A Tattooing Dad- Interview with Kenneth Chope
Ricky - Hey Kenneth, I really enjoyed meeting you and getting to talk to you abit at our shoot. Give us a little introduction to our readers and tell them a little bit about who you are in a few sentences.
Kenneth - My name is Kenneth Chope. I’m 38 and i reside in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I currently work as a tattooist at White Wizard and have been doing it 3 years. I’m a full time artist as well as a full time father. My love of comic books is what made me go after becoming an artist and also the reason i got into the tattoo chair.
Ricky - Hell yeah man! I didn't realize comics was one of the things that inspired you. Are you a DC or Marvel man?
Kenneth - Honestly a DC fan. The heroes seem more normal and less powers. But I lived vicariously through them as a kid and found my place as a young artist trying to recreate them on paper and failed time after time miserably. My favorite comic book character today is Tattoo. a marvel character who can make their tattoos come to life and such.
Ricky - That's awesome! I'm more a DC dude myself. I don't think I've heard of Tattoo. Reminds me of a dude that showed up on Arrow at one time that he could use his tattoos as weapons to assassinate people. Are you stoked to see Endgame?
Kenneth - I am. I’m ready for it as we all been waiting what feels like an eternity for its release. I’m just hoping for a fight between Thanos and Hulk. Although, I have been thinking Hulk is actually Loki or another character that may have assumed Hulk’s form. But then again I tend to go down the rabbit hole thinking of plots and where the franchise will go in the future.
Ricky - That sounds alot like my oldest daughter reading up on all the theories about what's happening and why Hulk wouldn't come out in Infinity War. You mentioned fatherhood. How many kids do you have? Are they into comics as well?
Kenneth - I only have one child currently and she’s just starting her comic book collection and she collects walking dead comics. My daughter is my life though and as a single dad I try my best to teach her about everything I can. We both share quite a passion for the arts and she’s just starting her first attempts at trying to draw her own comic book artwork.
Ricky - That is awesome that you guys are able to connect with art and comics. We talked a little bit about it at the shop, but being a single dad and a tattoo artist, how has that been?
Kenneth - Well both of them separately would be great but its a struggle to juggle them both. I love what i do but i work a lot of nights so we tend to see each other every moment I get. My daughter., Acia tends to come to the shop and spend the evenings with me. She will draw while i lay down some lines. These days its much easier but I didn’t have her full time while i was going through my apprenticeship. This last year I got full custody and have been making an effort to teach her in my downtime how to do different styles of art. She says she wants to learn to tattoo in the future and honestly I would love her to learn and be able to do so but as a career I would like her to find something more stable. It’s not that we don’t make a decent living but its hard work. Every hour we work we have three hours of drawing time that week. Every artist is different but I hardly am seen without my iPad drawing or sketching away trying to come up with my next piece to show off. The artist market is competitive and there are quite a few tattooists but people forget that we all have our own styles. The hardest part though of the job is the other artists, we all have to get along but yet were all so different. In many studios artists can build each other up and help each other but some studios they just break each other down and try to scare each other off. But its like any job these days where the competition will try to take down those they feel are a threat. Honestly i try my best to stay out of it all but the shop gossip happens everywhere.
Ricky - I can totally get that. With our kids we want them to achieve great things and let's face it, sometimes people look at some careers and see the glamour and not the hard work and bullshit that goes on behind the scenes at times. We talked a little about art and the competition. It would be a lot more pleasant if we could help change the mentality that we all compete. Art is subjective to the viewer. If we could all push each other to be the best we can be, they'll be a market of people that like what we can offer. How has tattooing changed your life?
Kenneth - Interesting question!!! I used to wake up and put on a shirt and a tie and go to work 12 hours a day as a restaurant manager trying to make ends meet. Now iIm 7 to 8 hours a day or more in the shop and able to just be myself. Sure we still have to censor ourselves and remember we run a business but now my suit is my skin and i’m out here bearing it all to see and putting my skills on the line to see if i can make it in the competitive art field. I love waking every day and creating. At first it was hard but these days it gets easier and easier and i’m developing my style. Looking back i was too afraid to be myself and open up in the restaurant world trying to be a corporate puppet. But now it doesn’t matter. I just kinda do as I please with respect to others and create what I want. Though there are still stigmas when I draw dark art. People are starting to break down the stereotypes that went with tattoos we all saw when we were children.
Ricky - It's such a feeling getting to create and be yourself. What are some of the stereotypes you've encountered with being a single dad that's a tattooer? What about some of the ones based off the kind of art you create?
Kenneth - People think of us as unemployed and feeding off the government while its honestly the opposite. We work hard and enjoy the art. I have had someone ask my daughter who I was and why she was hanging out with a delinquent. We get stares when we are out in public. But i also get praise these days from a lot of mothers telling me its really cool i raise my child to be without bias or stereotypes. I want her to have an open mind and not fight her teachings from when she grew up.
As for my artwork i love to draw the dark side quite a bit and would love to send you a few reference pictures but because i drew a ram skull or rams head. I’m automatically considered satanic when its just another image. Honestly i think people put to much stock in images and beliefs but that’s my opinion. As an artist i’m just trying to move forward and draw a bit of everything.
Ricky - That's really cool man! I think it's important to raise our kids to be open minded and to really evaluate and think things through to know what they believe. These days so many believe what they are told and those telling it take advantage of that. Where would you like to see our society be in the next five years?
Kenneth - I would like to see society accept the people they see around them. Stop holding beliefs before people and to start recognizing the fact we can all learn from each other. Its time we as people help each other out weather it be an ear to listen a shoulder to cry on or even just a simple hello. People need to stop being afraid of others so much and start getting to know each other. I’m part of a beard group called The Bearded Villains and our local chapter the Smokey Mountain Bearded Villains and our goal is to break down the stereotypes of bearded and or tattooed men and to show what kind of great things we can do through charity and brotherhood. Its really a great group of guys but because how we choose to look others judge us and treat us differently. So the founder Von Knox set out to do just that and break the stereotype.
I would like to see equality for all though and to see a barrier against negativity. Maybe see this country united instead of divided.
Ricky - I think that is really cool man! That is definitely a noble goal! I want to thank you for taking the time to sit down and talk with us. Where can people find you online to check out your work?
Kenneth - Thank you so much for your time as well. It was honestly great meeting you and i cant wait to watch this grow and become something amazing for you. I have watched your work for years and I support other artists in their endeavor.
My work can be found on instagram or facebook @tattoosbythecaptain or tattoos by the captain at white wizard. You can always call me as well or come by the shop my number is listed on the sites.
Thank you again and man your work is truly badass, Keep up the work and i hope to see it evolve into an amazing project. See ya along the way!!
I sincerely hope that you enjoyed this interview and story. This project is especially dear to me as I love sharing people’s stories. My goal with this project is for it to be more documentary in nature. So as a disclaimer, the words and ideas that some of the people I interview may not always reflect my views and takes on things. I feel we can learn a lot from people if we open our minds to different views and takes. I hope that will come across in these stories and profiles.
With interviewing various tattoo artists, as this project is documentary in nature, I have many friends in the tattooing field but in picking out an artist, do your homework. Check out the shops, check out the portfolios, and find an artist that is right for you. Thanks for reading guys!