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20Q: Catching up with Janesville tattoo artist Rick Woodham

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Greg Little
Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Editor's Note: Kicks presents 20Q, a feature that introduces readers to people involved in the area's arts and entertainment community. Compiled by kicks Editor Greg Little, each piece will include a short bio, photo and answers to questions that provide insight into not only that person's artistic interests but also his or her unique personality.

Rick Woodham

Since 1997, Rick Woodham has been honing his skills as a tattoo artist by creating art on the human form.

Woodham got his start through a work-study program at Craig High School in Janesville, and he worked at various other shops to gain experience. Finally, in 2011, he and his wife, Christine—who also is a tattoo artist and piercer at the studio—took the leap and opened Tattoo Obscura at 1054 Matheson St., Janesville.

For the first six months of the studio's existence, Woodham was its sole tattoo artist. His perseverance paid off as Tattoo Obscura now boasts a crew of six artists.

For more information or to view examples of the artists' fine designs, visit https://ObscuraTattoo.me or search for Tattoo Obscura on Facebook and Instagram. For appointments, call 608-563-4545.

1. Are we finally past barbed wire on the biceps, or is that still a thing? No, we are definitely not past the barbed wire tattoos. There was a time when barbed wire tattoos were very trendy. With the internet today, there are a lot of great ideas out there to be inspired by, but people will still gravitate to what they know and what is familiar to them. I like to think it's a matter of not being exposed to more creative options and styles rather than questionable taste.

2. What is the greatest misconception people have about tattoo studios and tattoo artists? I think there are several. Tattooing is not a hobby—this is what we do full time. Tattooing is a very difficult job—we are exposed to the same dangers from bloodborne pathogens as medical professionals. Tattoo studios aren't hangouts—it's a serious job just like anywhere else. Would you bring 20 people to your doctor or dentist appointment? Would you bring your lunch and eat in the lobby or eat during a doctor's visit? We are under tremendous pressure to meet our customers' expectations all day, every day, and we only have one shot to get it right. All artists have different styles they prefer to work in, just like Monet or Picasso. It's best to get to know your artist's style before asking him or her to create a permanent piece of art on your body.

3. What fruit or vegetable do you absolutely hate? I hate mushrooms because they taste like dirt.

4. There are five artists at your shop. How many tattoos and piercings do you have collectively? We stopped counting years ago. Sorry no details, but rest assured they're all awesome tattoos.

5. What one word best describes you? Passionate. I care about the quality of work that we produce and about our clients who have to walk around with that artwork for the rest of their lives.

6. Have you ever had a customer overcome with emotion after seeing what you've created for him or her? Yes. It is very common for clients to memorialize a loved one in a tattoo. Sometimes it's a portrait, other times a small sample of their loved one's handwriting. When their tattoo is finished, and they can see it for the first time, they're often overcome with emotion. It's important for us to provide them with a comfortable space to let them be vulnerable for a moment.

7. Have you ever tried to talk anyone out of getting a tattoo? I try to talk people out of bad ideas every day: young people who want to tattoo their faces or other highly visible areas; someone who brings in a poorly designed tattoo and is unwilling to change any part of it; people who want too much text, small text, text that's too large, too dark, too tall, too wide, too thin, too long, too short; text inside of leaves, ribbons, animals, frogs, dogs, cats, trees, cars, birds. Mostly text.

8. What would you say is the most involved tattoo you have ever created? Every tattoo is the most involved tattoo. There is a person who has to live with what I'm tattooing on them, so I have to put 100 percent of myself into everything I do—from a tiny bird silhouette to a full back tattoo or sleeve.

9. Do you have any pets? I have a smelly pug named Gordon. He's the worst, and I love him.

10. Your shop is only open until 7 p.m. Is that because you don't want drunk people coming in at bar time, or do you just want to have a life? We don't want to work past 7 o'clock because we want to spend time with our families. I don't expect our co-workers to stay any later than we're willing to stay.

11. Some people have preconceived notions about tattoo studios being dumpy and dirty. What can you share about health code regulations and your own efforts at Tattoo Obscura to combat that? We work closely with the Rock County Health Department to ensure we're meeting their high standards. We have monthly sterilizer spore test results we must submit to a bioscience lab, and we're required to keep those records and provide them to any customer who asks.

12. Have you ever given blood, or are you afraid of needles? I've never donated blood, but I've had blood drawn. It doesn't bother me.

13. How did you get your start in tattoo artistry? I became interested in tattooing when I was a sophomore in high school. My best friend's brother was an aspiring tattooer in Chicago, and he shared his passion for tattooing with me. Later, through a work-study program at Craig High School and my awesome teacher Tony Huml, I was able to get a job at a local tattoo studio. I've been involved in tattooing since I was 17.

14. Is it ever a good idea to get your wife/girlfriend/significant other's name tattooed on your body? I don't think it's a good idea for technical reasons. It can be difficult to cover a professional tattoo.

15. If you had to guess, what do you think is in Spam? The same ingredient that's in Trump's tanning cream.

16. Are there any tattoos you refuse to do? I refuse to do racist, hateful or gang-related tattoos. My reasons for that should be fairly obvious.

17. I'm a newbie. What should I ask about a studio/artist before I let him or her put that pretty little butterfly on my shoulder? “Can I see your tattoo portfolio?”

18. My mom had her eyebrows tattooed on because her natural brows wouldn't stay even. Are there other functional tattoos people don't often consider? Medical information tattoos—allergies, diabetes, etc. There's also cosmetic tattooing for breast cancer survivors and other cosmetic conditions.

19. What is the worst/best thing about owning a tattoo studio? The best thing about owning a tattoo studio is making my own hours, being my own boss and getting free tattoos. There is literally no downside to owning my own tattoo studio.

20. I'm a writer, you're a tattoo artist. We're both creative, and we both work with ink. Want to switch jobs for a day? I am an aspiring filmmaker and screenwriter in my spare time. I'd enjoy the challenge of switching jobs for a day.



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