You may know him as the bassist for the local punk group It Hurts To Be Dead, but Nick Thornton is also an artist, a body artist.
After graduating from Iowa Park High School in 1998 he attended MSU and began working as a scrub tech for a neurosurgeon. He worked his way up to assistant in the operating room. Although he enjoyed his work, and embraced the experience, with long hours and an on-call schedule he longed to get more out of his life. He said the money at the hospital was good, but he didn’t have time to enjoy it. He had always wanted to be a hot rod and bike mechanic, but couldn’t find a job for that anywhere around here. Having always been an artist, the hospital job had basically put his drawing on the back burner. But the desire to draw never escaped him. He began to draw more, and woke up one morning about four years ago and the inspiration to try tattooing hit him.
He bought some cheap equipment and his first tattoo was a little monster that a friend of his had drawn and wanted it on him. Nick says with a chuckle that it didn’t turn out too terribly, and after about a year of tatting friends he decided to take it a bit more seriously. He notes that doing tattoos out of your house is frowned upon by the industry, so he looked for a place to earn his apprenticeship and to learn how to tattoo someone correctly. He landed a spot at Avenue Tattoo that used to be on Kemp Blvd, and after a year he moved to Lawton with the owner to open up a new shop there. After a while he moved back home to Wichita Falls. He said he waited about a month to get the call back from his current location at Human Canvas WF, the one place he desired to be.
Doing tattoos has been a learning process, and Nick says you can never stop learning. The other artists at the shop all have 20-plus years experience in tattooing and have been great mentors for him, teaching him things about shading, color, background, light sources, and of course substance.
I asked him what was the average age of his clientele, and he explained that the location of the shop being in close proximity to the MSU campus, and with the Sheppard AFB students looking for something to do, mostly the 20-somethings, but he has a few older clients.
Other states have different licensing requirements for tattoo artists. You need not be licensed to be a tattoo artist in the state of Texas but you must still operate in a licensed shop. Wichita Falls has city licensing standards for tattoo artists. You must spend one year in apprenticeship which would require you to do a certain number of tattoos and of different sizes, for example. After your year of apprenticeship you must pass a blood borne pathogen test, pay your license fee and be licensed in the city.
I asked him about the inks he uses for his tattoos. He says that inks have evolved tremendously over the last 20 years, according to the veteran artists in his shop. Today a lot of the inks they use are organic inks which reduce the chance of someone having a reaction to them. And they only use top of the line inks at Human Canvas. Also, Nick adds, the evolution of the tattoo machines has become more artist-friendly. He says that back in the day an artist may have as many as 15 tattoo guns laid out for one tattoo, all set up and tuned differently, and they could be big and bulky. Today only one device is needed for all applications and they can be as compact as to the size of (for lack of a better reference) half of the handle of a hammer.
Tattoo artist by day, local legend punk rocker by night, you can find Nick at Human Canvas WF located at 3002 Midwestern Parkway, across from Sikes Mall.