Friday, June 4, 2010

DANIEL HIGGS



Apprenticed under: Tux Farrar

Shops: Not allowed for the Internet


Daniel Higgs started tattooing somewhere around 1984 and apprenticed under a person by the name of Tux Farrar. It was trough Tux that Daniel was introduced to that great lineage of tattooers, most notably perhaps Thom Devita from who Tux also got the aura and path from. And you know the path that I am talking about. It is in all the flash sheets that you see. In every tattoo shop that looks like one. It is the CODEX PBBC1891 for all this. And that is what Daniel also recognized – even if he didn't completely know what IT really was – and started to expand the vocabulary of tattoo artists. In fact he was one of the few people who re-wrote the book. He took what was before, embraced it and then gave it another birth. He re-introduced the overlooked path of using black like it was the truth and made his designs simpler, more dynamic and bolder than was accustomed that time (a secret hint: take a look at the Owen Jensen flash in the book Pierced Hearts and True Love if you want images to those words), but most importantly he was one of the few who brought outside influences to tattooing. That is the Seed motherfucker's, The sacred seed.

There is that spark in the work he put out. CODEX PBBC1891. Why is that? Well, I think if you are a tattoo artist and want to see tattoos by The Higgs, you really shouldn’t. Don’t copy, discover. Because One thing is certain. Daniel didn’t sit in front of his computer looking at Myspace while hitting refresh to Chad Koeplinger's page. And neither should you. Stop looking at other tattooers work for influence. Now people are doing it because they think it is cool, but they used to do it because it meant something. Because it used to be – back in the day – unusual to see work from other artists. The sailors and travellers were the calling cards. It was exiting to see the same images done with slight moderations. We are part of something bigger they might have thought. But now when tattooing is more bigger than ever with more tattoo artists than you can count, it's not the same as it used to be. Daniel himself, in cold blood, refuses anyone to share his tattoo work in the internet. If he hadn’t done that then tattooing would start dying because of the standard of mediocrity and non creative copying. Because people don't respect the myths or want to learn from them, they just want to beat them and don't even stop to THINK about what they are doing. It seems that everyone just wants to be the king and I think Daniel saw that. He knew that by just sharing his stuff openly to everyone there would be the danger of people making it into a competition. And that in turn would make all the symbols that he used in his work meaningless.

I think it can be said that what Daniel did is bring the occult back to tattooing. But he didn't do it in a way that separated him from the rest. No. He wasn't this so called “Jock tattooer”, one who just wants to beat the guy who came before by making a “better” design that is more “out there”. He wasn't out there to beat any records. No, he just gave tattooing back to itself. Brought it closer to us as human beings. He knew that tattooing had something in it that you just cant explain. The feeling you get when you are looking at a old flash sheet. It is at the same time mysterious but familiar. Timeless but still rooted to the present day. It is the lifeline of us. It is here all the time but it changes constantly. And at best tattoo artists are those who bring to life those unique images that still resemble each other to a degree. It's not a competition. It just is.

No one path is the same, that is what Daniel gave tattooing. He made it matter. Because we matter.

BE THE YOU and give tattooing back to tattooing, give it back to all of us.

With love, wonder, curiosity and more questions than answers,

17 comments:

  1. I wish Dan would stop smoking.

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  2. well done sir.
    as a side note... i was working at a friends shop (Hobo's in portsmouth NH, look 'em up they are doing things right) where dan happened to also be working for a bit. We were looking through a stack of his photos and came across the most solid full chest eagle i've ever seen. when asked how long it took, dan answered 3 hrs. he followed it up with saying "if you know what you are doing, there is no reason it should take any longer than that." i had no reply.
    -scott

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  3. I have no reply either. I can only imagine. Thanks, gentlemen, for stopping by and giving feedback. This was the hardes article I have ever written. Usually I dont sweat them that much, but this, well, first it took my like 6 months. Seriously. And I bought 3 of his soloalbums (have been listening to Lungfish also). Then two books, one magazine and then asked constant questions from one Robert Ryan (sorry Robert! And thanks).

    So I hope it is good enough.

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  4. Tomas Garcia's neck piece is one of the coolest tattoos I've ever seen.EVER. All higgs. It will mind freak you.Its too bad he gave up on tattooing or drifted away etc.

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  5. Nice one, man. Actually wanted to get in touch with you but don't see any contact info. Email?

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  6. Thanks! You can ask my email from Cian. He has it :) I dont want to put it out in the public :P

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  7. Thanks putting the time and thought into the fine post.

    For further reading about Higgs, Xanadontphiladelphia has a few scans from an interview from an issue of Tattoo Revue (interviewed by Hardy!!!).

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/xanadontphiladelphia/sets/72157611789225798/

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  8. Yeah, I bought the mag because Robert Ryan recommended it. Needed it for the research :) Great stuff!

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  9. your blog is really realy good and informative, can i talk about it at my blog? (http://thetraditionalway.blogspot.com/)

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  10. Thank you for posting this, do you know if it is possible to still get a tattoo by Daniel Higgs? My husband has wanted one by him for well over ten years now and if he is still tattooing I to surprise him, just can't find much info. Thank You for any info you are willing to share and for this well written and informative piece.

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  11. Below is a link to a Daniel Higgs interview on Radio Centraal (Belgium) where he, among other things, discusses his reasons for leaving the tattoo world (apparently the first time he's spoken publicly about this). Can't find the page/original link for this file so I just uploaded it myself...

    http://www.box.net/shared/zk4migk4pd

    Enjoy.

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  12. Awesome Blog, check my blog out: http://tootallspottery.blogspot.com/

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  13. Thank for all the comments guys and for the interview link Brat Brains! Don Chuck, go right ahead!

    But I really cant take that much credit for this blog post, or any others. As I stated before I have to thank from the bottom of my heart one mister Robert Ryan. He had the patience to answer my long ass and repetitive emails about Daniel and other shit. All glory to him!

    And I Know there are people who must think that when I even wrote this about Daniel, I take away from the mystery. Here is what I answered to one of the people who politely asked my about the issue

    I thought about it, and still do, pretty much constantly. But I made a decision. I think it is more important to try to guide/lift the spirits/make people think about themselfs than just give them a article about Daniel Higgs that is fact. Because of course, the mystery of Higgs IS important. But it is more important that other artists create their own mystery. So I guess it could be said that I sacrificed Daniel for tattooing. Because what I gather from talking to people who know Daniel, that is one of the reasons why Daniel quit. Because tattooing started to become what it is. Just tattooing, with out anything else in it. Not as much soul or meaning. Of course it is about making money, but still. It CAN mean something.

    And also when I wrote about him, it does take a way from the mystery. It takes away in that way that its not as cool, but I also hope it takes away it in that way that people start to think shit, maybe its NOT cool to just copy other artist, maybe I also can create and “be like The Higgs”

    If one thinks like that. I think it is worth it to have it up in the internet.

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  14. And to Sena. What I have heard, Daniel doesnt tattoo anymore. But check out the younger guys/his peers such as: Robert Ryan, Erik Von Bartholomaus, A. P. Shrewsbury, Scott Harrison. And of course the one and only Thom Devita who still tattoos in some conventions. With out Thom, there wouldn't maybe have been Daniel.

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  15. Thank you for this very well written and insightful post. Would you be interested in contributing some of your writings to the Tattoo'd Lifestyle Magazine website http://www.tattoodlifestyle.com

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