me and Mario decided to start Art For Autism. Our dream is to help families within our industry.
You are having an art show at the Timeline Gallery in San Pedro, California on March 26th. Can you tell us about this night and what will be taking place? Is it open to the public and how can fans partake of the artwork and inspiration that night?

Since the art show will be a part of the book, we are releasing the book at a later date. Pre-sale orders will start soon after show. The night of the event, all of the original pieces will be up for auction. This means you will be able to win an original piece of artwork 11 x 14” in size, by some of the world’s best artists.

A $10 donation will be needed for a wristband for the live auction (10 pm- 11pm). We are also going to have an event t-shirt designed by Carlos Torres, and it will be on sale that night.

Raffles for art prints, food, drinks, and much more will be part of the night’s event.

Yes, it will be open to the public from 7- 10 pm for silent bidding on all of the art. From 10-11 pm is the live auction for each piece of art.

Where will enthusiasts be able to purchase the book and what is the official launch date? How much will it be sold for?

Pre-orders will be available at starting April 5, 2011.

The book will be $100, plus shipping and handling.

What did you learn from the entire process? Do you feel like it helped you to grow as an artist?

That making a book is not easy, but well worth the time and effort put into it. Also, it helped me realize how much talent there is in this world. It also taught me to not be lazy and helped me to focus on becoming a better artist.

Now that such a huge project is ready to roll out, what will your NEXT focus be (outside of the outstanding tattoo work you do)?

Well, thank you. I would say to get Art for Autism on a roll! Also to focus on my paintings and drawings; and a new black and grey DVD in the near future, featuring some world class tattoo artists.

Any final words or bits of information that you would like to share with readers?

Thank you to all of the artists who made this possible. I couldn’t have done this without you.

I also want to thank all of our sponsors: Sullen Clothing, Stencil Stuff, H2Ocean, Eternal Ink, Inkeeze,, and Rockstar Energy Drinks. Thank you for helping to make the art show possible.

And a special thanks to Timeline Gallery for hosting the event and making it the first art show at this soon to be world-known gallery. Love you guys, man. D.I FAMILIA POR VIDA.


Last updated on March 15, 2011 by Jinxi Boo