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It takes an artist’s eye

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Creating an exceptional tattoo is a lengthy process, from sketching and scaling the design to finding the perfect spot for it on the body. 

It’s not much different from Jay Bonadio’s artistic process. He’s a professional artist and screen printer with a newfound appreciation for tattoo art. You can find a lot of his work in Hart & Huntington shops around the country.

Tattoos are inspirational to me. They’re works of art, a metaphor for the things you’ve experienced in life. My tattoos remind me of really hard times. They hold me close to my family. 

But that wasn’t always the case.

I was underage when I got my first tattoo. I got the basic “last name on my ribs” because I thought it was cool. Now I see the real beauty and potential in them.

Jay has a pretty big collection of ink, but his latest and most prized additions were done by tattoo artist Jimmy Rogers at Hart & Huntington.

I have a new love and appreciation for what tattoo artists do now because of Jimmy. In fact, I see myself as very similar to him as an artist.

Jay started his own clothing line, J Bon, before he graduated from college. He fell in love with the process of silk-screening designs onto t-shirts, and eventually purchased a t-shirt printing company that was going bankrupt. His products made it into more than 300 retail stores worldwide. But then fashion took a turn.

My concepts went back to the canvas when people stopped wearing graphic tees. Men’s street wear wasn’t doing well, so I sold the company.

Instead, he invested his earnings into a full-time studio where he could pursue his true artistic abilities.

It’s a six-bedroom house turned art studio, which I converted so that each room is designed for different parts of the artistic process. It’s allowed me to really get in tune with what I’m working on and be creative on a much larger scale.

Jay now creates large-scale commissioned pieces, buildings, murals—you name it.

I’m no longer confined to a t-shirt. It’s crazy how something so small can become so incredibly big over time. I never knew where my artwork was going to take me, I just knew I was doing the right thing. I’m super lucky.

His work is a unique combination of half-tone and silk-screen inspired pop art, modernized.

It took a decade of trial and error to find my style. I’ve incorporated spray paint and broken glass into a lot of my newer pieces alongside the traditional techniques I hold true.

Even though his artistic style has evolved, he hasn’t forgotten his screen-printing roots.

I still try to incorporate screen-printing into everything I do. I’m really passionately tied to it. If I can incorporate it somehow, I do.

His work is bold. Eye catching. Gritty. And it’s caught the eye of luxury clientele who commission Jay for their hotels and businesses.

I know I’m going to be critiqued, so it keeps me on my toes. Art should provoke emotion. If my work doesn’t make you feel something, I’m not doing my job.

Jay sees the same artist qualities in Jimmy.

The way he worked with me on my latest tattoo is incredibly similar to how I work with my clients. I’m a big supporter of doing commission work: creating art for other people. They usually come to me after they’ve seen another piece of my artwork, but they want a piece for themselves. Something unique created in my style, just for them. That’s how Jimmy created my tattoo.

Jimmy listened to what Jay wanted in his newest addition but put his own unique spin on it.I knew what I was looking for in general. I brought him my idea in a concept with some examples and he was able to execute the exact layout and details I wanted from start to finish.

Most of Jay’s tattoos are New Age Modern. His whole left arm is a colorful amalgamation of exaggerated characters. But just like his artistic style is evolving, so is his tattoo collection. The tattoo Jimmy gave him is in Black and Grey.

Jimmy gave me a new appreciation for Black and Grey tattoos. The detail in it and the sessions I had with Jimmy were a lot more meaningful than most of my other tattoos.

It’s a woman’s profile whose gaze is looking forward. It’s almost like you can see inside her mind, with gears representing her inner workings.

It’s a metaphor for how I’m constantly thinking and overthinking, creating inside my head, looking forward in time.

There are also two roses in her hair.

Jimmy made them super elegant with realistic water droplets and shading on the petals. I was really nervous going into this because it was my first Black and Grey, but he executed all of it perfectly. I couldn’t have asked for better. I’m pretty stoked about it.

It wasn’t an easy process though. The whole piece took eight painful hours to complete.

I have a lot of tattoos, but this latest session gave me a newfound appreciation for the process. It took weeks of sketching and revisions to get it just right. And then a rough few hours in the chair. It was probably the most painful tattoo session I’ve had because of its location right in the ditch of my knee, but Jimmy was super professional and had me take breaks to mentally prepare myself and hold steady. He wanted to do his best work, just like I do when I’m creating.

Despite the pain, Jay’s already planning to come back for more.I’ll 1000% be going back to H&H. I was really impressed, especially with Jimmy. His Black and Grey game is really good and he does a lot of New Age color, which also requires you to be really well-rounded with shading.

And that says a lot coming from one artist to another.

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