Sunday, January 9, 2011

No Flash Here: Tattoos and the Custom Art Experience of Sherman's Own Brian Davis


As the first scratchy chords of an old Vindictives album sound, Brian reclines in his chair.  Here he is in his element.  The room overflows with the macabre: dark paintings, monstrous action figures, risqué concert posters.  But there’s nothing scary about this intelligent, well-traveled artist. 


Brian “Travisty” Davis, as he is affectionately known, is a 37-year old tattoo artist hailing from Albuquerque, New Mexico.  With over 15 years of tattooing experience, Brian is well-versed in modern ink styles, but is strict about his own work.  “I don’t keep flash in here,” he says, “everything here is custom.”


The real gem in this local artist is his history.  As a musician, he has traveled all over the country, meeting and tattooing thousands of people. “Gave my first tattoo when I was around... I'd say thirteen or fourteen.”


Brian started tattooing in Albuquerque out of living rooms and kitchens with a homemade machine cobbled together by his friend Allen’s biker dad. Practicing on his legs or other punk-ass kids, he got his break when a local tattoo shop noticed his work and asked him to sign on. Over two decades later and he's in Sherman, owner and operator of Nervosa Tattoos and Body Piercing.


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He was so stoked that he was going to be the first kid at his school to have a tattoo. Allen then became the reason for Brian’s ink-filled dreams. After that, the only thing that really kept him going in his artistic direction was his own two feet. He’d find any kid who’d let him try out his new ideas on them.

He said that the most of the kids couldn’t really judge art-- just as long as it looked good they loved it. He learned the basics of tattooing on his own, as well as tips and tricks from others along the way.



His inspiration for most of his designs comes from surreal artists, like H.R. Giger (visual effects designer for the movie Aliens). To this day, he still enjoys the gory, evil and dark imagery that conveys a sense of hate and anger that he, and anyone else, can relate to.

There is definitely an attraction to the simple, yet so complex and detailed, forms of skeletal bones and stretched muscles of decaying bodies. Any kind of detailed work catches his eye.

The overtone of the evil woman compelled him to create his personal favorite tattoo, the portrait of the Bride of Frankenstein covering his right shoulder. He says that all of his tattoos have a greater meaning behind them.

Although Brian’s favorite style is dark, he can create almost anything imaginable. Vivid butterflies, florals—you name it and he’s done it. Brian got started in the business when others wanted him to do their tattoos. Many people saw his designs and wanted one too, coming to him by word of mouth. He then got started into doing poster art for bands, like for the Stockyard Stokes, his own band the
Green Goblyn Project (GGP), and many others.

Among Brian’s many passions, music has always been a source of inspiration for his various artworks. If he isn’t tattooing, then he’s either jamming on his guitar or writing songs for GGP.


Although it’s been two years since the band broke apart for personal reasons, Brian still gets together with the guys from GGP from time to time to perform at music conventions like Dragoncon in Atlanta or Screamfest in Orlando. The bandt was originally formed in Cocoa, Florida where it started out as a Gothic/Punk/Surf act.


The band progressed and was eventually picked up by the label Bony Orbit Records.  From there they managed to release two albums, “The Secret of World Paradise” and “Fluke.” In the past when Brian first started playing guitar for GGP, he toured with The Queers, The Misfits, and other prominent bands.


Even though the band didn’t get significantly popular in the music industry, they remained well known among the fans that listened to rock, metal and punk. Throughout his career, rockabilly, punk rock, heavy metal, grunge, rock-and-roll, and country have all been huge influences on his and the group’s musical style.


Bands like Neurosis, Iron Maiden, Unknown Hinson, Bad Religion, Outlaw Country, and High Octane Hell Ride are some among the playlist he listens to whenever he’s tattooing, writing songs, painting or sculpting. Listening to all his favorite bands is what his creativity feeds off of when he’s just brain-dead and needs something to get his mind going.


Music inspired Brian from the day he first learned to play the guitar to the day he played with Joey Ramone at his last live performance (Manitobas, New York). After all, music was what partially inspired the name “Nervosa” for the shop.  His interest in the Mexican band Systema Nervosa and the word’s very definition (the mind calling on the body to act) influenced him to choose it.


Of course, Brian doesn’t delve into music as much now as he does tattooing, but he still enjoys the ingenuity, originality and creativity that music requires him to have.


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When he's not in the shop, Brian tattoos out on the road either while on tour with the Green Goblyn Project or just traveling around. This has given him the chance to leave a trail of ink in every major city in the United States, some of it on fairly fuckin' famous people. If you can dredge up all those repressed memories form the 90's and watch a music video by the band Lit again, you may catch a glimpse of drummer Allen Schellenberger's tattoo that Brian drew.

All this time and experience means Brian's seen the culture of tattooing change. There's been a dramatic shift in knowledge and clientele due to exposure on shows like LA Ink. “People used to come in and not even know what the needle looked like,” he remembers. Today, it's much more mainstream and accepted, he relates the strange tale of his oldest client: a 96 year old woman.


The downside to all of this is that there are more artists than customers right now, with otherwise mediocre artists picking up needle and scratching mediocrity into the public's skin. These new shops draw customers away from the actually good ones, screwing with their business. “There's good weeks and then there's slow weeks,” but overall Brian's toughing out the shitwave's high tide and doing fine.

Influenced in equal measures by artists like Dali and Giger, as well as what he calls the “sex and violence” gore-porn aspect of tattooing, Brian’s stylistic range is impressive. It's this breadth that moves his work ahead of the traditional pin-up girls and anchors normally associated with tattoos and into the world of art. Whether drawing a portrait of the family dog, zombie gorillas eating each other, or, in one case “Righty” and “Lefty” on someone's testicles, he can really do it all.

Brian “Travisty” Davis is not only a brilliant tattoo artist, as some of our staff can certainly attest, he is also a heavy cultural reference for both the tattoo and punk music community.  It’s just Sherman’s luck to be this creative genius’s hideaway.

3 comments:

  1. His work is Perfect. The lines and shading on my bro's tat is Amazing. Im planning on getting tat from him and so rest of my fam. He has a rich history and be honored to get a tattoo from him. He's funny and outgoing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have been waiting nearly 40 years to make a decision as to whether or not I would ever get a tattoo... After seeing the amazing work Brian has done on others as well as my husband I am finally going to get one done. Brian has a perfectionists will and the creativity of a masterpiece design. His work is worth every minute spent in the chair and every dollar invested!! I can not stop bragging to my friends and co-workers about his work. I am honored to know him..

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have been waiting nearly 40 years to make a decision as to whether or not I would ever get a tattoo... After seeing the amazing work Brian has done on others as well as my husband I am finally going to get one done. Brian has a perfectionists will and the creativity of a masterpiece design. His work is worth every minute spent in the chair and every dollar invested!! I can not stop bragging to my friends and co-workers about his work. I am honored to know him..

    ReplyDelete