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Visual Art
Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016 1 year ago

Inking Tradition: Liberty Tattoo Club's Old-School Style

With its traditional style, Liberty Tattoo Club celebrates Americana.
by: Nick Friedman Managing Editor of Arts and Culture

Trevor Moss was a junior at Ringling College when he got his first tattoo.

He’d devoted the last three years to studying illustration and graphic design, but the moment the needle first sank ink into his arm, he says he knew what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

“That was it for me,” he says. “I loved tattoos right away. I started painting my own traditional tattoo flash; I was hooked. My professors said, ‘If this is what you really want to do, why don’t you just pursue that?’”

So he left.

Trevor Moss

Taking what he learned with him — color schemes, composition and human figure — he found a style that appealed to him most: American traditional.

Largely pioneered by artists such as Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins, traditional tattoos are characterized by dark, thick lines, bold colors in a limited palette and themes centered on nautical life, pin-up imagery and other elements of Americana counterculture.

For Moss, it was a style that spoke to him right away.

“I loved everything about it,” he says. “The bold, clean lines and bright colors; the permanence. I wanted to be able to give people something beautiful that’s going to last forever.”

Steve Walters, Nicholas Coyne, Trevor Moss and Brittany Wilcox

After working in shops in the Sarasota/Bradenton area, Moss, along with fellow artist Nicholas Coyne, branched out six months ago to open their own shop, Liberty Tattoo Club, which is devoted exclusively to the style that first enthralled him.

Located at 2430 Stickney Point Road, the shop is home to Moss, Coyne, Karl Boardman, Steve Walters and apprentice Michael Noblitt, who say they wanted to create a club-like atmosphere, where fellow artists and enthusiasts could feel at home.

For Moss, the style goes deeper than purely aesthetics. It represents not only free-spirited rebellion and an alternative lifestyle, but it also embodies the idea of longevity.

“To me, it’s about keeping tradition alive,” he says. “Things are constantly changing. Styles come and go. But this is something that’s held true for years and years. That’s important, and it’s something I’m proud to help bring back.”


The Test of Time

On a recent Friday afternoon, Moss is standing over Walters, focused intently on his work as he adds a splash of bright green ink to a dragon tattoo on his shoulder blade.

Trevor Moss and Steve Walters

The steady buzz of the tattoo machine reverberates off the checkered floors, as does an old Johnny Cash song playing on the record player. Around him, the walls are covered in framed artwork — some his, others by artists he admires: pin-up posters, hot rods and motorcycles.

“It all goes hand in hand,” says Moss. “A lot of people who are into tattoos are also into cars and motorcycles. It’s about working with your hands. That’s something we’re really focused on here. You won’t see us working on iPads; we draw everything by hand. You’ve got to put hard time and soul into something if you want to do it right.”

Moss says the style is enjoying resurgence in popularity, and though there are a handful of artists in town who practice traditional style, there wasn’t a shop devoted to it.

With Liberty, he says, the goal is to offer art that’s rooted in the foundations of the style, with a personal touch. Each artist has his own take on the style, incorporating expanded color palettes or borrowed elements of new-school styles to keep things original.

Above all though, Moss says he hopes to give people something they can be proud of for years to come.

“I met a guy recently, who had these old-school tattoos that he got 60 years ago,” says Moss. “They still looked great. That’s what I want to be a part of — giving people something that has deep meaning for them and can still look amazing decades later.”

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