Under the surface
Tattoo artist Chris Danley talks firefighting, tattoo TV shows and people he refuses to ink up
Sacramento, CA 95814
A weathered pirate ship braves the acrylic waters of a hand-painted sea on the busy walls of Forever Tattoo in Midtown. The door is wide open, welcoming potential customers walking down 16th Street. Tattoo artist Chris Danley sits at his station as the ambience of buzzing needles and soulful sounds of blues music fills the shop. He dips the tip of his machine into red ink and begins to shade the petals of several flowers etched on his living canvas—the shoulder blade of Erica Lopez.
Why did you get into tattooing? How did you end up at Forever Tattoo?
I got into tattooing, for the love of tattooing. I just didn’t want to do anything else; I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I used to be a firefighter; I got a promotion and I quit about two weeks later. I had a really bad call one day on a shift and I was like, ‘All right, I’m going to follow my dreams; fuck it.’ … I started off as a shop boy, and I worked for free for a few months, every day. That was in San Francisco; I lived in my truck across the street and worked from 12 [p.m.] to 12 [a.m.] off Geary. Then I get a phone call one day from my two best friends to build this shop here, so I came up here … and here we are today.
How long have you been tattooing, and have you always tattooed in Sacramento?
I’ve been tattooing for eight years. I’ve been in Sacramento pretty much my whole life, but being as fortunate as I have been in this industry, I’ve been able to travel all over the world. In four weeks, I go to Greece to tattoo. I got a free invite to go over there to a convention.
What style of tattoos do you enjoy working with the most?
I love doing nice tattoos. I really like doing black and gray, I like doing traditional. If the person just gives me the artistic freedom to just make it look cool and just do my thing, then I don’t care what it is. If I could do anything, it would be black-and-gray traditional.
What are you looking for in a good customer as a tattoo artist?
Someone that’s willing to compromise their ideas sometimes and take care of the tattoo and trust my interest. I’m not going to put anything on them that I know is going to look like shit in a few years. People really need to do a little more research in our artists … not coming by and just doing a price check.
How do you feel about TV shows based around the tattoo industry?
People assume that anything’s possible, especially from these TV shows, that it’s done in 20 minutes and it doesn’t cost much and they can make anything happen. A lot of these shows on TV, they’re doing shit that you’re not supposed to, that I was taught not to.
Have you ever talked anyone out of getting a tattoo?
Seventeen, wants her neck tattooed—ain’t happenin’. Eighteen, wants his forearm tattooed—ain’t happenin’—he didn’t have any tattoos. People need to realize that getting tattooed is what people are going to look at and judge you, so it has to fit your character.
Are there any events coming up soon that you are participating in?
All American Tattoo Festival here in Sacramento that we help put on. We have the most amazing artists from all over the world come, and it’s a full-on, amazing tattoo-exposition-art show. Cats from Japan, New Zealand, Australia to all over Europe, the most amazing artists from all over are going to be there, and if you want to get some real culture in your tattoos, then that’s the place you need to be.