Joey Hamilton is an artist at the world-famous Club Tattoo in Las Vegas. Joey designed a few of the cards in the deck—including the kings you see above—with fellow Club Tattoo artist Chris Garcia. Recently, you may have seen Joey on SpikeTV’s Ink Master, a show in which top tattoo artists compete in challenges designed to whittle them down to one winner. Catch Joey on Ink Master every Tuesday at 10/9c, or stop in at Club Tattoo in Vegas to say hello and get inked!
Club 808: What got you into the tattoo industry? How’d you make a start?
Joey: I got started after 10 years in the USAF. I was getting out and I needed to find a job. A friend of mine suggested I look into tattooing. Luckily she knew a tattoo artist who was also in the military. Rodney Folsom showed me the ropes, and I was off and running. I was always an artist so it was very natural to transition to tattooing. Like anything, you learn the more you do it. The better you get.
Club 808: What was your first tattoo? On yourself, we mean.
Joey: The first tattoo I got was a skull with flames on my arm. I remember sitting at the table and designing it with my dad.
Club 808: What’s your favorite piece to ink, if you can narrow down to just one?
Joey: My favorite is always changing. It’s almost like flavor of the week. I would say that the Ace Frehley is my go-to tattoo when I try and show off my work.
Club 808: Any horror stories, or weird requests for tattoos over the years?
Joey: We get different requests all the time. We just try and help people refine their ideas if they are a little wacky. I’ve had it all happen though—[people] pass-out, puke. . . you name it.
Club 808: What’s something that you simply will not tattoo?
Joey: I would probably not tattoo the face.
Club 808: Your tattooing skill set is pretty diverse; you’re amazing at realism, portraits, black and grey, color. What do you enjoy most?
Joey: I really like tattooing all sorts of styles and subject matters. I think that keeps the art interesting so you’re not always doing the same thing over and over.
Club 808: What’s the most complex, time-consuming tattoo you’ve ever done?
Joey: I’m in the middle of tattooing an Alex Grey painting. It’s very labor intensive. It took me 7 hours to complete about 4 inches of the tattoo.
Club 808: How did you hook up with Club Tattoo?
Joey: Luckily I hooked up with Club at the end of my time at another shop. I was working at Hart and Huntington and I knew that wasn’t going to last. So I heard Club was opening in Vegas, and I drove to Arizona to interview. They didn’t open for another 2 years but I always knew if they opened I would try and work there.
Club 808: Why did Sean and Thora choose you to illustrate the Club Tattoo deck? Which cards are your illustrations?
Joey: Sean likes to use me in many different media forms. He approached me with this and I thought what a cool idea. I knew, though—it would be tons of work! And I was right. I suggested we bring Chris Garcia in on the designing. I really respect him as an artist, so I thought this was a good collaboration. For the deck, I designed the Ace of Clubs, Jack of Clubs, Jack of Diamonds, Jack of Spades, King of Clubs, King of Hearts, King of Spades, and all the number cards.
Club 808: What was the process like for designing the deck? How did you concept the designs?
Joey: Chris and I just sat down and started brainstorming. We drew thumbnail sketches and started narrowing down the designs. Once we did that, we spent 8-12 hours on each design.
Club 808: Can you describe your process on how you decided what to draw, and how the final drawings were chosen?
Joey: We just sat down and came up with different styles we wanted to showcase. Once we had the concepts we picked different ones for us to do. We used Sean’s help to finalize and Photoshop the finale drawings.
Club 808: Do you have any other designs you think would make a great card deck?
Joey: Of course we have many designs up our sleeves just incase we do another deck. So many different styles of tattooing we can show off.
Club 808: You have some great pieces in your portfolio of pinups and portraits done as playing cards. Do you get that request a lot?
Joey: We do get some requests for playing card designs. I would say being in Las Vegas definitely lends to that request.
Club 808: Tell us a bit about the competition on Ink Master? Do you think you can win it all?
Joey: My experience on Ink Master was crazy! Many long hours and mind games from the other contestants. I definitely think I have what it takes to win the show. Working at Club Tattoo, getting to do many styles of tattooing has helped me out in the competition. Watch and see how far I make it! The show airs every Tuesday, and the live finale is in October.
Club 808: Where can someone go to get a tattoo from you – Club Tattoo in Vegas? Anywhere else?
Joey: I work at Club Tattoo in Las Vegas. You can email the shop to set up appointment. Better hurry!
Club 808: Thanks for your time, Joey!
You can find Joey on Twitter @joeyhamiltontat.