Gheybin Comish and her Merman Obsession
I cannot remember a single instance where I have had an such an innate longing to embrace a member of the same sex and instantly vie for their attention like a starved puppy. As I met Gheybin Comish at Nobrow Coffee Werks for an interview, the winter chill outside its doors didn’t stop me from envisioning her and I dangling our feet in the water of a pool in the summertime. Sharing our life stories, wearing gently worn vintage floral bathing suits, drinking out of colored straws and praying for Monroe-like physiques we would never be able to obtain. Comish is that woman that you want to take with you everywhere because she fits you without the hassle of trying her on. As an aspiring tattooer and a Utah Valley University graduate, she is still another relatively undiscovered artist in Salt Lake that is slowly making a name for herself.
Comish is well known for her line work drawings with watercolors bleeding into one another. Regarding why she decided to get into tattooing and not just stick to being a pen and ink and watercolor artist, she says, “I had a lot of people ask me to do tattoo designs for them. Enough people asked for images, and I thought that I am not really tough enough for [tattooing] … I don’t fit into that … I don’t have that image … but people are so supportive that they like what I do, so it just took off on its own.”
Comish was immersed in art and encouraged to create at a very young age by her mother, who also happens to be the nation’s leading oil painter of Santa Claus imagery. Comish was taught to be comfortable in her own technique and confident that she was enjoying what she was creating. Comish’s secondary motivational mentor was her high school art teacher: “My high school art teacher taught me about clichés and how to avoid them,” she says. “You have to take risks to make good art because if you don’t, it’s boring.”
Comish touched upon what has been inspiring her lately—she excitedly says, “I cannot stop drawing mermen!” She then proceeded to take out her sketchbooks that she brings with her everywhere, enthusiastically showing me pages and pages of mermen that were completed with black-ink lines, watercolors or colored pencils, as well as depictions of other animal life that she is currently fixated on. Comish points out her overall inspiration—she says, “I like the primitive act of fighting. I am into Inuit things and figures. I like the plump, fleshy figures.” I could not help but feel privileged to see notes, doodles and observations that she takes with her everywhere, a private insight to her whimsical imagination. Comish’s talent runs deep, and when she casually mentions that she was a child-prodigy pianist, I don’t bat an eye and enviously mumble under my breath something to the effect of, “Oh, of course you were.”
Comish’s innocent passion about the way she views her art generates an instant ease about her, where it wouldn’t take much convincing to be on her Frisbee team (if she had one) and wear those god-awful, ill-fitting jersey shirts with whatever sponsoring local-car window business is printed on them. When Comish assesses her existential contentment with her art and her aspirations in tattooing, her brown eyes light up with a childlike excitement as she says, “I can’t be any other way. If I could fit in in life, it would probably have been a lot easier … I cannot not do things that are weird and different. It’s part of who I am. It’s a painful and lonely road.”
Comish plans on taking her tattooing slowly and is remaining grounded in what she believes is her uncommon outlook on her art’s subject matter and tattoo design: “The opposite of the culture we have now is what I am interested in. …We can take care of each other in a community type way … embrace our bodies in a different way … embrace each other and our relationship we have with animals,” says Comish. Comish’s unique outlook on human nature, the innocence of animals, her profound interest in the Inuit culture, as well as the origin of the species is what makes her a genuine artist and a tattooer that anyone can relate to.
Comish’s sincerity inspires you to buy her ice cream, instantly seek out a swing set, then go watch Shirley Temple movies on someone’s living room floor before you have to get on home before dinner—you want to know her, her art and be a part of her earnestness. Don’t let me mislead you—the woman is a confident tattooer who isn’t “scratching” out of a dingy basement under dim lighting with nothing but a cold metal chair to sit in and brown shag to dig your toes into. However, if she did decide to get into the business of dodgy tattoo work, you can bet your ass I would be in said dingy basement supporting and Instagramming the fuck out the whole ordeal. Although Comish does not currently have any art shows planned for this winter and is instead focusing on learning the art of tattooing, you can see her art at gheybincomish.com and follow @gheybin on Instagram. She is currently honing her tattooing skills until she becomes the Lena Dunham of tattooing, that is.