Janky Jake // Tattoo Artist
“There seems to be a blanket of social standards covering this time and place; younger generations feeling obligated to do things we might not have thought of doing. Everyone feels pressured to do something big in their life. People feel forced to follow these strict guidelines to succeed. And when you don’t follow those guidelines, you almost feel like you’re doing something wrong because everyone treats you like you’re doing something wrong. I want to encourage people to realize that none of that really matters. It may feel like the end of the world if you’re doing something that isn’t necessarily what people were hoping for you. But if you don't want to do something, then don’t do it. And if you really love doing something, then do that. I think tattooing goes against social standards in Orange County. It’s cool to stop people in their tracks when they ask what I’ve been doing lately. They always make a funny face. I think it’s a perfect example of doing something because you want to do it and you love to do it. It’s not a bad thing. It should never be a bad thing. If you’re doing what you love, keep doing it.”
Unraveling the story behind his professional work and process, Janky Jake examines the assumed social structures that uphold our perceptions of success. We join Jake in his workspace to discuss these topics and the story of his craft.
Tell us about your artistic background.
I’ve been making art since I can remember. My dad is an art teacher, so I started young ― drawing and painting, doodling. In high school I started taking it more seriously. I painted for people who would hire me for commission pieces and random little jobs here and there. I started dipping my feet into what I liked more as far as mediums and style. Then I started painting for myself rather than for other people. After high school I stopped drawing and focused more on music. But since Janky Jake started up I began drawing a lot more, which is nice.
What is tattooing to you?
It’s just another medium, another form of drawing. Sometimes I have to remind myself that my pieces will be on someone for a very long time. For me, it’s just another way to draw. It’s a lot different from anything I’ve experienced as an artist and it’s definitely my favorite form of drawing.
How did you get started with tattooing?
My roommate has a machine. I had been drawing for a long time, so I always wanted to try tattooing. He just let me free hand this little coffee mug on his thigh, saying “coffee sux” beneath it. That was the first tattoo I did.
Could you walk us through the creative process of your art?
There’s not much to it. I just get inspired by something someone’s done or something I hear and like. I think I just get these little ideas in my head. I have this notebook of all these ideas I want to draw out. Really random stuff.
What runs through your mind as you’re giving a tattoo?
Nothing too crazy. It’s just a casual, fun thing to do. It’s awesome having friends over, especially when they bring their friends. It’s just a good time. We talk through most of the process. My mind isn’t necessarily focused on one thing ― I’m definitely focused on attention to detail, but we just have fun. I like hanging out and talking to people.
What’s the proudest tattoo you’ve given?
So far, probably a piece that says “Hidden House Coffee.” It’s a house with coffee branches coming down underneath it. It took a really long time. I think I’m slowly getting better, so each new piece that I do becomes my favorite.
Janky Jake's tattoo work: