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Time Out with tattoo artist Jeremy Swan of Broken Art Tattoo

We sit down with the inventive tattoo artist behind Los Feliz's most underground shop

 (Photograph: Jakob N. Layman)
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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Jeremy Swan of Broken Art Tattoo
 (Photograph: Courtesy Jeremy Swan)
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Photograph: Courtesy Jeremy Swan
Tattoo by Jeremy Swan
 (Photograph: Courtesy Jeremy Swan)
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Photograph: Courtesy Jeremy Swan
Tattoo by Jeremy Swan
 (Photograph: Courtesy Jeremy Swan)
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Photograph: Courtesy Jeremy Swan
Tattoo by Jeremy Swan
 (Photograph: Courtesy Jeremy Swan)
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Photograph: Courtesy Jeremy Swan
Tattoo by Jeremy Swan
 (Photograph: Courtesy Jeremy Swan)
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Photograph: Courtesy Jeremy Swan
Tattoo by Jeremy Swan
 (Photograph: Jakob N. Layman)
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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Broken Art Tattoo
 (Photograph: Jakob N. Layman)
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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Broken Art Tattoo
 (Photograph: Jakob N. Layman)
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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Broken Art Tattoo
 (Photograph: Jakob N. Layman)
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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Broken Art Tattoo
 (Photograph: Jakob N. Layman)
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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Broken Art Tattoo
 (Photograph: Jakob N. Layman)
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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Broken Art Tattoo

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Time Out: How did you end up tattooing in LA?
JS:
 I started my tattoo career in the beautiful Monterey Bay. I worked in that area for 11 years and I wanted to make the move to a larger city. San Francisco was an option, but there was an overwhelming number of fantastic artists there. I loved LA, and in 2003, I started making weekend trips to tattoo here. My clientele was growing, and every time I came down, there was a longer list of people to tattoo on the next trip. I felt like I could really make a mark on this city—figuratively and literally. I made the move permanent in January of 2005, and I opened up my shop, Broken Art Tattoo, that August. Now the tides, I believe, have turned, and Los Angeles is home to some of the greatest tattoo artist in the world. I am honored to work here among them.

Time Out: How would you describe your style?
JS: After 20 years in the business I have developed a fairly wide skill set. I like to focus on clean, detailed line work, high contrast shading and saturated color. I call it hyper-traditional.

Time Out: What's the creative process with your clients like?
JS: 
I am extremely lucky to have my clientele. They generally give me full creative control. After our initial consultation, I usually have enough inspiration to create a unique, original piece of art. I never copy or render another artist's work. When the tattoo begins I usually let my client lead. I prefer speaking about art, literature, politics, and occasionally religion—taboo, I know. 

Time Out: Do you have a favorite tattoo of your own?
JS: 
My favorite tattoo that I have is probably my back piece. It's a work in progress, and there is a lot more to go. It's a Bengal tiger with wings fighting a dragon. 

Time Out: What's the strangest situation you've ever been in while tattooing?
JS: 
Tattooing can put you in some wonderfully strange situations. I have had guns pulled on me by drunk vatos trying to rob me (they got nada). Then there was the client that puked all over my feet. I would say one of the most memorable situations was circa 2003. I was having a small tattoo party at music producer Linda Perry's house. Now, this was when she and Pink just started writing together. I was tattooing Pink, and her bodyguard was up next. The hour was growing late, and the wine bottles were getting low, when Linda sat down at her piano. Pink asked Linda to play something from her 4 Non Blondes album, and the two of them started to duet. They must have gone on for a good hour. It was the most intimate concert I have ever witnessed and they executed it perfectly. I looked up at her bodyguard as I was tattooing, and we realized we were witnessing something pretty magical. Afterward, I asked Linda if she was working on any new material. She played the song "Beautiful," and about a year later, I heard it on the radio sung by Christina Aguilera. 

 

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Follow Amanda Montell on Twitter: @AmandaMontell1

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