Damon Conklin, tattoo artist and owner of Capitol Hill’s SuperGenius ink shop, is a big guy with an afro, gold hoop earrings dangling from both ears, body art spiraling down his arms and peeking out from his shirt collar — his favorite thing to draw?
“Flowers,” he says without hesitation, “I never get tired of flowers.”
Although he says his look still gets him checked for stealing in grocery stores, Conklin is a long-time professional artist. Before his 15-year-long and counting career as a highly renowned tattoo artist, Conklin says he acquired his steady hand as a cartographer in the army, and later worked as a 3-D animator and video game designer for about 4 years.
There was only one problem. “I don’t really like video games,” Conklin said.
Conklin discovered a new art when he got his first tattoo at age 26 after struggling with alcoholism and homelessness.
“Sometimes in life you do something, there’s just a prevailing feeling that… this is where I’m supposed to be,” he said. “I’ve always worked more with my heart than my mind.”
It seems as though Conklin’s heart is making good decisions, for over the past few years he has risen in notoriety. The man is booked for tattoo appointments until September. Conklin advises those wanting a small tattoo not to wait 4 to 5 months for him to do it. “If you want something small, there’s no reason to wait for me to do it, just find a guy that’s good. If you want something big, if you’re gonna spend a lot, then find someone you get along with – at least someone you don’t hate.”
Conklin also founded the Washington State Artists Board Association (WSABA) and the annual Seattle Tattoo Convention in 2001. About the expo, Conklin said, “I wanted to show my friends around the world how cool Seattle was. I really love our city.”
Conklin’s participation in conventions and contests have earned both him and SuperGenius numerous awards over the past 10 years. His favorite award was the “Best Back Piece” title he received at the year 2000 InkSlingers Ball in Hollywood, a contest he remembers being highly competitive. The prize-winning piece was a rendering of what he calls “a temple of debauchery,” a tattoo of all things sex and sin covering a man’s entire back.
Despite the subject matter of some of his work, Conklin is actually a zealous Christian.
“I’m a weird God guy,” he jokes, “I believe God changed my heart.”
Conklin says that his faith affects his art “big time.” “I look at the world as a bunch of art lessons, intentionally designed, I’ve become more interested in nature,” Conklin said.
He also credits God for the changes in his art, describing his personal growth “from space strippers to flowers,” as also a way to explain his matured appreciation of women.
“I have grown from a person who viewed women as sex objects to a person who loves the womanly, girly things about women,” he says.
Conklin hosts a Bible study every Wednesday after the shop closes from 10pm to midnight in the SuperGenius shop.
“We’re the cussingest Bible study in the world,” he laughs, “You won’t hear more F bombs in a Bible study than you will here!”
With his great success in his career, Conklin believes that his faith has helped him stay humble. “I’m spoiled and I’m aware of it. When people ask me what I do, I tell them that I get paid way too much for people who wait way too long, to draw on them.”
As for the future, word is that some change is in store for SuperGenius. Here’s what their Twitter account had to say about it:
The remodel has begun!!! Gettin really excited to see it through!! The shop is gonna be awesome when it’s done!!
SuperGenius Tattoo Shop is located at 1017 E. Pike.