Chopping It Up is a series where we talk about issues and subject matter that would naturally come up just as if you were in a chair at the shop with your barber – or in the comfort of your own home getting a house call. We hope you enjoy the playful and chill but also serious things we touch upon.
If you’re into tattoo culture and live in New York City, then you’ve definitely heard of Bang Bang. One of the premiere spots to get some ink, we were beyond excited to talk to artist Rob Green about how tattoo and barbershop culture intersects, how he’s dealt with COVID-19 impacting business and his style and art form.
There’s a lot of similarities between the barbershop and tattoo parlor. First of all, you’re paying for a service. Secondly, these two industries are expected to uphold some of the highest standards of cleanliness with sanitized tools of the trade and spaces. It’s also extremely important to note that these are artists at work and you are their canvas. Their reputation is at stake everything someone sits in a chair and those chairs were or still are at one point rented out to only the rest earners. Since Rob is bald, he responded “It’s been years since I’ve stepped into a barbershop, I’m bald lol. But I could see where there are some similarities.”
On the tip of being extremely clean, we asked Rob how the shop and how he specifically was dealing with COVID-19. “When COVID hit, it impacted the tattoo business hard. There was no business during the height of the quarantine. The doors were shut. As an artist, for me, if my hands aren’t moving then I’m not earning. I heard of a few shops that have been around for years and are now closed permanently. I used that time to work on paintings and putting together images for future tattoos I’d like to work on. Once the city began slowly reopening, and when I thought it was safe enough, I went kind of rogue and did some tattoos for some close friends. Also, I took time to just reboot and refocus my mind. I recharged my creative energies for sure.”
A lot of creatives had time off and either explored new avenues or passion projects during the early days of quarantine. For Rob, he continues to draw inspiration from different things. “I draw inspiration from different things. Scrolling through photographers, painters, graphic designers on social media. I take time to go to art shows and galleries throughout the year as well. Traveling around the world also is evolutionary to get inspired. Asia was one of those trips. I try to surround myself with creative people and stimulating conversation that in return results in new ideas surrounding my craft,” he told us.
We asked him to describe his style in his own words: “I’ve been tattooing for over 20 years, so I’m versed in mostly all styles. From fine line work to black and grey to full color illustrative. As of late it’s been illustrative geometric designs. It’s sort of an amalgamation of all styles. Collage art.” His ability to hone his craft has led to some really cool celebrity clients. “One of my favorite clients I’ve had the honor of tattooing would be Sza. She has this positive energy when speaking to her, and a vast knowledge of astrology. She told me things about myself I didn’t even know. All around good vibes. Katie Cassidy, from the TV series Arrow. We’ve worked on a few pieces together. It’s always fun when she comes through. I’m a huge fan of the show and the superhero genre. Victoria Secret Angel Lais Ribeiro. She got a tattoo representing her son and bringing awareness to autism and children with special needs. Rapper and activist Vic Mensa. First time I met him was at a pop up event I worked at back in 2015. A few years later, he picked up another piece designed by illustrator Emory Douglas. We spoke about a number of topics from the state of hip-hop to the current climate in America.”
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In terms of specific pieces that he’s super proud of, Rob says, “I’ve done a couple of tattoos that I’ve been excited about working on. Once, I did this lion which is semi-realistic with a graffiti crown and has a splash of watercolor. Another one would be where I take an animal such as a panda and I’d tattoo one side in a photo realism style and the other would have a loose sketch look. My goal is to give clients something cool and unique.”
We definitely appreciate Rob’s dedication to his craft and how he’s pushing the boundaries as an artist. You can follow him on Instagram @robgreennyc for recent pieces and bookings. Also be sure to check out Rob’s tips for freelance tattoo artists trying to make it in our upcoming digital zine – THE HUNT! Issue 01: a no bullsh*t guide for the modern freelancer.
Photos courtesy of Rob Green/Jennifer Cooper