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Russell Van Schaick has come a long way from doodling at the kitchen table in his childhood home. Once a musician and always with an appreciation for art, he wanted to take his talent to a more personal level. Being a tattoo artist meant he could meet new people, hear their stories and change lives through his work. After an apprenticeship and years of experience, he joined Hart & Huntington where he became instantly inspired by the talent of his well-known coworkers. But Russell isn’t the kind of guy to sit still in his career.

Lately, the shop’s been lighting up with smiles because Russell brought a style to Hart & Huntington that clients are going crazy for – watercolor. The watercolor tattoo technique brings the art of ink to an entirely new level. And even after you see it, it’s still hard to believe it’s really a tattoo.

Taking on the watercolor style was a combination of fascination with painter Agnes Cecile and his relentless dedication to grow and refine his craft.

Russell studied her portrait work online and the amount of detail characteristic of her style.

Think back to art class, dipping your plastic-handled brush in water, then in paint, allowing it to bleed and drip on paper, some strokes more vibrant than others. Now imagine that in a tattoo. Russell studies the way watercolor paint reacts on paper to create the right color saturation, the right softness and the right blend so that the tattoo literally looks painted on. The finished piece is as far from what you’d commonly think of as a tattoo, yet as personal and profound as the story that inspired it.

Russell isn’t looking at your tattoo when he’s finished. After all, he stared at it the whole time you were in his chair. He’s looking at your face. Reactions are the reason he does what he does. Seeing a client smile as they see their story brought to life by his own hand is what it’s all about.

Some of Russell’s favorite watercolor tattoos:

So now you’ve got the backstory, ready to get some watercolor? Russell doesn’t simply grab the colors and jump. Your story, the flow of your body and your personal style all play their part in creating the piece. He begins with an outline, using it as the anchor for the tattoo. He favors simplicity and the power of negative space. He believes that saturation makes a great watercolor tattoo, blurring and softening the edges to create the effect. And of course, the ultimate reward is the look on your face when he’s finished.