Electric Pick - Life Turns Electric

Published: 21 March, 2011 - Featured in Skin Deep 193, December, 2010

The world of tattoo artist Electric Pick is vast, matchless and colourful. The restless globetrotter is at home anywhere he lays his head and it is hard to say where his homeport really is, but it is certain that he is a creative genius full of unusual ideas, concepts and designs.The fact that Pick would be an artist some day was engrained into him from birth. Born in the Chinatown area of Paris, the son of a British actress and a French pianist, he undoubtedly received the good artist genes. Pick was two years old when his parents divorced and like many others, they had shared custody. His mother moved to Montreal and his father stayed in Paris, so Pick was shipped from Canada to France and back pretty much every year. 

That could go a long way in explaining his urge to constantly travel around the globe. For example, while answering these interview questions, Pick was on a freighter in the middle of nowhere between New York and Copenhagen. Copenhagen is where he spends most of his time as a part of Conspiracy Inc - it fundamentally became his base - but he spends almost as much time in Hong Kong too. El Pick is something of a globetrotter and fond of taking his skills to far-flung shores, so it’s time to find out what he’s all about…

Tell us a bit about your background, please. How did it all start? 

"I guess every kid draws when they’re young. Most of them stop one day to get busy with serious shit and I just never stopped. (I’ve been) taking it seriously…maybe since I was about 12. I remember one fine morning around that age, just deciding I liked it too much to ever stop and that whatever I did in life would have to have something to do with drawing.

As for tattooing, I got caught when I was 19, in April 1998. I never thought I would actually tattoo one day and knew nothing about it back then. It was back when I lived in Montreal, Canada. I worked and managed a comic book shop in downtown Montreal, and a North American minimum wage usually barely covers your rent. I was always on the lookout for extra gigs: usually gig posters for local bands or anything I could get my hands on that had anything to do with illustration.

One fine day, I heard a rumor that most tattoo shops in town were usually always open to buying new flash for their collection. I remember a friend telling me this and the same night ripping out the ‘tattoo shop’ pages from a phone booth book. The very next day I was hunting down shops and secretly checking out the work on the walls. I made it home after a full day of investigation and started right away on my very own first set of flash. I remember wanting to do as much as possible and returning a few days later to one of the biggest shops in town with a set of 50 sheets. The owner took a good look at all of them, bought them all (to my happy surprise) and then followed by offering me a job. I didn’t know what to say and was always open to try new things so I said “Sure, why not?” I had a one-hour apprenticeship and started work that same day in Montreal’s biggest tattoo factory: 6 days a week with 15 other ‘tattooers’, 3 floors and a shitload of crap. I worked there for a full summer, making more money than I had ever made in all of my life. After that summer was over (with a lot of trouble), I made it out of that tattoo factory and back to Europe - I missed it too much - and started going on the road with my new trade.

I hooked up with an old crazy guy called Waldy in Vienna that same year, and as much as I think that guy is crazy, he’s the one who forced me to work only freehand and that’s where I discovered that tattooing was actually just another medium and that my illustration background could be completely compatible! And that’s when I started tattooing only my shit – it wasn’t very popular at the time! Lots of people would tell me that it was impossible for me to tattoo my original work on people, that no one would go for my silly doodles and that tattooing had to be done a certain way, that I had to copy the flash and that was the only way. I was, and am, still very hardheaded so I resisted and well...I guess I proved them wrong in the end."

What made you want to become an artist? How did it turn out that you finally became one?

"Well, I guess you just always are an artist. You don’t become one. It’s just a way to see things and having confidence to show it to others. I don’t believe in talent. I think anyone can do anything it all depends on the passion and dedication. But I think some people have stuff to say and others don’t, some people choose to say it in words, images or music, and others don’t. I guess I always liked images, and had and still have my own to share.

The big click for me was from comics. I love comics and still hold on to the dream of one day being able to publish my own and being able to live from it. I just think it’s the best medium out there. I consider myself being an illustrator way before being a tattoo artist and since I always drew, and never quit getting illustration gigs. I always kept working on my illustration. I think, as much as tattooing is way more limited of a medium compared to illustration, it still helped shape my work on paper and canvas over the years. I draw the way I draw today a bit because of tattooing and I tattoo the way I do today because of my illustration work."

What does inspire you?

"Inspiration, I think, comes from your personal vision of a dirty mix of everything you see. I could fill a whole book with names of people who have inspired me along the way, from other illustrators to architects, from graphic designers to photographers. It’s all just about colours, shapes and how you see them. I would have to say that the big things that pushed me in my artistic life were underground comics of the ‘70s (Crumb et al), constructivism, new wave Russian art, industrialisation, Bauhaus etc.

I also have two names of artists who have never stopped inspiring me: Ashley Wood, and my personal favourite, Mr. Rockin’ Jelly Bean, the god of illustration. I could really name a lot but those have to be the top."

What is the main difference between drawing/illustrating and tattooing?

"Well, you might get the wrong impression from this and I really don’t want you to because I do love tattooing… I would say that the difference between illustration and tattooing is that a canvas doesn’t tell you what it wants to get painted on, it’s available whenever you want to work on it, it takes in the colour exactly like you apply it, it never moves while you paint on it, it doesn’t have a good or bad pain tolerance, it doesn’t need to heal, can’t be careless and get sunburnt, never cancels appointments, doesn’t bleed and force you to be very clean and aware of the basics of cross-contamination and your environment!

However, a canvas does not always help you pay the bills in time and is not permanently part of someone’s physical life for as long as their actual life. It’s a very interesting medium to say the least and I love it! However, it is very limited artistically and that’s why I plan to, not stop tattooing completely, but slow down and eventually stop doing it commercially in the next few years."

You are travelling restlessly around the world. What is the great thing about that?

"Travelling is one of the only true things I know in life: getting lost in far-away places, seeing how different people live, think and act across our little planet, and seeing what people across the world have come up with and built. I love cities; I always grew up in them and loved to see them all. 

The stuff that you see around you instantly gets processed in your head, becomes the way you are and see things changes the way you paint and draw. It gives you new ideas immediately, but it also changes you forever and becomes a new filter for all your other images to go through and it just makes your work much more mature over time. Yes, it’s all about the art for me. I know, I’m obsessed!"

Is there a place you call home, where you like it best?

"Right now and for the last almost 3 years, it’s been Copenhagen. There’s good and bad everywhere and Copenhagen has its fair share of both. I guess I’ve stayed here in Denmark so long more because of the friends I’ve made here more than the actual town. I still try to travel around as much as I can but for the last 3 years I’ve always come back to Copenhagen as my base. But I won’t be here forever! No official plans yet but you can bet I’ll be on the move again in a few years for a new home."

 

Who is Rockin’ Jelly Bean?

The God of Illustration? Damn right. Based in Japan, Rockin’ Jelly Bean is known for sporting Mexican wrestling masks at public appearances and having a girl or two by his side. Along with his illustrations, RJB also creates vinyl toy and t-shirt designs. His art can be found on fliers, posters, magazine and album covers throughout Japan.

Over here at Skin Deep - we love the guy - gotta love that sixties-style assault on the senses! 

Conspiracy Inc.

Schleppegrellsgade 7,
2200 Copenhagen N,
Denmark

www.electricpick.com

electricpick.blogspot.com

Credits

Text & Photography: Mathias Wienand/www.skinview-inn.de

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