Tim Hendricks may be most recognizable to some as an artist on the television show NY Ink, which follows the exploits of artists at the Wooster St. Social Club tattoo studio in New York City. But Hendricks has been putting ink to skin since 1994 and making art in general since he was even younger. The son of an artist, his father put a pencil and a surfboard in his hands early, and he took to both like a duck to water.
Since the beginning, Hendricks’s art has been cross-cultural in nature. He got his start tattooing Latino gang members in his neighborhood, and throughout the years has inked his way around the globe, soaking up knowledge, images, and techniques.
A great deal of Hendricks’s work has a Latino panache to it, a blend of Catholic iconography and the lush, vivid colors and interweaving iconography of graffiti. We’re looking at a portrait of Christ, cradling a thorn-wrapped heart topped with a flaming cross, a clash of a half-dozen symbols all at once, and despite the layer upon layer of meaning and history the tattoo is clean, uncluttered, and beautiful.
Japanese influence is a cornerstone of Hendricks’s work, and he has done a number of hannya masks over the years. In Japanese Noh theatre, these masks represent jealous female demons or serpents, and while these masks are a fairly common tattoo design, this one goes beyond the surface level features in a way that lesser artists might not. Here, Hendricks captures the actual texture of the mask – it’s not simply a hannya face, but a representation of the mask as an actual wooden object, with the depth of texture and smoothness that the genuine article exhibits. The upper lip and chin in particular demonstrate the hard, gleaming angles of the smoothly carved wood. The piece is elegant and yet unsettling – just like the real thing.
Full body tattoos in Japan are generally a hallmark of yakuza gangster culture, many of them depicting battles and intricate scenes. The serpent fighting the tiger that dominates the scene, flanked on both buttocks by hannya masks, is the result of painstaking effort and true to the traditional designs of Japan. Yet, true to Hendricks’s habit of melding of old and new, the beautifully colored sleeves are a marked departure from the old standard – the left arm features a girl in a totally different style, closer to modern anime art than the yakuza tattoo designs of a hundred years ago.
Despite his flair for internationally-influenced art, Hendricks has a special knack for Americana. Whether it’s pop icons or Cadillacs, there’s something modern and yet classic about these pieces of work. Both are virtually indistinguishable from photographs, showing off Hendricks’s exceptional technical prowess, and both exhibit a masterful understanding of color. The famous Johnny Cash photo this tattoo is a replica of was, of course, shot in black and white, but here Hendricks has captured the depth and shadow of the original and silhouetted Cash against further darkness, a man defiantly flipping the bird amidst the shadows of his inner life. Marilyn Monroe, on the other hand, is vibrant and colorful, the red of her lips and the blonde of her hair just as important to a representation of who she was as defiance and attitude are to Johnny Cash.
These same themes are present in the above two pieces, though neither are tattoos. Here Hendricks displays mastery across mediums, but again there’s a mature, definitively American feel, from the film-noir of the first piece to the waterpark nostalgia of the second. You can view more of Hendricks' work in his art gallery.
In addition to creating art, Hendricks is internationally renowned for helping others make art by outfitting enterprising artists with hand-made, unique, and custom-built tattoo machines. He builds these from scratch, an art inherited from his friend and mentor, Dan Dringenberg, whose company (Dringenberg Tattoo Supply, Inc) is based out of Pasadena.
Hendricks is all about the easy-going life, and these days skates and surfs more than he inks. He does walk-ups at conventions but is not currently taking appointments – he will, however, take inquiries about these excellent custom machines via his website. And, of course, you can see him on NY Ink each week on your television.