Alex Hinton working at his station inside Good Times Tattoo / Photo: Sam Milianta
Ten years ago, Colby Burleson and Clint Marvin left Susie M’s to open Good Times Tattoo. The original shop was located in a tiny space near the old Blue Boutique. “Only one person could work in at a time and catching them there was kind of tricky,” current Good Times artist Alex Hinton says.
At the time of Burleson and Marvin’s departure, Hinton was still working at Susie M’s under Kelly Miller, but after five years he decided to join forces with Good Times when they relocated to 900 South. The shop moved again in 2001 to their current location in Artspace’s Bridge Projects. The shop’s current artists include Hinton, Burleson, Marvin, Vic Back, Pat Delvar, Thai Le, Danny Madsen and Bonnie Seeley. SLUG recently had the chance to speak with Hinton about his experiences in the world of tattooing, as well as the tenth anniversary of Good Times Tattoo.
SLUG: At what point in your life were you inspired to become a tattoo artist?
Alex Hinton: When I was younger I knew that I enjoyed art. I knew that being a professional painter is like winning the lottery and I knew I didn’t want to do commercial art. One time I was sitting in the counselor’s office in the 8th grade with a report card full of F’s and my school counselor asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. It just hit me and I said, “I’m going to be a tattoo artist.” She told me to think realistically, and here I am.
SLUG: What is your favorite thing about Good Times?
AH: What I love about the shop is that there is a focus on being artists and doing things custom, but on top of that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. It’s a fun environment to work in—it’s bright and open and it’s not uncommon to hear a prank phone call or break out with karaoke or dancing. We’re all pretty light-hearted people.
SLUG: As tattoos have become more common in our society over the years, how has your personal clientele changed?
AH: It used to be small one time tattoos. I’m sure there are shops in town doing that kind of thing, but we are a very custom-oriented shop. I am generally working on large pieces like sleeves and back pieces, and I don’t usually work on anything that’s going to take me fewer than nine hours.
SLUG: Do you have any boundaries when it comes to custom tattoos? Is there an image or body part you wouldn’t tattoo?
AH: We like to make sure that when it comes to hands, necks and faces that we put those kinds of things on people who really deserve them. I know that kind of sounds like a snooty thing to say, but if you don’t have other tattoos and if you haven’t paid your dues and you don’t know what you’re getting into, then it’s not really appropriate to be tattooing your hands, neck or face. I also have a no dragon policy—this includes medieval dragons.
SLUG: How would you define your personal style?
AH: People say that they can pick out an Alex tattoo from a mile away, but I don’t know exactly what it is that I do that discerns me from someone else. I do enjoy working in color. I like things that are gnarly—zombies, bats, and Asian styles, but it really depends. Whatever I do, I like to put a little twist on it, something I haven’t seen before.
SLUG: You are also a fine artist. When not using skin as your canvas, what mediums can you be found working with?
AH: I enjoy painting with oils the most. I also really enjoy watercolors. I have a strong background with both of those, because my mother is a fine artist and works in oils and my high school teacher, who was really influential, worked in watercolors. It’s not beyond me to do stencils or use charcoal or pen and ink.
SLUG: What was your last art exhibit? Do you have any upcoming shows?
AH: My last art show was a stencil art show, which was really fun because my art ended up being more affordable. They were pieces I had dedicated months and months to. I sold 20-dollar posters and ended up selling quite a few of them and it really worked out. That was over at Mechanized Records next door to us. They’ve been really helpful and nice over the years. As far as anything else, I’m going to have a collaborative piece popping up at an art show with my co-worker Danny Madsen. Otherwise, I haven’t had a new body of art that I’ve been ready to show, but I did recently get an art studio downtown, so hopefully that will change.
SLUG: Which artists inspire you?
AH: I really enjoy fine artists like Monet and Degas—I like their use of color. As a child Pushead was and continues to be one of my favorites. I also enjoy some of the newer artists that you might see in Juxtapoz, like Jeff Soto and Alex Pardee. I love abstract art. I have a hard time doing it, but those people who nail it blow my mind. I just really try to absorb everything.
SLUG: Artistically, what is the greatest lesson you’ve learned?
AH: Stick to your guns and do it a lot. I know that I didn’t get to where I am [without a lot of practice], and I’m not happy with my art unless I’m doing it often. If you want to be a fine artist you just have to do it, you have to be willing to pump out a lot of art and try new things. Save your art. If you don’t know where you’ve been, it’s hard to figure out where you’re going.
SLUG: In your years of tattooing, with the art itself put aside, how have progressions with ink and tools helped to make your work more efficient?
AH: A lot has changed since I began tattooing. When I came into tattooing a lot of people were safeguarding their secrets: [established artists] didn’t want to share information and there was a limited amount of supplies. Back then there were maybe four or five suppliers to get machines from, and now there are hundreds, not to mention all of the great custom machines you can pick up. It’s been nice not having to make my own needles. Not spending a couple hours a day on needles has let me focus on my art. It’s an exciting time to get into tattooing. You’ve got a lot of resources open to you if you’re willing to absorb them—everything from seminars on DVD to how-to books by great artists. I’m never above picking up one of those. If I can get one smidge of information it’s just priceless.
SLUG: You tattoo at the SLC tattoo convention every year. How do you feel about tattooing in that atmosphere?
AH: I’m kind of a homebody and I feel a lot more comfortable in my own space, but I love the energy at the tattoo conventions. I love meeting other artists and talking to clients. I find that when it comes to actually tattooing at them, all the hustle can be kind of stressful, but it’s always a good lesson. Sometimes I learn that I can bust through something quicker than I thought or whip up a drawing without putting together hours of referencing. Nate Drew and CJ Starkey of Lost Art put on a really nice convention. Compared to all of the other conventions I go to, it’s really artist-oriented, and it’s exciting.
SLUG: With a shop motto of “Live The Life That You Love,” do you feel that has been accomplished with yourself and your part in Good Times?
AH: Definitely. It seems to be what has been embodied with Good Times. We really are our own people and our own bosses. We all have distinct styles and every once in a while we’ll bump heads, but as far as having a happy environment to tattoo in, good lighting and a good mix of music, it’s been fun. I just really thank Colby and Clint for giving me somewhere I can be myself. It’s ended up being a joy to work here.
SLUG: Now that Good Times has been around for ten years, do you see a second shop in the future?
AH: Well we are definitely at capacity, and for us to grow or expand it would probably take a second shop. However, everyone has their own thing going on right now and it would take someone to spearhead that project. I don’t know if that’s going to happen any time soon, but you never know, that’s only speculation.
SLUG: Is there anything else you’d like to add, or any shout-outs?
AH: It was an honor to be interviewed by SLUG. I’ve been picking up SLUG since I was a child. It’s been cool to watch the magazine evolve and change and end up what it has become. Thanks to my wife Amber for being so understanding about my long hours. I’d like to thank all of my clients who give me such fun ideas and the opportunity to do neat tattoos. I’d like to thank Clint and Colby again for having good times and thanks to all other artists in the area.
For information on Alex Hinton and Good Times visit: alexhinton.com or myspace.com/goodtimestattoo