Being considered as one of the best tattoo artists in the world is enough to inflate the ego of even the most humble tattooist. With a two year long waiting list and a host of A-list celebrity clients, many would expect some sort of diva-like behavior from world famous artist, and star of Miami Ink, Chris Garver.
However, Chris’ down to earth persona and friendly disposition are one of the reasons he is so highly regarded among the tattoo community. Having studied in Japan under the Irezumi artists he is a master of the Japanese style of tattooing and has extensive knowledge of their symbols and meanings. He came to the public’s attention after appearing on reality show Miami Ink and soon became one of the show’s most popular cast members. He is currently engaged in his online children’s clothing business that he created with fellow Miami Ink cast members.
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Chris received his first accidental tattoo at the age of 6 after being stabbed in the finger with a lead pencil. The youngest of 3 brothers, he attended the Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts and it was during this time he got his first professional tattoo at the age of 15. He began performing his first tattoos at 17 after he sold his bass guitar in order to purchase equipment. He completed a one year art course at The School of Visual Arts in New York but attributes much of his artistic ability to his mother who taught him how to paint and draw.
Chris began his professional career with a 6 month apprenticeship filling in client’s old tattoos that needed repair. For many years he was part owner of renowned studio ‘True Tattoo’ in Hollywood, California, alongside artist Clay Decker until he left in 2007 to work in ‘Love Hate Tattoo Studio’ in Miami. Owned by artists Ami James and Chris Nunez, the shop became the set for Miami Ink and continues to operate to this day.
Chris has travelled all over the world tattooing clients including South America, Europe and Japan. During his stay in Japan he was tattooed by Japanese Irezumi artists Horiyoshi III, Horitomo and Horitoshi who he says are a huge influence on his work. Chris’ portfolio consists mainly of Japanese themed designs that display an incredible authenticity owing to his many years of study overseas. One design that appears on the upper left arm (below left) shows a dramatic battle between a Japanese dragon and tiger. In Japan, dragons and tigers are said to be arch enemies and the design symbolizes a war between equal rivals. The design is beautifully shaded in black and gray with bright red and yellow tones added in for an eye-catching effect. A blue lotus flower sits at the bottom of the design symbolizing growth and spiritual awakening.
This theme of black and gray with just a hint of color is repeated in another arm piece (above right), depicting a koi carp swimming upwards in water, symbolizing courage and advancement. This stunning piece is highlighted with a few red flower petals scattered throughout the design. The use of light and contrast in the design sets it apart from the millions of other koi designs regularly seen in tattoos, and shows the benefits of his extensive studies.
While Japanese designs are obviously one of Chris’s favorites, he is not limited to this style alone. His gallery shows an assortment of styles including many black and gray portraiture designs. One which stands out is the image of a woman holding a smoking gun with small skulls nestled throughout her hair. The piece has a striking realism whilst still displaying the slightly cartoonish qualities of the Japanese designs. The use of graduated shading around the face results in beautiful feminine facial contours and realistic flowing hair.
Chris is currently working on his children’s clothing line Ruthless and Toothless with fellow Miami Ink cast members Darren Brass, Yoji Harada, and James Hamilton. The business was created after the artists discovered they were unable to purchase clothing for their own children that reflected their own style as parents. This led to the creation of a whole range of baby clothes, skateboards, accessories, and prints that feature original designs by the artists.
As well as his online empire, and designing and building tattoo machines, Chris still finds time to tattoo out of his current studio ‘Love Hate Tattoos’. There is a form available on his website, www.chrisgarvertattoo.com, to request an appointment but waiting lists are long due to his busy schedule and extensive client base. Whilst it is refreshing to see a famous artist that does not allow his talent to go to his head, it is even more so to see one that is prepared to devote so much of his life to improving his craft. Chris’s designs are so spectacular due to his years of research and learning, and it is this dedication that has earned him a reputation as one of the best artists in the world.