Finding Our Place in this World by Justin Nordine


Finding our place in this world. What kind of statement is that?  In my opinion, maybe one of the hardest to figure out.  

I never thought I’d be a tattoo artist. It wasn’t something I had thought was for me or even really considered as a career. I planned to either work for Disney, live in New York in a loft, hang my work in a gallery and call it good.  

I didn’t go to CalArts to try and make it with Disney. To be honest, I was too nervous to leave that far. So I enrolled in a local college, worked on a fine arts degree. Realized once I was done, not a whole lot of money to make unless you make it big as a fine artist.  Fell in love and needed to start bringing in an income other then waiting tables! So I looked into teaching art. Worked on my masters in art education and only 5 years later to realize I didn’t want to that for the next 25 years. So what next?? 

Id been getting tattoo since I was 18, thought it was a pretty cool way to create. But back then, I didn’t see it as a career. Until I decided to teach a class on the culture and history of tattooing to my high school students. That’s when it hit me. This is what I wanted to do. So I left teaching, to everyone’s shock and surprise and got into the industry. 

So back to finding our place in this world. I guess that goes both ways. Who we are and what we do. But what we do should not define who were are as a human being. It’s just something we do to support ourselves. I feel blessed to do something I have so much love and respect for, because I know many others don’t necessarily feel that way. But being a tattoo artist doesn’t define me.  Others use it as a way to define who I am, which makes sense.   But I’ve struggled over the years to understand WHO I am and not by what I do. That’s a tough one. 

I think finding ourselves, who we are, where we belong, is an ever ending life battle. I am not the same person I was when I was in elementary school. I’m definitely not the preppy kid that was nominated as “best dressed” in high school.   I found myself a bit more in college. But up until recently, I had a hard time defining who Justin Nordine is beyond a tattoo artist, a father, a husband, a friend, an uncle, etc.  

So that takes me back to finding our place in this world. I think where it is, is where you truly know you are on the inside. That’s your place in this world.  And finding that, embracing it, and accepting it, can be terrifying, exhilarating but ultimately, glorifying.  Not what we do, or how we do things, we are who we are from the experience that life gives and listening to your inner self when it matters most. The exterior of the world will move on but you get to be you. And that is truly breathtaking. 


Much love

Timed Out? by Justin Nordine


Time is a strange thing. When we are young, time drags. Waiting for your birthday or Christmas seems like a lifetime. The days are longer and it often seem to drag along.  

As we age, time seems to go faster and faster. The work day flies by, the months seem to go by in a matter of weeks.   we seemed to often wish the days were longer (well at least I do!!)

Looking at time and approaching 40, time is flying by.  If I’m being honest, I struggle with that pretty deeply.  Life is never a guarantee and I think as we age, we recognize that even  more. My kids are growing up so fast, my business is in is 11th year and doesn’t seem to be possible!  I graduated high school over 20 years ago!!  And with time, we also learn more and more about ourselves as we age  

I see time now as something to take by the reigns and embrace it. Even though it isn’t easy and hasn’t been easy as if late, If this is it and we are not guaranteed each day then time is just something that reminds us of each day we get, so I’m working through life and looking to embrace time, embrace what I’ve learned and am learning about myself.  Live your days out right.  Use time to allow yourselves to be true to you, the ones you love but most of all, take it day by day. The clock will keep ticking regardless so use it to your advantage. 


Much love.  

Collaborations by Justin Nordine


Love to start doing some collaborations with other artists. Either in studio or when I’m traveling. Collaborations have really taken the tattoo community by storm over the past few years.  I think what’s interesting is the pearing of artists. Sometimes complete opposite in design and style but merging the two (or three) is often a thing of beauty.


Finding clients that can sit well is key. And also clients willing to forgo artistic control is essential. Would you ever allow two or more artists to create something permanently on you with no real input?? Love to hear who you would like to see me collaborate with!  Comment below!

Mixing Elements by Justin Nordine


Mixing Elements can be disastrous or something of beauty. It all comes down to balance, composition and color.  

This idea of mixing elements is something I have used for many, many years, even when I was an undergrad studying fine art. Mixing elements that typically don’t go together. Chaos and structure. My term for Synth-Nouveau in a nutshell

It has become a staple look for my tattoos. I generally ask clients to pick one item/theme and then embellish it from there with geometric elements or line based imagery. Then use the underlying watercolor technique to finalize the design.  

I have found that when doing a full sleeve, I have to be very methodical how I structure things. Too much chaos and the sleeve looks messy and un-refined. Too little and it looks incomplete.   I’m constantly looking at the design as I would a a painting.   Does it flow?  Are the colors balanced?  Are various elements working with one another?  I often even use the 3/4 rule. Then add the location of the body and making it also move with that particular body part. 

It’s  a lot of planning and structure.  And by doing this, my mixture of elements makes for some unique outcomes.   what do you think?


Much love.  

Human Connections by Justin Nordine


I often get asked, what is my favorite part of tattooing?  Getting to do art for a living is awesome. Something I’d always had hoped I’d be able to do. But what I really enjoy about my career is the human connection. I have been so humbled by the 1000s of clients that have sat in my chair and shared with me their lives.  From the good to the absolute worst.  For me, listening to everyone has allowed me to see that we are all not that much different from one another. We all have baggage. We all have had  heartbreak.  celebration. Devastation. Death. Sickness. Just about everything. Of course no two stories are the same but relatability, that we have. 

So for me sitting and getting to know everyone humbled me.  I really enjoy talking and getting to my clients, their lives and struggles. It really makes you realize that we aren’t all that different and if we could be more open and transparent, maybe we could find a common ground amongst ourselves. 

The human connection is pretty amazing. We just have to realize that we all bleed the same and experience life in similar ways. Good baggage and bad baggage.   We all have it!


Much love.  

Growth Takes Time by Justin Nordine



Growth Takes Time

I got to do this cool Bristlecone Pine for my cousin last week.  These trees have lived a long time (some are the longest living life forms) and are super resilient to harsh weather. I found it to be an appropriate connection to real life.  Life is hard. Life isn’t easy. And much like these trees, they’ve gone through a lot of shit.

Being resilient in life can be challenging. As a business owner, tattoo artists, father and husband, life throws curveballs all the time. Often from somewhere we had no idea it was coming.

I’ve learned so much in the last 11 years but particularly this last year. At the ripe ole age of 39, life is become more clear. Which is a good thing but also hard. Finding yourself. What works for you. What doesn’t work from. Tough calls to trying times. But it’s these challenges that keep us resilient and willing to grow. I’ve experienced some pretty dark storms, especially in the past year and wanted, and almost did, give up. But my life is worth fighting for and so I found this tree tattoo and great juxtaposition to most of our lives.

Keep on keeping on everyone. This is what we got. Make it the best you can.

Much love.

Mental Health Crisis by Justin Nordine


Depression is real. And it’s ugly. I’m not here to post a pity party story. But rather a cry to support others that suffer. It may not make sense. You may not understand why they feel this way or even know what to say. Just say you are there for them and check in. I’ve had many reach out to support me since my depression took a dive.  Suicidal thoughts are real. Suicidal plans are real. Suicidal attempts are real. It’s not about attention. It’s not selfish. It’s a debilitating disease that takes its toll and all sense of reality away.  And you don’t want to suffer anymore  

There is hope. Being proactive. Support and willing to be vulnerable even when you feel ashamed. We are facing a serious mental health crisis and I believe at lot of it has to do with social media and the influx of information and how we process it.  

Be open. Be transparent. Be real. I suffer deeply but my hope is to beat this and if you are reading this and question things, you are loved. By many...


much love.  

suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Creating Art? by Justin Nordine


Being in the tattoo industry for almost 11 years now, a lot has changed. In the beginning of my career no iPads existed, no apple pencils. Literally it was paper, drawing materials and tracing paper.  Google was your main source of references.   So with the advances of technology has also advanced what can be achieved in the skin. 

I have found some artists literally draw everything. Using references to make sure things are accurate but literally drawing out everything. I’ve also seen other artists trace a found image online. I’m not talking about the tools that rip off other tattoos, but photographs or other type of references.  My question would be, are these artists less creative then the other artists that design from scratch?  I can only speak for myself, but I often merge various images together, then the artistry comes out on the skin. I’ll draw up a full design with color but often it’s just a map to guide me through the tattoo. On the skin is where I literally “paint”. I do the exact same thing when I paint. I find an image, I manipulate it, adjust colors or whatever and then begin to paint it on the canvas. Am I less an “artist” because I don’t draw from scratch?  I don’t think so. In my opinion, it’s just a different approach to creation.  I have often said creation is nothing more then looking at the world around you and seeing it in a different way.   What do you think?


much love

Creative Freedom by Justin Nordine


As an artist, creativity comes for our soul. Literally. Am I often am challenged within the industry to make sure clients have a buy in to the design. It is going on them forever!!  But their also comes a balance. You don’t want do something you’re not proud of (at least I don’t) just for a paycheck.   especially given that I and many other artists specialize. Sometimes you get some flak from outside people thinking you are a pretentious, too good to do “those” tattoo. But the reality is, when you have so many people wanting in, you get to be selective. That doesn’t negate the fact you still feel like an asshole turning people away. It’s basic business. Supply and demand. An artists is one person trying to make all happy.  So costs can rise, selective preference happens  


So when it it comes to creative freedom, I still look for what makes my clients tick. It’s import for them to know I’m not going to just put a random skull with satans marking on them (not that I would ever do that lol). Those buy in is important.  But to also trust the process and journey they are about to embark on with me as their artist. 


Transparency  is key. I post about 90% of what I tattoo. I try and show the process. Be as detailed as possible about what to expect when you get work done from me. I follow up with all clients and in turn, many come back time and time again because of the experience. That’s what we all want. We want an experience that brings us joy. Understanding. To be heard. To walk away with confidence.  


So, trust your artists. Give them artistic freedom. In the end, you’ll walk away more colorful then before (ha ha ha. That was cheesy).  


Much Love.  

So many submissions! by Justin Nordine


Today I opened my books for the later half of 2019. I opened them at 12am. It’s now 10:15pm, less then 24 hours later and I had to close my books. I received over 260 submissions. That’s crazy. Typically when I open my books, I get 150-200 in the 48 hours that I generally open them.  But 260?!?  In less then 24 hours is crazy!!

I am humbled by the amount of submissions I always get bit if I’m honest, it’s always a bit daunting.  That’s a lot of request and not nearly enough days for everyone. I’ve booked out far in the past, upwards of a year or more but now that my kids are older and not to mention my mental status, 6 months seems plenty and about the best I can do planning my own personal life out.  But it does challenge me because that’s a lot of disappointed people that won’t get in this time around.  

I hope anyone that reads this can understand the struggle. It’s both a blessing and curse. Success comes at a cost. And for someone like me, that does not like to disappoint, it’s s tough pill to swallow. 


Much love.  

For Australia with Love by Justin Nordine


Back to back session, Australian heritage, a love for the Sydney Opera House, the geometric tiles that create that building and a love for nature. This is a good example of my Lets Go Big project. 1 of 7 different projects you can choose from. Books open April 1st at 12am MST.

an ANTI-SOCIAL MEDIA Experiment by Justin Nordine


This is something new I am going to try. As you all know, I suffer heavily from depression and anxiety. In the past 6 months my depression has been the worst it has ever been. My career demands my time to be on social media, watching, commenting, posting, etc and to be honest. Im over it. Instagram owns the images we post, dictates who can see our post based on how active we are, how much money we are willing to spend on a post so more people can see it. I am humbled to have almost 80K followers on instagram (none of which were bought), almost 60K on facebook and other various social media outlets. However, less than 10% of the people that follow me, don’t see what I post UNLESS I pay more, or find myself more active on social media. This is affecting my mental health but I also want to be able to continue to connect with my clients on a personal level.

I am tired of the dictatorship of social media. I dropped my personal facebook last July and it was the best thing I ever did for myself. Now I am feeling the heat of instagram, will it hurt my business if I stop interacting and turn my attention to my personal website? I can control everything you see and respond to all comments. I can have everyone interested in my work, sign up with my mailing list and get notified of openings, travels, last minutes availability, big announcements, etc. Im in control of my website, not some big company. So I ask you to come to website, follow my blog “Colorful Pricks”, where I will post my tattoos and other aspects of my life. These images will still come across various other platforms because I can push this content to them. But I am taking back control of who wants to come and see my work, make it accessible to all parties, all on my terms. #screwsocialmedia


Books Open APRIL 1st!! by Justin Nordine

My books are opening April 1st, 2019 at 12am MST. I will be scheduling for August, September and October only. There are 7 different projects I am scheduling for on my website: Trust the Process, Nature Lover, Creature Feature, This Must Be POP!, At Face Value, What Is It?, and Lets Go Big! Very excited to offer a new way to schedule and begin to create a “series” of work based on these 7 projects! Thanks for the continued love and support. You can submit via my website on April 1st at Much love!

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