Josh Gatten has won the online Nelson Star competition that had people select their favourite West Kootenay tattoo artist.
Gatten has come far despite not moving far. He attended Kootenay School of the Arts right across the street from his current shop at #204, 602 Josephine Street. He got his start in the industry helping out the previous owners at this shop on odd projects.
“One day they said, we know your art is good, why don’t you try tattooing?” he said.
In 2009, Gatten took over the business then known as Sikfrig N’Innk. Now on the job for almost 10 years, he still loves it even though it’s all consuming. It offers a challenging diversity not found while pursuing one singular art form.
“It just seems to have so many different variables not found in the other art forms,” he said. “I like the challenge. It’s what keeps me going.”
Working with the always-moving human body, Gatten says he has to rely on the cooperation of the client. Tattooing is a three-dimensional art form so he has to move his own body across that ever-differing canvas. Every person’s skin is also unique and the ink takes differently.
Gatten describes his studio space as “comfortable” and “cozy” which, along with being in tune with a person’s state of mind and body, is very important, he said.
“They’re nervous. They know that this is something that’s going to hurt. It tests people’s boundaries. And in order for me to work effectively with them, I need to make them feel as comfortable as possible… It just makes it that much easier for them,” he said.
Originally from Victoria, the tattoo artist has varying abilities though prefers clean lines in the work he does. He also loves doing geometric work.
On his own body, Gatten sports many tattoos, a Buzz Lightyear piece being one of his favourites for the meaning that’s stuck with him.
“People always ask me, ‘are you going to regret that later?’” he relayed. “I say ‘no, I like watching cartoons.’ When I was a kid I always wanted to have a job where I watched cartoons and drew for a living and I’m like ‘wow, I nailed that on the head.’”