Image by Adam C Photography
Tattoo artist Andrew Ottenhof, of The Foundry Tattoo, spent sometime in Toronto building up his artistry, reputation and business but when the time came he was more than ready to return to his hometown of Odessa, just north of Kingston Ont.. The move from highways to hedgerows allowed him to spend time creating what he wanted at his own pace he says.
“The city is fantastic in the sense of it being a cultural melting pot, with things going on all the time, with endless areas and places and people to take inspiration from,” says the thirty-year-old, “But I am a huge huge nature guy, just a huge fan of hanging out and not being bombarded by all the sights and sounds. . . A lot of my work is nature inspired. I really like a more organic and natural look to things instead of that industrial shiny sleek idea.”
Ottenhof, who grew up in Odessa, says he began drawing and painting at an early age. It was always something he did but in his twenties he struggled with finding his path in life. While working at “a dead-end job” he met a tattoo artist. It all clicked and he began to learn the trade from him.
“It was an opportunity to be an artist and to make a living from it. Thats mind blowing and still is to this day. Its mind blowing that I get to do what I get to do,” he says.
This mind blowing opportunity is not open to many. Most tattoo artists learn their trade from practitioners. The craft is passed on from master to apprentice says Ottenhof but it is changing. With the advent of social media, access to information, technology and a much bigger market, tattooing as a trade may be something taught in a more formal setting.
“Apprenticeships may be phased out,” he says, “which I think would be unfortunate because it is a neat way of doing things.”
The formalization of a tattoo apprenticeship may also inadvertently result in a lack of individuality and personality among tattoo artists. The Master/ Apprenticeship dynamic allows one to learn from an artist and to develop and value one’s own creativity. Where the creativity comes from depends on each tattooist. For some like Ottenhof it comes from everywhere.
“Every single thing I do outside of tattooing affects it,” he says. “It makes you look at things differently. I saw an artist who made great sculptures and was lighting them differently and taking great pictures of them and using them as his references for his tattooing. I’ve yet to do anything like that but I would love to start doing tattoos based on sculptural elements. I think in terms of tattooing everything I do filters into it. Its definitely a mix of those sculptural elements, painterly things and everything else that's involved.”
All is involved in the art of Ottenhof. Everything experienced by the small town big time artist, from country to city to county again.