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2216 Dundee Road
Louisville, KY, 40205
United States

Ben Naiser, professional tattoo artist. Using creative means to make ideas a visual reality.

My Wild Life

Balance

Benjamin Naiser

This entry is in regards to 2019, as a year filled with harsh balance. I new almost immediately 2019 would be a wild ride. By the end of January two members of my family passed away. During February I took a trip to NYC for the first time to tattoo at Rebels & Saints; I made new friends and fell in love with the city. In March I made my first trip to Alabama. I spent 3 days tattooing at The Bell Rose, and made more amazing friends. I spent most of April preparing for/ and recovering from the Louisville Tattoo Convention. May was a month of recalibration. I felt a need to fix anxiety-causing situations in my life, and did my best at fixing those issues. In June I took another trip down to Alabama, and spent a full week tattooing and hanging out with the wonderful people at the Bell Rose. It was just as hard to leave home as it was to leave the new friends and place I had found in Alabama. (on the way to alabama my cars transmission failed and that whole situation lasted about a month and ended with me taking a day off work to drive from kentucky to alabama and back to get my car once it was repaired lol)

Now we enter July...

Every July 4th week, for as long as I can remember, I have visited the UP of Michigan. During my visit this year I struggled through stress caused by the situations I had gotten myself into, and I basically let it ruin my holiday. I left the trip early to get back back and recover, and a week after I received an award in Louisville Magazine. Things seemed to have balanced themselves out, and I was starting to feel better about the future. 

(during this time i had a customer that was wanting me to conduct business in a way that i’m not comfortable. as a result, i partially refunded the deposit and cancelled the appointment. eventually i find this person had left me bad reviews on multiple platforms and one day i awoke and got on FB to find another post they had made. so i made a short sighted... dumb... definitely knee jerk... reaction and replied to the post basically saying that i thought they were wrong and wanted -the exact term i used was “advise”- them to stay away from me. this -of course- was twisted into me threatening this person. as a result, i was fired from my workplace via text message)

Suddenly my future was shattered. Luckily I had friends that were willing to help me through the trying time, and let me continue my business at their workplace. I spent one month tattooing in Indiana and during that time was making arrangements to move into a private studio. 

By mid August I had finished the move into the new location. The private studio located at Suite 1, 2216 Dundee Road is located in the House of Wax. I work next to some amazing professionals, and the space is super nice. I’m excited to create a unique tattooing experience that everyone can enjoy. I’m relieved to say that I feel free from the worries I’ve struggled with all year. Naturally I have been presented with a brand new set of worries, but this time I am the one responsible for pretty much all of them. So once again, I will continue to change and adapt to become a better artist and better business person... and a better person all around.

-gonna try to get better balance-

Life as Art as Tattoo

Benjamin Naiser

My life has always been about making art. As a child, my ma would buy giant rolls of paper that I would spend hours doodling on. I was given my first easel by the time I was 4, by 6 I was taking art classes in and out of school. I was mostly learning how to draw from life, instead of imagination or recreation. 

Throughout my early schooling art was always at the center of my interests, by middle school I had gained an obsession with tattooing. The school I attended had to make rules against drawing on yourself, because I would spend hours in class making semi permanent tattoos with sharpies. 

In high school I spent most of my time partying, but always took art seriously. I was in advanced classes and was somewhat involved in the artistic community. This trend continued throughout most of my college career.

During my last year of college, I dove deep within myself. I was scared, of not living a life worth living. I did an internship, got my degree, and tried everything I could not to get “a job”. 

I spent a year after college doing freelance graphic design, and working on a few projects that never seemed to be beneficial.  During this time I was beginning to understand that I needed to start thinking about things differently. Art became my means of survival.

This is where the story gets long (scroll down to read it), but I’ll make it short: I completed my obligations, packed my bags, headed west to learn the art of tattooing. I lived in Los Angeles, and spent a year learning how to apply tattoos. Once I had figured that I was capable of standing on my own two feet, I left LA and headed east to build my tattoo career.

Once I was back east, things began to happen at lightning speed. Within a year of moving across the country, I went from living in an RV with no real business, to settling into a home and handling what is essentially a small business. This has been an absolute dream come true, but at times stressful. Art has transformed throughout my life as fun doodles to serious tattoos as a means for survival. 

Art now pays my bills, feeds my belly, and is my means of acquiring what I was out of life. So naturally I will take it very seriously. Though I’ve come to let money and clients force me into submission. The business requires that I am firm, and my soul requires I find enjoyment. The greatest conflict in my current position, and I find it hard to make a choice. 

There’s a chance I don’t have to make a choice. I can decide to enjoy tattooing, art as business. I will no longer let tattooing or art create stress in my life, or make me feel trapped. I will only make art when it is comfortable, and tattoo with people who are as serious as I am. This may or may not work, but I will not let the art of tattooing as a means of survival consume my entire being. I love tattoos, but I also love my family and friends (not to mention myself). 

Lately I’ve let tattooing and art get in the way of other areas of my life. Which is unhealthy, and will be changing. There is more I want of this life, and I very much intend on getting it.

Prologue

Benjamin Naiser

Today's special for me, it marks my 26th birthday and is the only time in my life when my birthdate date will read the same front to back. This is significant for me because recently I've been looking a lot at my past, and thinking a lot about my future.

Three short years ago I was a college graduate without much direction, now I sit in a position that seemed like it could only be a dream. Yet, a dream is always more desirable than reality. I feel like this new seating arrangement has pushed me from what I was, and made me eager to become what I will be.

My past has been a lot for me to process. I've been broken, lost, and bound; now I'm fixed, found, and free. The great conflicts in my life have been resolved. I spent over half a decade searching for a place to belong. Within the last year that long search ended, I settled in a beautiful city and hold a position at a reputable tattoo shop. These new factors have created a boundless amount of new opportunity, almost overwhelming at times. Though I often can't help but feel like something's missing. This is a void of my own creation, and I think it's healthy. I want to be a better artist, a better tattooer, and a better person. 

When I come home after tattooing/ anything, I critique everything: myself, my art. It's rare I am as good as I want to be. The struggle is that I need to understand that these things will come with time and patience. The only reason I am where I am is because I wanted it, and that's the only way I'm going to get where I want to be. So I carry on, down the rabbit hole. Wise from my past, this is the prologue to my future.

Chapter Summary

Benjamin Naiser

Here is a summary for the last year of my life, for the purposes of comparison at a later date, and to previous dates. This time last year I was in Los Angeles, working as a 'tattoo artist' in Hollywood. In April, I packed up my RV and drove east, making a few stops along Route 66, landing in Louisville, KY. There were a few things that happened which ended up with me driving my ass back to Kentucky. Although, I can say my California experience was super beneficial and helped me grow & learn a lot in a very short amount of time. 

In LA, had determined that I would move on from Louisville to settle in Nashville. Once I reached Louisville, I was super surprised by the amount of steam I had generated coming into town. I was able to keep myself busy for 3 months, then I stopped taking appointments in Louisville and headed north to Michigan's upper peninsula. I was there for 3 weeks, (drinking/drawing) soul searching & fishing. After Michigan I went down to Nashville to try to jumpstart my career in a brand new city, bustling with creativity. I met a group of incredibly cool people and learned a good bit about the city, also that I was unable to legally tattoo in Tennessee. This was because I haven't been tattooing long enough (only a year and some change to date), so I ended up settling 3 hours north in my hometown Louisville, Kentucky. Sold my RV, got myself a nice little place in the Highlands, and reserved myself a seat in a new shop being opened by a prestigious tattooer.

Since I knew I was going to have to put some serious time into this new shop, I figured I'd drive to Los Angeles for 9 days. I was fortunate enough to do a guest spot at a friends tattoo parlor, with major success/ personal accomplishment and some drama (sorry i have secrets too). I was able to get myself busy tattooing & manage to spend time with friends I had made during my time living out west. This trip reinvigorated my love for travel and respect for tattooing. 

Upon my return I have nothing but excitement for the future and a feeling of content upon my current situation. Once this new shop opens I'll be working full time as a somewhat well-travelled professional tattooer in a (pretty badass) spot. I continue to receive support from family, friends, and fans that never goes unnoticed. I'll keep on keepin' on and livin' and learnin' and all the other ones of those they got, comin up next... 2018.

Chasing Dreams

Benjamin Naiser

I never wanted to be a 'typical' American. The 9-5, white picket fence, has never been something i wanted from life. I always felt a separation between myself, and society. At a young age, I knew I was meant to do things differently. 

After high school I had a longing to go somewhere else, I was in the midst of signing up for the Marines. Once ma found out, she said it was a bullet in my foot or college. I went to college (3 different colleges) did an internship, got my degree. These things brought nothing into my life worth keeping. So this is when I decided it was time to chase my dreams. 

My biggest passions where: art and the environment. These passions manifested into a clothing brand. I made organic clothes with messages of environmental friendliness. I did everything within my power to get my brand off the ground. That wasn't enough. So after a few trials and failures, I decided to put my time and energy elsewhere. 

Failing is hard, especially when you fail at something you're passionate about. After I decided to abandon my brand, I needed to search my soul. Looking within myself for a way to use my passions in the real world.

I found that if I looked closely enough at life, I'd witness signs that will lead to where I want to go. I was getting tattooed pretty frequently at this point. Also making a lot of personal artwork that looked a lot like tattoo flash. Learning that tattooing is a serious way for artists to make a living. I thought about it a lot, and decided this was my next course of action. 

I created an image of myself, becoming a successful tattooer in a place other than where I'm from. I decided I was ready to chase another dream. I travelled, in search of the things I needed to manifest the dream into reality: advice and apprenticeship. My travels took me literally coast to coast; and on the west coast, in a neighborhood called Hollywood I found my apprenticeship. 

I had obtained what I worked and travelled for, I was a tattoo apprentice and made a life for myself in a foreign place. Once I started tattooing, I instantly realized that was what I was meant to do with my life. I was the king of my world, ready for what my life would throw at me.

Yet, I wasn't really happy in Hollywood, I got what I wanted and was looking to grow further. I decided I was going to head for Nashville, another city booming with creativity, home to some incredible tattooers. I wanted to make a name for myself in a new place, again. Along the way, I planned on stopping in my hometown and possibly a couple other places, planting roots for future endeavors. 

I tattooed in my hometown for two months, as a guest in the shop i got my first tattoo. It was an incredible experience. I had returned home, a champion of my endeavors, with an ability to spread my passion with others. Making a name for myself in the city I'm from for the first time, and something happened inside myself. I didn't want to take the next step, I was content with the life I had made for myself. Yet, when the time came to hit the road, I left the good thing I made, to make something else. 

Once I arrived in Nashville, I knew there was one thing I wanted to accomplish, so I chased it. I wanted to insert myself into a culture I respected. At first it was working, and soon after, it just wasn't working out. As I sit here now, typing this, I know that maybe this wasn't meant to be. At least right now, because it doesn't feel good. The curious desire that has pushed me for so long, is gone.

Maybe I already found what I've been looking for this whole time. I think what I had in my hometown, was what I need now. So I've found myself in a dilemma, do I continue to chase this dream even though it doesn't feel right, or do I return home to grasp what's left of the good thing I had. 

This pickle has raised a lot of questions within myself. Am I lost? Have I given up? Am I abandoning my dream, or had I already abandoned it? Is it acceptable to abandon one dream, to chase another? Am I going to make the right decision? 

I'm going to let the universe decide, I cannot force myself to continue this pursuit. Especially when it feels like I've already found what i'm pursuing. 

I have tried to make all of my dreams become my reality. Truthfully this endeavor has taken a lot of energy from my soul, and has made this next step very hard to take. I've given this everything I have, but if it isn't going to manifest, I will not force myself into a situation where my dream could become a nightmare. 

I feel like a failure, but maybe i was just reaching too high. It could be my timing is off, perhaps the right thing to do is go back to where i'm doing well. Take time to perfect myself, and once I'm ready to move on, I will. 

The lesson to learn here, is that I should make sure that my dreams don't disrupt my reality. If something feels right, i need to hold on to that as long as I can. Once it doesn't feel that way, then I let go, and move on. 

It could be, chasing my dream created a reality that was better for me, it's just different than I expected.

Life on the Road

Benjamin Naiser

The question today is: Why do you live in an RV?

Well, I have lived & worked in 5 different cities since 2011 and don’t seem to be slowing down. I know this isn’t a huge number, but consider I never intended for any of these places to be temporary. Life on the road is a dream for most people. My experience is a bit different, I saw some potentially good opportunities, that ended up not lasting long. So, I prepared myself for these short lived opportunities by moving into a RV. Makes moving from place to place much easier. Now after 6 years on the road, I’m starting to realize I don’t really belong anywhere.

Not belonging anywhere is strange. Don't get me wrong: always being somewhere new is fun, but it really spreads you thin. There are places I’ve called home, and places I’ve loved; but none give me a reason to stay. There’s never really been a particular part of the world I really wanted to be. I don’t really have a plan, other than do what works. I’ve tried to really implement a new philosophy into my life: go with the flow. Whatever the hell that means, I’m doing it. Basically if it feels right, it is right. I will say one thing about this ‘go with your gut’ practice, it works. Pretty well anyway, as far as I can tell. So that’s what I’m doing, I am literally wondering around going from place to place doing whatever I can to maintain my preferred lifestyle. 

I do plan on continuing this until I go somewhere that catches me body and soul. My only hope is it doesn’t take me too long. 

Little insight into the life of a rambler.

Becoming a Tattoo Apprentice

Benjamin Naiser

So the question I'm answering is: How do you become a tattoo artist?

There was a point in my life I wanted an answer to this question more than I wanted to know what comes after death. I never really thought about becoming a tattooer until my friends made me think I'd be pretty good at it, so upon this thought I decided to figure it out. I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky and got tattooed by different artists in that area. I'd ask the artists how they got into the craft, the more I asked, the more I learned there is no real sound way to become a tattooer. The only constant among these tattooers was that they had all completed some sort of apprenticeship, and I needed to do the same thing. In search of some outside perspective, I took a trip to Portland, Oregon; where there were a lot of artists I had found and come to respect. I had a list of all the tattoo shops and artists in Portland I wanted to see, and I checked out every item on my list. I met a lot of awesome artists and got a ton of information, but they don't do apprenticeships in Portland anymore, and most the people I talked to told me I'd be better off getting into tattooing back in Kentucky, so my path to an apprenticeship lead me straight back from where I came. 

At this point, my understanding was that I needed to create at least 20 pages of flash, establish a relationship with a decent tattooer, and weasel my way into gaining an apprenticeship. So I started painting flash and trying to get tattooed by as many people as possible, hoping to build that relationship that could become an apprenticeship. After a few months of this dive into tattoo culture, I had a few light leads on an apprenticeship, but nothing that really felt significant enough for me to invest a ton of time.

I had this idea that I was going to get into an apprenticeship at a great shop, under a great artist, in a super cool place. This just wasn't happening for me in Kentucky. I started feeling discouraged and I felt like I needed drastic change in order to get where I wanted. It felt like no matter what I did, I wasn't going to get where I wanted to be, so I decided I needed to chase the dream, literally. I had heard a lot about the tattoo scene in Los Angeles, and knew there were a ton of talented people there. So after some planning and research, I bought an RV, packed up my shit, and headed west.

(The trip out west was magical.)

Upon my arrival in LA, I was completely overwhelmed. The culture shock was pretty intense, luckily I have some friends in LA I was able to link up with and make the transition a bit easier. With another list of shops and artists I needed to see, I started my search for an apprenticeship immediately. I was going around showing different artists my portfolio, literally full of flash I had obsessively created over the prior months. I talked to some of the best tattooists in the country, showed them my artwork, and asked if they had any advice or information that could lead me to the apprenticeship I wanted so badly. I met some great people and got some great advice, and I even had a few guys tell me they'd call me back about apprenticeships, but nothing really solid. Eventually I got down to the last name on my list, so I went and talked with him and gave me some sound advice and sent me down to Hollywood. 

There are two good tattoo shops in Hollywood, True and Old Tradition. Old Tradition was the last shop I went into, and the first time I had gotten a solid offer on an apprenticeship. So needless to say, I jumped right on board ready to set sail.

After it all, I'd say the only real way to get a tattoo apprenticeship is to completely dedicate yourself to tattoo culture and never give up. I was in and out of over 50 tattoo shops before I found 1 willing to bring me on. I think the only reason any of these guys even took me seriously is because I actually had a full portfolio, and I approached these artists as a student, not an equal. Attitude is everything when it comes to getting an apprenticeship.