Ink Defense talked with Pro-team artist Xaiver “X-ray” Ray to learn about his career in the industry.
ID: Tell us about your career in Tattooing
I am a self-taught artist and have been tattooing for about 6 years. I went to school for graphic design. This gave me a foundation to start and it opened my eyes to a lot of things. I learned 2D, 3D, color theory, portion and perspective and more.
ID: Tell us about how you started tattooing.
I researched tattooing. Apprenticeships weren’t really available, so I bought a small kit and started tattooing people in my neighborhood. Honestly, my first tattoo was horrible.
I went to a shop and asked for an apprenticeship. The owner made me draw one piece, a design with the Virgin Mary. I did it, then I spent two weeks cleaning the shop! After that the owner said Go (start tattooing), without any direction. I was nervous and felt I could screw up. So much for an apprenticeship.
ID: Tell us about your favorite style.
I tend to go toward black and grey using a simple approach. I don’t use a lot of white. I try to use the clients skin tone to work as a highlight. This technique creates a different look and lasts longer, and it is more natural.
I started out tattooing in a college town. It makes it hard to get people to let me do my own thing. People want what their friends have, same design. No originality and it was hard to broach that hurdle.
I did Dobby from Harry Potter for a client. The one thing the client wanted was Dobby holding the sock, which represented his freedom. With only that requirement, she told me to do what I wanted. Dobby is one of my favorite characters so it really was something I could get into. I wanted to represent Dobby as a servant in rags and dirt. Oftentimes clients need to understand if they let us (tattoo artists) do what we need to do we can make the piece special for the client.
ID: What makes you different from other artists?
I look at what other artists do and do the opposite to create my own style. The small, simple things can make you different. I am still discovering ways I can be different. It definitely takes time.
ID: So how do you grow your talent?
I started looking at the people around me, seeing what I could learn. I watched YouTube. Then I started going to shows and talking to other artists.
I actually did a partial show in Houston. I was talking to a guy named Nic. He offered for me to jump in and try. I did a few small pieces. Being at a show is different. The first tattoo I did felt like my very first tattoo ever, with all the people watching me. After this I did a full on show and it was great. The artists around my booth had 15+ years experience. They were welcoming which relaxed me a lot. Their sharing helped me to learn a lot.
I continue to guest spots and shows to help me learn more from other artists.
ID: What has been your most Interesting experience tattooing?
This guy came in on his 18th birthday for his first tattoo; a pair of lips on his butt. He had the image he wanted to use. I asked him where he got the lips from? He said, “these are my sister’s lips”. I didn’t want to ask more questions at this point.
I had him show me the spot where he wanted it, on his butt. Dude had a hairy butt, but there was a perfectly shaved spot for the tattoo. I was like huh. I appreciated that he shaved but it looked like the back side of ‘Chewie’.
I placed the stencil and got started. He started making sounds every time I touched his skin, like a shriek. This was through the whole session. After finishing with the client, he asked me, (since it was his first tattoo) if I’m supposed to smack the tattoo. I said ‘ah, no’ for obvious reasons!
BTW, I think this was the first butt tattoo I did. That experience is engraved in my head, forever!
ID: What is the worst damage you have seen on tattoos?
I did a coverup on a client on a tattoo that got infected. It indented the flesh like it was eaten away. She told him it was a bad situation where she had been admitted to the hospital and was on meds for 3 months. After looking at the skin where there was major scarring, I asked more questions. She wanted a lotus with color. It was definitely a challenge.
ID: As an artist working on people’s bodies, what advice do you have for people getting tattoos.
Ok so many things on this
Please know the LOCATION on the body where you want the tattoo. I hear things like “I want a tiger but I don’t know where I want to put it”. It takes time to prepare for tattoo placement with a design. Doing a piece on a thigh vs. ribs is very different.
You need to know what you want, the style. Be prepared. Have reference for your art. You want a geisha; what kind? Traditional? Anime? Give me some perspective.
What size? Not too big. Remember you medium is not the same as my medium. Again, please have references.
And Hygiene! This is a big one with me. Take a shower before you come in, maybe even two showers. I had a walk-in customer who wanted to get a phrase around his ankle. He came straight from a long day of work. When he took off his work boots, the smell was… EWW. If you are getting a butt tattoo, please shower and if you just had sex, well… come on – shower!
ID: You were featured in our series “Other side of the Artist” earlier this year. Share with us some things you do in addition to art and tattooing.
I love being active. I did MMA for a few years. I had done tae kwon do then Muay Thai. I found that I preferred to teach which led to coaching a high school team for a few years. I moved into teaching women self-defense. I had learned that guys would wimp out on the workouts, so I started teaching women.
I LOVE Fishing. My passion for fishing led to an opportunity being a summer camp counselor where I was the director of the fishing program. It is a rough job getting paid to fish all day on a private lake. I also picked up coaching football at the summer camp as well. My first year coaching we won every tournament with the other camps. From all of this I learned I really like working with kids. It is actually something I am passionate about.