Dave Koenig is a prolific painter and tattooist currently living and working in Omaha, Nebraska and Dania Beach, Florida. His art has been exhibited at tattoo conventions, festivals and art galleries throughout the world including Into the Woods Fine Art Gallery in Dania Beach, Florida, Hope Gallery in Connecticut, as well as The New BLK, In Common and Bemis Underground in Omaha, NE. He also now a part of the Unicycle Brand artist coalition. Dave has been tattooing, both locally and internationally, since 2001. His home base is currently at Tenth Sanctum Tattoos in Omaha, Nebraska, and at Into the Woods in Dania, Florida. Other professional studios Dave has worked at include Iron Brush Tattoo, Studio XIII, True Love, Off the Map, Nite owl, Cast Iron Tattoo and Arctic Tattoo in Tromso, Norway. Working with a wide range of mediums from Ink and water color to large scale acrylic, Dave maintains a controlled looseness of line work and a delicate treatment of color. Although heavily influenced by Japan’s historic culture and use of patterns, his work also reflects the imagery and antiquity of both Traditional Americana and Art Nouveau.
We recently hung out with Dave and asked him about his art and creative process. Read his Q&A below:
Curbside: How did you first become interested in art?
Dave Koenig: My mother introduced me to drawing at a very young age, without a doubt. I believe I was three or four years of age. It was my father that informed me that my skill-set in art lacked in comparison with my older sister’s. This was after he reviewed a couple drawings we had done. That criticism had definitely worked as some sort of ignition that drove me to become a more skillful artist. I then pressed forward, learning and recognizing that every failure was merely a learning lesson. At the time I was not grateful for my father’s criticism but without his honest critique and my mother’s support I would have never acknowledged my sincere love for art.
C: Where do you find inspiration and who are some of your influences?
DK: I am naturally drawn to the old souls of life in general. We are immersed in a world of instant gratification and new product. I seek out the antiquity of everything. With the world at our fingertips, we tend to look over the fine refinement that it took to accomplish where we are today. Rather than seeking ideas from other artists, I search out the history in which it all spawned. Then I research why. It is amazing how haunting it all can become. I am a collector of antique photos, currency, art, and more.
C: What is your preferred method for making art and why?
DK: I love painting. I love tattooing. I definitely favor the liquid acrylics. I have done large-scale mural pieces. I enjoy the power a large piece evokes, but I usually prefer working in the 20x30-to-24x36 range. With how busy my life is between family, tattooing, drawing for tattoos, physical and mental self-keep, painting has to have limits.
C: How has your process changed since you first began making art?
DK: Well, learning to tattoo has seriously changed my approach to art. Learning the fundamentals of tattooing along with the all of the different cultures that practice tattooing has entirely transformed my perspective of art as a whole. Tattooing has become the influential foundation to all that is art to me.
C: What are some common themes you try to use or depict in your artwork?
DK: Images of antiquity, mystery, and culture. I enjoy complimenting elements of the four major human emotions: Love, Hate, Fear, and Sex.
C: What do you do in your downtime when not creating?
DK: Definitely spending time with my family or satisfying my fix of television series such as Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and Ancient Aliens. I also enjoy to read but reading has become predominantly in audiobooks and podcasts as I am driving or creating.
C: What is some advice you wish you had when you were first starting out?
DK: For the longest time I was immersed in ego. Then every failure was damn-near fatal for me. It wasn't until I let go of that concept and realized we are all just a part of a larger entity. If it is art, tattooing, world domination, whatever, we either create or consume. Failure is just a mere stepping stone to success. As an artist, you should only compete with yourself. Then you will set the bar rather than chasing it. Be confident but humble. Procrastination is the worst thing you can do.
You must try new things. Otherwise you don't appreciate what you already do have, and you may miss out on what you don't. And…. don’t f***ing cut corners. It takes much longer to unlearn bad habits.
C: In your vast catalog of art, is there any one piece that stands out to you from the rest? If so, why does it stand out?
DK: No. Just whatever I am in the process of creating. I am in serious love with whatever I am working on at the moment. I actually kind of yearn for it. I appreciate the end product and find some pride in it but it is the process of creating that encompasses me. I truly believe happiness is the action not the product.
C: Are there any ways that the current social climate has changed the way that you approach art, whether it be your own or someone else’s?
DK: It is a truly double-edged sword. With the works and glorified lifestyles of the most elite artists and tattooers at your fingertips, it can become more debilitating than inspiring. I often have to take a break from an overabundance of social media and just focus on creating without influence. But on the other end of the spectrum this social climate can work to your advantage as an artist/tattooer. You can use it as a tool to network with some of your most inspirational artists and learn from them. It can also work as a platform for artists/tattooers to build worldly notoriety, allowing them to support a lifestyle from making art.