Tony Powers wants to get under people's skin with his art, literally and figuratively. As a tattoo artist at Pain Ink in downtown Brainerd, he has the literal part covered.
He has the figurative part covered through his creative commercial work in graffiti, airbrushing, spray painting, logo making, Web site design and comic book and children's book illustrating.
"I've definitely found a client base in this town," said the 24-year-old Nisswa resident who does all of his non-tattoo work under the banner of Tony Powers Design - he signs his work with either a T.P. or a toilet paper roll.
"Among everything I do, I don't have time to do anything else. All the tattoos I do are custom-made. I draw all the time."
Tattoo artist Tony Powers worked on a client Wednesday at Pain Ink in downtown Brainerd. The 24-year-old is a lifelong artist who began working as a tattoo designer when the store opened last year. Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist » Purchase reprints of this photo.
The 2001 Brainerd High School graduate learned the technical side of tattooing from Pain Ink owner Clint Lasher. When Powers completed a tattoo of a tattoo machine on his own right leg, it was clear he had a good handle on things.
Book you are reading now? "Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan" by Carlos Castaneda.
CD in your vehicle? "I don't have a CD player. I don't mind. I've just got a bunch of tapes from the '80s from when I was a kid."
Fashion trend you wish wouldn't have caught on? "The '80s thing with all the plastic. I don't mind the punk rock thing. I mind the plastic earrings and the arm guards and stuff. I wish all the 15-year-old kids wouldn't dress like that because they didn't grow up then; they just think it's this cool new thing. They just think it's punk rock. I used to wear bike shorts made out of Spandex. I know how uncool neon yellow checkerboards are."
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But the creative side was ingrained in him at a young age. Powers' parents, Jeff and Deb, are both artistic. That influenced Tony when he was growing up in a house in the woods of the Pillsbury State Forest and later in Baxter.
"My dad is a musician and he used to paint in his hippie days in the '60s," said Powers, who himself plays music with the Gloom Chasers, an appropriate outlet for his sunny disposition. "He always doodled when he was on the phone and that affected me. And my mom, she sewed and did cross-stitching. I know how to sew and quilt and cross-stitch. So I had pretty good teachers, definitely."
Powers began sketching when he was 2 - an early favorite subject was giant tanks. In high school, he filled an 80-page notebook monthly, tending toward darker themes.
In addition to his tattoo work, Tony Powers works in other media such as mural painting. He created this spray paint mural of a nature scene in the Crosslake School Library to add color to a windowless room. Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"Lots of skeletons, lots of bugs, lots of creepy things, lots of Christian things," Powers said. "I was really Christian when I grew up so I always drew crosses and Jesus and the Sacred Heart and all that stuff. But then I'd draw people chained up in dungeons being whipped.
"Then right around high school, I got really into Eastern Indian philosophy, so then my artwork changed. Now I draw more beautiful stuff, lots of bright, happy stuff. I can still draw that other stuff, but I don't spend as much time on it, so I kind of go between genres now."
Pain Ink owner Lasher admires Powers' versatility.
"The thing I like about Tony's artwork is he takes different styles of artwork, but you can always tell it's his. Sometimes he likes to add little extra things like a couple of hairs sticking out of something that doesn't have hairs, little whimsical aspects that he almost hides in his artwork."
Powers sees his ability to move between media - whether he's working on a child's room, a company logo or a pair of shoes - as a way to get under people's skin in the figurative sense.
Tony Powers inked a tarot card design on the arm of a client Wednesday at Pain Ink in downtown Brainerd. Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"I always loved to draw more than anything, but I never wanted to sell it or give it away. I had problems throwing it away," he said. "Now I want to get rid of it. I want people to see it and have it. I want to brighten people's lives. Or maybe someone's life is really dark and really creepy - whatever they need. I want people to feel."
JOHN HANSEN may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5863.
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