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.
It is such a treat when you meet artists in the tattoo industry who embody the most positive of ideals: amazing attitude, strong work ethics, respect for their clients, and mind-blowing art work. I feel fortunate to know many of these special artisans, and one in particular who truly does encompass all of the aforementioned characteristics, is the one-and-only Mr. Ron “Big Daddy” Meyers.
Ron will initially win you over with his big smile and big heart, but his altruistic demeanor shines even brighter when you take a look through his gorgeous portfolio, full of outstanding black and gray portraiture work. This dedicated tattooist’s love for the ink industry is second only to his commitment as a husband, dad, and friend. It’s suffice to say that he’s just an all-around great guy.
Originally hailing from Detroit, Michigan, Meyers relocated to the Ohio Valley in October of 2004, making his new home at the highly-regarded Hot Rod Tattooing studio. The shop is located in Martins Ferry, Ohio; right across the river from Wheeling, West Virginia.
Interested in art from a young age, Ron has cultivated and refined his artistic skills throughout the years, finding the perfect medium for his talent transforming skin into walking masterpieces. He is completely committed to his clients and in making a sitting in his chair about much more than just a new tattoo. Meyers understands the sentimentality of tattoo art, and more specifically, of portraiture art; and always takes into consideration the sensitive nature of each project.
It’s always a pleasure to talk to Ron and was so fun interviewing him and putting this Inkerview together. I hope you enjoy learning more about this exceptional person and sneaking a peek at some of his stellar work.
Were you interested in art as a child? Did you envision yourself as an artist when you grew up?
I have always drawn stuff, even as a kid I was always drawing in class and usually doing it to avoid actually doing school work. When I was a kid I was a huge KISS fan and typically I drew pictures of the band members, taped to each corner of my desk.
I was always drawing and strangely enough, I was usually copying something realistic. I never really saw myself as an artist. I always thought copying and reproducing something didn’t constitute being an artist and that you had to be able to see it in your head and just be able to draw it from memory. I could do that with simple things, but never the type of stuff I wanted to draw. It wasn’t until I was in my 20's, when I had a friend start teaching me how to use an airbrush and he referred to me as an artist when I began to feel differently. At that point, I still felt uncomfortable being referred to as an artist.
In school I took art classes as a kid, but never really got the enjoyment of a structured course. Now I look back and feel like I should have done that and realize how much faster I would have learned some of the things I know now. But they say hindsight is 20/20.
It's also amazing how as a kid you get certain preconceived notions of what certain things are and how they should be, and for me, not having very many structured art classes or training, I thought certain pieces of art had to be executed in certain ways and with certain tools and I felt if you did them in other ways, it was considered cheating.
It's a strange frame of mind but if you've never had anyone tell you otherwise you just continue to think that way; for example, most of my drawings are done with pencil and paper - I’ve never really used color pencils, or paint, or anything. I thought you had to shade smoothly with a pencil on paper, until you got that smooth airbrushed-look, and I never knew how people got that. Once I started tattooing, I learned how to use my tattoo equipment to achieve all the effects I needed.
So then I started regressing back to doing more pencil drawings and I had other artists telling me they achieved those effects simply by smudging the pencil lead with tools, or your finger, or whatever worked. I had no clue and always thought that was cheating. In actuality, it was just my ridiculous preconceived notions from my childhood which were limiting me.
You are an incredible portrait artist. How did your professional tattoo art journey lead you in this direction?
I worked with an airbrush for awhile in my 20's and never felt like I was getting better at that. I also started getting tattooed in my 20's and loved the whole experience. I had very limited and achievable goals when I started my tattoo career. I simply wanted to be able to pull off good, solid, clean tattoos; and this was back in 1996.
There were some exceptional tattoos back then, but not as many over-the-top tattooers. For me, the tattooers that come to mind from back then were: Jack Rudy, Brian Everett, Tom Renshaw, and Jay Wheeler. All amazing black and grey tattooers. But I looked at them as guys that were few and far between and I really didn’t see myself reaching that level of tattooing. I was totally ok with that at the time. I was focused on learning how to give people a nice "flash" tattoo and a good experience.
I learned a lot about that from the guy that taught me, Chris Page. This guy was booked for months at a time back in the 90's and everyone loved him and his tattoos. I seriously wanted to be that guy. He was super cool and I loved just hanging out with him, even when I wasn’t getting tattooed. At that time, that was what I aspired to be and would have been totally happy with that.
After working with him for five years, I reached a point where I was still happy doing flash and tried to make every tattoo better than the flash, and kept progressing to the point that I wanted to replicate more and more difficult images. To me, a portrait seemed to be the most difficult image to replicate, so it became my goal to be able to do that.
As you get better at those type of tattoos, it becomes more than just artwork, you start tapping into people and their reasons for getting that type of tattoo. It becomes more mental and emotional. I took a Tom Renshaw seminar and he summed it up for me: getting a portrait was the greatest commitment you could make or dedicate to a person, and it needs to be approached with that same amount of respect. Especially when dealing with people wanting memorial tattoos. Memorial tattoos become a symbol of closure for many people and to take that lightly is a HUGE disrespect to that person and their lost loved one. If you can’t pull off a portrait and deal with the situation of how moving it is for that person you shouldn’t bother - leave it to someone who is willing and able to pour there whole heart and dedication into it each and every time.
Also with portrait tattoos, I never get tired of them, because every time I do one it's a different person, different situation, and a different story and meaning behind it. I love that people trust me enough to put such an important piece of artwork on them and are willing to share a huge part of their past with me during the process. It's awesome and I wouldn’t trade it for any other form of art.
You have been tattooing since 1996, so have seen a lot of changes in the industry throughout the years. What excites you most about the level that tattoo art is at now? What do you think is next on the horizon?
I feel like I am a lucky man. I have gotten to live in an interesting time in history and I have gotten to see so much change in everything in my life. As a kid, I was stoked when Atari came out with video games and I was able to play Space Invaders or Asteroids on my television; and our school had one computer that the entire school had to share. All the way up until now when we can play games with amazing graphics and access the internet on our cell phones. Not to mention the amazing difference in our tattoo industry. Like I mentioned, I was thrilled to start out tattooing with the goal of reproducing flash and there being a handful of amazing tattooers around the world, to the point where now people can have the most elaborate images applied to their skin by some of the most amazing artists in the world.
I still miss some of the mysterious factor and dark alley element of tattooing. It was nice when you had to beg and bust your balls to get a tattooer to take you on as an apprentice. It was the day of tattooers having a certain image and if you didn’t fit the bill, most tattooers would tell you to piss off and you were screwed. There was no other way to get your hands on equipment, much less learn the ins-and-outs of the trade. The upside is that we have progressed to the point that VERY skilled artists have worked their way into the industry and forced good tattooers to become exceptional tattooers. I am totally ok with the bar being raised and forcing the good to become better, and let the less ambitious fall behind. The downside is that the industry is becoming saturated with people that are not worthy or respectful of the trade or history of the industry.
How many people do you meet on a daily basis that actually know who Ed Hardy is or anything about his history? It's pathetic. Not to mention the accessibility of starter kits, and cheap knockoff tattoo machines and supplies. It is crazy when you can buy an entire kit for the price of one good machine. That just makes it possible for irresponsible kids (and I use the word kids lightly) to get a hold of equipment and put horrible markings on people, not to mention the potential spread of disease.
But back to the good stuff…it's amazing to see the level of work being put out by tattoo artists today. To see people walking around with artwork worthy of a gallery or museum on their arms is incredible. As for the next level of tattooing, it's hard to envision where it will go next. I seriously have no predictions. I do think that it is nice seeing tattooing to the point that it's more respected and tattoo artists are exploring other outlets of art and getting recognized for it. I would love to see artwork hanging in a museum with the likes of Leonardo DaVinci, that was done by a modern-day tattoo artist. That would be great!
What advice do you have for up-and-coming tattoo artists?
Respect. No matter who you are, where you came from, or how good you are, you need to have respect for the guys that paved the way for you. There is no other art form that has so much connection to it. It's not like a canvas on an easel is going to tell you a story about how important their mom was and how she loved, supported and defended them growing up; or how much they miss her while you’re painting her portrait. And no matter how cool you think something you're tattooing is, more than likely, someone before you did it, came up with it, and inspired you to use it in your work.
I’ve talked to many tattooers and every cutting edge piece of work you see had some inspiration from one of those old guys. So be sure to give them the respect they deserve!
What one word best describes you?
Humble. I would hope that most people that have met me would remember me as humble.
I’ve been tattooing a long time and have seen the rise and fall of egos and I would hate to see any of my friends, family, co-workers, or peers think of me as being someone with an ego or chip on my shoulder. I don’t see myself as having clients, I see myself as having a new friend when I’m done with their tattoo.
What one word best describes your work?
Timeless. At the risk of stealing Cap Szumski's word, I like to think of black and grey portrait work as timeless. It doesn’t matter if your portrait was done 20 years ago or yesterday, if it was done well, it never looks dated. There is no phase or trend to portrait work - it is what it is!
What is your favorite sweet treat?
Well Jinxi, I have to say aside from my horrible addiction to birthday cake (which my wife will attest to, because she will throw away leftovers so I don’t eat it until I puke), I’d have to say my next unhealthy addiction would be Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
Last updated on January 19, 2010 by Jinxi Boo