Curtis Burguess

Interviewed by Matt Rousseau
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Matt: with going through so many changes in the last several years…getting married, having a son, buying a home, becoming a shop owner, all along your career exploding…how? I mean of course the question is “how?” Anyone who knows you knows you tend to obsess over drawings, which takes a ton of time on top of everything else. How do you do it all?

Curtis: That’s quite an intro Matt! You are a huge inspiration to me! So first, thanks for such kind words and for taking the time to do this. I just try to take it day by day. I am lucky to have a really supportive wife that helps make things work. Without her, I could not do what I do and would probably starve haha!, but seriously, tattooing has become a much more time consuming profession than I ever imagined. Time management can be difficult at times, but I always seem to make my way through it with a new take on how I can do things more effectively. Remembering to stay positive and have fun makes all the difference. If you’re having fun doing something, it’s not hard to put a lot of time into it. When you get piled high with projects, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and stressed. If I find myself feeling that way, I quickly remind myself about how much I love tattooing and how much it has done for me.


Matt: “Support.” That is an amazing word. Man, it helps so much and at times, more than anything else, family, spouses, colleagues can have such an impact to our growth and well being. It’s easy to over look sometimes, but knowing these people and the energy and faith they have in you is powerful.

Curtis: So powerful…the excitement that can come from family, spouses and colleagues can be the most fulfilling thing in life. They are the closest people to you and understand you, sometimes even more than your own self.

Matt: How are you able to tattoo at such a high level with so many distractions going on in your life?

Curtis: I feel like I’m constantly searching to find “balance” in my life. One thing that has helped me
lately has been to be honest with myself about my own capabilities, quirks, and work ethic. I have finally accepted and found peace in the fact that it takes me a long time to make a drawing. I also have accepted that I am the most productive when the rest of my family goes to sleep. I get frustrated trying to get drawings done when I want to be spending time with them, so I try to simply live in the moment and just do the drawings later. I feel that my co-worker’s input really helps me to keep things moving forward. We are constantly looking at one another’s drawings to avoid anything we might be overlooking or to simply get a different perspective on how things could be better. When you see such amazing tattoos everyday from the people you work with, it really motivates you to want to be better.

Matt: So, what’s your routine then? What kind of schedule do you keep? Are you a night owl? Walk us through a typical work day/week? I’m curious as hell!

Curtis: Basically I try to plan my routine around my son’s schedule. Anyone who has a child knows that this can be a constantly changing thing. I usually wake up in the early morning and spend time with him until he goes down for a nap. I then switch gears and sit down at my drawing table to try and come up with a few layout options for the project at hand. Once my son wakes up, I spend the rest of the day with the family. After they go to bed, I get back into my drawing. I’m able to look at the options done earlier with a fresh perspective and then try to decide what will work best for what I’m trying to accomplish. After I come to a decision, it’s time to focus on the more detailed portions of the drawing. I usually stay up as late (or early) as I need to in order to get things to a point that I feel ok about them. Before the tattoo the next day, I evaluate if any certain places in the drawing need more attention and make my final adjustments before creating the line drawing and tattoo. At the end of the week, I try to make it to bed early enough to catch up on any sleep lacking from the late nights haha. So yeah, I guess my routine tends to make me kind of a night owl. Even when I was younger, a lot of my drawing happened at night. It just always seemed like there was less distractions. Some days I have no problem getting things done, other days I’m not as lucky and there can be an overwhelming sense of anxiety, but this is where that support mentioned earlier comes in and helps me out.

Matt: Do you feel all the changes kinda keep the fire and emotions pumping? I think you need change to progress and grow, to strive for something more.

Curtis: Absolutely. I mean growing as a person in turn only helps your art develop and progress more, right? All the changes keep things exciting and bring new ideas to the table. Big changes in your lifestyle can change the way you are able to focus on your drawings all together. I made a big shift a few years back that changed the way that I approached everything. I think even small things, like changing yoursurroundings can shift the way you are approaching a drawing. Whether drawing at home, the tattoo shop, an art studio, a coffee shop, or outside, you can be working on the same drawing, but have such different sources of inspiration.

Matt: What keeps you so passionate and hungry for tattooing? I remember first meeting you, a pimply little kid who looked barely old enough to drive and who could not shut up about tattooing. Man, you haven’t changed a bit…you still breathe tattooing like fire. What keeps it going?

Curtis: Haha, that’s so funny. I guess through all the change some things do remain the same. It’s crazy…I feel just as excited about tattooing now as I did when I started. It never gets old. Maybe because there’s so many ways to do things, so many different styles and there’s always still so much to learn. Or you geek out on the technical aspects…what kind of machines you like to use or how to make them run the way you want, tubes, needles, pigments…there are infinite paths that can always be discovered again and again. There are just so many avenues you can get into and if you’re not feeling one, you can move to another one and then back to the same one a few years later, all awhile learning a bunch of things you never knew before. You’ve been tattooing longer than me…How do you stay passionate?

Matt: For me it’s always consumed me. I still so vividly remember my earliest tattoo memories where I was how old I was…man it’s crazy I still love the fuck out of tattooing. I remember working with Keeley Tackett and she oozed tattooing. Same thing as you…tattooing was all she talked about and she had at that time been tattooing for I believe 30 years. You’re right, there’s so much to learn and soak up and this art form is so damn exciting it’s easy to be consumed. Joey would always say that in Native American cultures the shamans were the ones who did the tattoos and the shamans were the chosen ones. Disclaimer: I definately don’t feel like I’m in any way, shape or form a shaman.

Curtis: When I got into tattooing I never thought it would be as vast as it is. It’s just another reason that it’s so awesome. It’s almost like tattooing creates the fire for you, right? I feel like I don’t even have to fuel it, it just continues to burn. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but it is always there.

Matt: So you’ve been tattooed all over the world by some of the most amazing tattooers on the planet…Obviously that’s influenced your style. How do you think that’s affected you as a human? Dedication, work ethic, client relationships, just life stuff in general?

More of this interview inside Tattoo Society Magazine back issue #46

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