The artwork of artist Jay Wheeler

Where were you born and where are you from?
I was born in Livonia, Michigan, just outside of Detroit and I’m still here.

How did you get introduced to the tattoo culture?
My Dad has tattoos, so I guess it started there. I grew up right down the street from where I work now. I used to ride my bike up to the tattoo shop when I was a kid, without ever realizing that I would end up working there.

When did you get started?
I started tattooing at Eternal Tattoos in 1992. I was 19 years old at the time.

Do you remember the first tattoo that you did?
Absolutely! How could you ever forget your first tattoo? It was a black tribal arm band.  My Teacher (Eternal’s owner, Tramp; an intimidating biker) watched closely as I did it.  It was quite an experience for a 19 year old Art school dropout.

How would you describe your style of tattooing?
I would describe it as Diverse and Technical. I have always tried to improve my work from all angles without limiting myself to one particular style or subject. I am open to just about anything. I am sure I have a stylistic trait in there somewhere; I have been told that I do.  In a nutshell, I strive for tight lines, smooth grays, and rich colors.

What were you doing before you got into the tattoo business, and what made you change?
I was an Art School student, attending Wayne State University in Detroit. I was getting a tattoo at Eternal, when the owner mentioned that he needed another artist. I had some artistic confidence and spoke up willing to take on the job. I showed him my portfolio; he liked it, and agreed to take me on as his apprentice. I quit school the next day and have been tattooing ever since.

What influences your tattoo artwork?
Literally, everything influences me. It might be the request of the collector, or some old gothic painting.  It really depends on what I am working on, what the collector wants to see, and how the style of the piece relates to the image. As far as what interests me as an artist…. I like everything from old gothic painting to art nouveau and early 20th and late 19th century illustration, to Celtic and baroque design to abstract. I am all over the board. There is so much out there to influence an artist.

What advice would you give to someone looking to get their first tattoo?
Research! Do your homework and never rush anything. 

Do you see your self doing anything other than tattooing?
I have a lot of other interests. But, I will always be tattooing.

Do you have a favorite quote?
I have a lot of those too. Right now, my favorite is: “Life begins where your comfort zone ends”. I don’t know who wrote it.

Where do you see the tattoo culture 10 years from now?
Honestly, I have no idea. I would have never guessed that there would be television shows about tattoo shops (that’s not a bad thing, just would have never predicted it).  So…..I guess we will wait and see. Whatever the tattoo culture will be in a decade I’m sure it will be all good.

Anything else you would like to add?
Jay Wheeler
Eternal Tattoos Inc.
27590 Plymouth Road
Livonia, Michigan 48150 U.S.A.