Chris Toler is an artist at Ancient Art Tattoo in Blacksburg, VA and our second Featured Artist of 2015. Although he's been tattooing professionally for around 9 years, he has been interested in tattoos since he was a child. His father was covered in the traditional sailor tattoos he had acquired while serving in the Navy during Vietnam, and Chris would spend hours tracing them with a pen.
He started tattooing professionally in 2006 with an apprenticeship at Custom Dreams in Princeton, WV. His long-time friend was already tattooing at Custom Dreams and when they needed extra help, he vouched for Chris.
"I went from working a job I hated with little to no direction to starting a career in less than 48 hours. It was completely unexpected but definitely one of the best things that has ever happened to me."
Chris describes his style as combining photo-realism with aspects of neo-traditional. He used to be very drawn to the "exaggerated perceptions and boldness of new school tattoos" but came to realize that style wasn't what he naturally excelled at. This inspired him to modify his approach to tattooing. By combining illustrative principles with realism, he's found "a nice medium that I have been working on honing over the past few years."
He's grown into this style of tatting because he finds that it keeps his work unique. This way he's not backed into a corner and he has the chance to grow artistically. "I love the ability to adapt from piece to piece to keep things interesting for myself and my clients."
When we asked which artists have influenced him, he told us, "Bob Tyrrell, Carl Grace, Josh Duffy, Jose Perez, Rember, Timmy B, Carson Hill, Joe Cap, Jose Lopez, Justin Hartman... The list goes on and on, but I’m always allowing myself to be influenced by all sorts of styles and the specific ways in which each artist makes it their own."
Aside from tattooing, Chris's other passion is music. He went to college for musical performance and has played in many bands and musical groups over the last 14 years. "I play many instruments and find myself as eager to create music as I am art on a daily basis."
Chris also produces a weekly podcast called CHATtoo. He told us, "it's the only weekly, tattoo oriented podcast."
Chris's advice to someone looking to get his or her first tattoo:
"Research your artist first and foremost. Make sure the subject matter and style seems to coordinate with specialty of your artist. More times than not I believe you will be absolutely happy with the finished product."
Chris's advice for artists just getting started:
"Be open to learn, to not be so arrogant as to think that what you know is enough to hold you up and get you through. And mostly to eat, sleep and breathe tattooing. Every moment you’re not trying to be your best or the best... Someone else is"
Shop: Ancient Art Tattoo
106 East Roanoke Street, Blacksburg, VA 24060
*** Don’t forget to mention you saw him on PerfectTattooArtists.com!
Images © Chris Toler