Name: Adam Vu Noir
Location: Los Angeles / Berlin
How did you get into the industry? Was it hard to find an apprenticeship?
Can't say it was easy because in the mid-2000s there were only about 4 tattoo studios in my hometown. I was already working at a studio at the time starting when I was 17 but had to look elsewhere for an apprenticeship that didn't happen until I was 21. I met Samez of Cherry Tattoo in Rome, Italy when she was doing a guest spot in California. She took a look at some of the drawings/paintings I had made and said if I ever came to Rome she would help me with some fundamentals. I spent around 6 months selling shoes at the mall, saved up, and went to Rome in the summer of 2008. When I came back to California I took up oil painting and I had put together a portfolio. I walked into Lowrider Tattoo in Fountain Valley, California and asked for a chance. I got an opportunity to work with a group of guys who grew up on the streets and became their own success stories, which in turn made me feel I could do the same. It was there that I apprenticed under a black and grey master and amazing human being, Jose Lopez.
How long have you been tattooing?
Approximately 8.5 years now.
What inspires you?
I'm inspired by a lot of things. I've been told that life experience and creativity go hand and hand with each other. Traveling definitely speeds up those things as I feel you'll learn more about life doing that than any amount of public schooling. I'm obsessed with pulp art, surrealism, prison illustrations, 80s Manga, vintage movie posters, and anarchist/militant propaganda. I try to take a bit from all the art I like, mixed with personal knowledge, and illustrate/design from there. That's really what it all is, when everything becomes so jumbled up that it takes on its own identity, your own. I guess that's my inspiration, constantly trying to find ways to create something and not completely mess it up in the process.
Who are your favourite tattoo artists?
I've collected old tattoo magazines since I was around 15 years old. Those magazines became like blueprints and history books. I was able to learn about these artists like Freddy Corbin, Mister Cartoon, Chris Garver, Bob Roberts, Cotton Pickin Hiro, Tim Hendricks, Jack Rudy, Grime, and Chris Conn. Those have got to be my favorites because they really were the first outside of my hometown I remember learning about. I'm a nostalgic kinda fella.
How would you describe your tattoo style?
I guess it would be a "refined" prison style of tattooing. Everything black and grey, mostly lined and shaded with fine needles. When I first started tattooing all I did were portraits and had to shade with my liner religiously. As I started traveling and working with more traditional artists, I transitioned to trying out more classic flash and drawing my own designs. The lines became a tad bit thicker but the techniques always remained the same.
If you weren't tattooing what would you be doing?
Most likely being a broke painter or terrible musician. Working at a hostel somewhere constantly refilling the coffee and setting out the continental breakfast every morning.
What advice do you have to people considering careers in tattooing?
I really don't know. I'm no prodigy and in no way do I think I'm great. But I signed up for something in which success is what I'm always going to try to work for. That's not for fame or fortune but to constantly try to meet every goal I put out there. I really think that's how success should be measured. This work takes up most of your life and you yourself dictate how far you go. No one else and no shop is going to do that for you. I guess the only thing I can say is don't do it if you don't truly love this. No work you do will mean a thing if you don't love or hate it. And I mean like really hate it with a passion. Because one can't exist without the other. It's like having a whole other relationship in your life. There's compromise, sacrifice, and a definite need of attention. If you can't do those things then just like any neglected relationship nothing will progress. If this is just a job to you then you should do something else, because for the majority of us this is a goddamn love/hate relationship.
What are some of the best things you have experienced as a result of your career?
All I ever wanted to do was to travel the world, go to strange places, and make art. There's not a day I'm not grateful that tattooing has allowed me to do all of that. Aside from the people I've met and the places I've seen, a few memories stand out more than others. I've spent a day with a presumed cult leader in the middle of nowhere Australia who claims to be the reincarnated Jesus. We ate vegan sushi and talked about the existence of aliens, drug cartels, and the afterlife. Nicest guy ever and I have his number under "Jesus" in my phone. I spent several days in central Vietnam with a man that dug up the corpse of his deceased wife and put her remains in a paper mache casket in the shape of her body. He sleeps next to the corpse every night because he can't rest unless she's next to him. You just feel sorry for him but it truly is incredible when you learn the whole story. But the best thing I've experienced is achieving my life goal last year when I tattooed on all 7 continents. I lived out of a backpack for a year and made a circle around the globe. Seeing Antarctica and tattooing my own hand while a gang of penguins were walking by was the best day of my life.
Where do you currently tattoo?
I'm currently in Los Angeles prepping for my pop up shop/gallery the entire month of May that I'm calling StrangeLove. I'm really excited to have some of my friends and amazing artists from all over coming in. Artists like Johnny Gloom, Don Laing, Han Shinko, Ignacio TTD, Luxiano Street Classic, Dmon Meuli, and Rafa Decraneo. I plan on moving to Berlin this summer and try out Europe for awhile. Excited to see where it all goes!