Ron Myers - Hot Rod Tattooing, Ohio

Published: 08 April, 2011 - Featured in Skin Deep 123, July, 2005

Over the years of reading tattoo publications I have always been amazed at the portraiture tattoos that have appeared in the various tattoo magazines that have lined my newsagent’s shelves. I have followed the fortunes and have been delighted by the tattoos from such gifted artists as Darren Stares, Bob Tyrrell, Marshal Bennett, Dave Wiper, Pepp and Spacey to name but a few. And since taking over the Skin Deep mantle I have been given privilege to seeing many more of these guys’ works. Another tattooist who has consistently sent in examples of his superb work to us has been Ron ‘Big Daddy’ Meyers. Ron tattoos out of a studio called Hot Rod Tattooing in Ohio, USA and again, every time I open an envelope that has come across the water, I’m never disappointed by the contents that come from ‘Big Daddy’.

Ron has been tattooing for just over nine years, seven of those were spent plying his trade part-time, working weekends and a few nights during the week. At some point in 2003 Ron was laid off from his day job. Now for some people this would be a bit of a ball-ache. Not for Ron who saw it as a blessing in disguise and decided to concentrate his efforts into tattooing fulltime. Ron started working at Hot Rod primarily as a guest artist during the summer months and things really clicked with the rest of the crew there so he was asked to come on board fulltime. Ron thought about it for oh, three seconds and two years and three huge removal lorries later, he has finally settled into the very stylish and modern studio that is Hot Rod Tattooing in the beautiful state of Ohio. 

Ron started of his tattoo career by apprenticing with a chap by the name of Chris Page who works from a studio called American Graffiti, who also gave Ron his first tattoo at the ripe old age of twenty three and as Ron says: ‘I wouldn’t say it was a traditional apprenticeship as such. I knew Chris pretty well and he went easy on me, so there wasn’t the usual two years of toilet scrubbing or anything like that. He definitely taught me the nuts and bolts of tattooing and how to apply a clean solid tattoo. I owe him a lot for that.’

I asked Ron about his thoughts on apprenticeships. ‘I think an apprenticeship is most definitely the way to learn the trade and I feel that anyone who wishes to become a tattooist should spend some time in a shop atmosphere watching, learning and listening to everything from the interaction between an artist and customer to how you should wash your hands. There is so much more involved in tattooing that the general public doesn’t realise. Most people think if you can draw, you can tattoo and don’t realise that a professional tattooist also needs to have knowledge in blood borne pathogens, anatomy, photography, counselling etc, as well as being artistic and you can’t get that stuff in a one week course or by buying a starter kit.’ 

Ron’s advice to would be tattooists; ‘First educate yourself about sterilization and universal precautions, get a good apprenticeship. Don’t go to a tattoo school, don’t by a starter kit.’

Over the last few years, Ron has worked several tattoo conventions in the States. One of his favourites being the Meeting of the Marked show in Pittsburgh PA. Now Ron is firmly established with a good customer base at Hot Rod Tattooing, he plans to spread his wings a bit wider and work some conventions further afield and hopefully get the opportunity to work at some of the European shows as well.

As you can see from the photos here, Ron is a man with a huge amount of talent and his work is very well received wherever he works. In the immediate Ohio Valley region there isn’t a huge amount of portraiture work being done by other artists, so Ron has a long line of willing customers all waiting for some of his unique style of tattooing. The difference in styles between the artists is also a big attraction for people visiting Hot Rod Tattoos.

Ron didn’t have any formal art training and didn’t go to college or Uni but he did go to a vocational school and studied computer drafting (CAD) and subsequently worked as a CAD designer for twelve years. ‘Any other artistic education that I have received has come from other tattoo artists and from studying photographs in magazines. Some of the most vital artistic knowledge I received was while working with Jeff Zuck in Name Brand Tattoo in Ann Arbor. I used what I considered tricks, I knew certain colours worked well together but never knew why, because I’d never had any formal training. Jeff was the first person to show me and explain colour theory and show me how pieces should flow with the body. I learned some of my most valuable information in a few short months working
with him.’

Ron accredits his interest in tattooing to his good friend Scott Page. It all started when Scott had a tattoo of the Disney dog Pluto and for the first time he felt a reason to get tattooed. He wanted to create a bond between himself and his best mates. Prior to this Ron had said; ‘I don’t want a tattoo, I can't think of anything I’d want on my body forever!’ And now, fifteen years later he is covered in them and is working as a tattoo artist. It just goes to show you can’t predict what life is going to throw at you. We all go through life being influenced by different people be it consciously or otherwise so I asked Ron who were his major influences in life; ‘I try to get influence from a lot of different tattoo artists these days. After working with Jeff Zuck and realising that my influences don’t have to come solely from B&G portrait guys, I’ve started looking at all styles of tattooing for inspiration. If I had to pick one person, it would without a doubt be Jay Wheeler. I have had an awful lot of work and helpful advice from Jay over the years, and I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without him. There are many other artists that I admire and respect, especially from the Detroit area like Tom Renshaw, Bob Tyrrell, Marshall Bennett, Sqweeg… with guys like these knocking out amazing B&G stuff and portrait work, you can’t help but be on your toes.’

Ron’s favourite style is – somewhat obviously – realism, as you can see from this small selection of his work on these pages, he loves nothing better than to reproduce any realistic images from pin-up girls and portraits to wildlife. He openly admits that B&G is his ‘Comfort zone’ but Ron also enjoys the challenges of colour realism as well. ‘I do colour work I try to incorporate lighting effects into the piece and I thoroughly saturate the area with pigment, leaving little or no skin tone showing through.’

When Speaking to Ron about the differences between American and European tattooing, he told me that he has noticed there is quite a contrast between the States and Europe tattoo wise; ‘There seems to more of an appeal for really large black and grey work across the water which I find very intriguing. As yet, I’ve not done a European convention but I’m really looking forward to working some so that I can explore those differences.’

Although America is a huge country Ron admits that there are too many tattooists working at the moment. But he says that there will never be too many good tattooists. He firmly believes that will always be room for good tattooists and the number of bad ones are hurting the industry. ‘When people who get bad tattoos, it puts them off of the idea of getting more. If you do a nice piece on someone they generally leave your shop thinking about their next one before the door closes behind them.’

As you can imagine or know if you have had to sit for a portrait it takes a very long time to execute. And Ron’s Ideal customer would be someone who is tolerant and open minded. ‘Tolerant because it takes time to do a portrait and open-minded to take a few suggestions to find the right picture to capture the moment.’

As with all industries, things move on and change so I spoke to Ron about what sort of changes have come about in the American Tattoo scene over the last five to ten years. ‘ Communication between tattoo artists has opened up significantly, especially with the use of the Internet and things like chat rooms and forums. Conventions are great, tattooists can travel and meet other tattooists in person from all over the world and get tremendous exposure to different types of work and clientele that they wouldn’t get by staying in the same community all year round. And history, in the last few years there has been a big push by tattoo artists to learn more about the roots of tattooing and gaining a better respect and appreciation for the people that paved the way for our future. I think this is awesome and I only wish there was a way that the ‘Old timers’ could receive some type of recognition for their contribution to the art form. The people I’d like the thank for helping me are Chris Page, Jay Wheeler, Corey Cuc, Jeff Zuck, Matt Thomas and ‘Sweet Chuck’ for creating huge milestones in my tattooing career and to Kris Lachance, BJ ‘SOBA’ Johnson, Bob Tyrrell, Marshall Bennett, Tom Renshaw and Aaron ‘Brotha’ Stockwell for everything else along the way.’

Ron ‘Big Daddy’ Meyers is certainly among the big guns when it comes to portraiture work and justifiably so. As he said earlier, he’s hoping to come to Europe to work a couple of conventions soon. I for one will be in the queue for some of Ron’s unique tattoo work.

 

Ron ‘Big Daddy’ Meyers,
Hot Rod Tattooing.
20 S 4th Street,
Martins Ferry,
Ohio
USA
www.rondaddymeyers.com
www.hotrodtattooing.com
 
Profile photos courtesy of www.darkroomphotography.deviantart.com

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Skin Deep 123 1 July 2005 123
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