Geoff “Voodoo Charlie” Chard is a kilt wearing, quick witted, smart mouth who also happens to be a fantastic tattoo artist. He and his team at Voodoo Monkey Tattoo have been holding down Monroe Ave. for over a year. We meet up with Voodoo to talk about his first tattoo, becoming a tattoo artist, and which tattoos he simply refuses to do.
Why are you called Voodoo Charlie?
It takes a little magic to do what I do. Does Geoff sound good to you? Voodoo seems so much easy to remember. Voodoo just stuck out.
What got you into tattooing?
I have worked almost every job there is and I didn’t like any of them. I always wanted to make a living with my art. I purchased some really cheap equipment and started playing with it, but it wasn’t until someone really pushed me that I actually tattooed.
What was the first tattoo you did?
It was a turtle with a little Hawaiian hieroglyph on it. It was on his ankle. It took hours, now I could do it probably in an hour. I wouldn’t have done it on the ankle bone like he wanted it. I abused him and made him bleed, total abuse.
Was it an actual set up or just ink and a needle?
It was an actual machine and actual ink. I was a cheap set I got on Amazon or eBay. It was the worst thing ever, but that’s how I got myself started.
Is it hard to become an apprentice?
It is very hard getting an apprenticeship, very difficult. It usually helps if you know people, or if you there all of the time, or if you have been around the block a few times. It took me years of just fussing around before I met a kid that would it teach me things.
I apprenticed with a guy name Jason Fereson. I met him in college and we used to live next door to each other. I would go to his studio or to his house next door and watch him work.
You need to get in a shop; you need to learn from somebody. It may not seem like what you learn is a whole lot, but you learn immense amounts that you can’t learn at your own.
Do you have a lot of people that come looking for an apprenticeship?
I always have a few. Not everyone is as dedicated as they think when they walk in the door. Not everyone gets a chance either, I am pretty picky. I want to see there art work and what they are about. I have some specifics that I go through when I choose an apprentice.
Any famous artists (tattoo or otherwise) that influences you art?
Guy Aitchison, Jeff Gogue, Joe Capobianco, those are the big guys. Nick Baxter, Bob Tyrell, Placaso.
I went to a real exclusive convention where guys do seminars and classes about tattooing. I met a lot of people there. Conventions are great places to meet artists though they are not as popular as they used.
Would you recommend people to become tattoo artists?
Yes, if that is where their heart is. But I don’t recommend it for everyone; it is not an easy business. If you don’t have the longevity then there is no point in doing it. It is not just a job it becomes a lifestyle. It becomes who you are.
Not everyone’s style is the same. People tend to be really critical. If you don’t have an apprenticeship or you’re not into it, you get washed out.
Do you see yourself doing these 20 years from now?
This is my life this is where I am I am not going anywhere. If anything I would expand out.
Where do you see the tattoo scene 20 years from now?
No idea. I don’t think of the scene. I think of right here. I don’t think of outside my shop.
Do you think tattoos will become fully accepted in this city?
They are much more accepted outside of this city, Rochester is much closed minded city. For as open as we think we are, we are not; we are closed minded, insecure, controlling, and sheltered. We watch a lot of TV tattoo shows but we still think the hacker with a 20 dollar tattoo is an artist.
We are a sheltered town, we have not progressed to any level that I think we should be. The pieces people get are the same things you got 3 years ago. 6 years before that they were more closed minded.
Do you still get people coming in asking for standard flash tattoos?
Not as much, I am more of a custom shop but I do some tribal for specific clients. If it something they wants it’s what they want. You are not going to change their mind about it. It is still their art and it is still their skin. If they are happy with it, it does matter what it is.
Is there a tattoo you refuse to do?
I refuse to tattoo the inside of someone’s lip.
It is so hard to tattoo it nicely. You can go to deep or have it bleed out. The skin scales are really spacious and not well held together so it doesn’t hold ink well. I understand why people do it, I have never been happy doing it though.