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Volume 69, Issue 94, Thursday, February 19, 2004

Arts & Entertainment

Drawing on skin, artist finds his way

Lack of ego, respect for others help Cougar succeed even without college diploma

On the scenes

Dusti Rhodes

Matt "Wojo" Wojociechowski always wanted to draw. He came to UH seeking an art degree, but dropped out in the early 1990s with only 12 hours left to finish. It's not that he wasn't motivated or that he was lazy. He was simply doing fine without it. 

As an artist, he was trying to master the craft and being in school was taking up the time he wanted to devote to his work.

These days, nearly anyone can buy Wojo's art, but once they do, they can't sell or trade it. Once they have chosen a place to display it, they can't move it. The purchase is more or less permanent and to get rid of it will probably cost more than what was paid to obtain it.

Those who choose to buy Wojo's art may spend years or just seconds to make a decision. The piece may be Wojo's own creation, something the buyer saw somewhere or even the buyers' own illustration they want Wojo to transfer -- onto their skin.

Wojo is a local tattoo artist who said that his love for his art rests in his ability to sell his art directly to his audiences.

"It's art for the common man," Wojo said.

Wojo said that unlike painters, his art is not restricted to houses or galleries of those rich enough to purchase it. Once he finishes his work almost anyone can view it, depending on the location.

Wojo's problem with his art lies in the hands of fellow tattoo artists who forget what came before them. 

"There is no respect for history," said Wojo, adding that today, because of its popularity, the business is being stabilized with tattoo shops appearing on every corner, some with discounts and "ladies free" type of deals.

Wojo adds that much of this has to do with artists who are to willing to teach others.

"Just because (a tattoo artist) will teach you, doesn't mean they will teach you anything," said Wojo, explaining how many people there are who think they know enough to teach others but really don't know enough at all.

"The people who are good won't teach you. In a sense, we are deleting our own gene pool," Wojo said.

Wojo also sees an overabundance of overrated talent, creating an invasion of the pretentiousness into tattoo shops worldwide. Wojo talked about the attitude of some artists who think they are too good to give mediocre or overdone tattoos.

"We are craftsmen; we do what we are asked. This snobbery like 'I'm too good to do a Tasmanian Devil' -- It would be like a mechanic saying 'I'm to good for an oil change,'" Wojo said.

Wojo has a great deal of respect for what he does and for those who enjoy his work. He would just as soon strike up a conversation about current events and his political views as he would his tattoo history and skills.

He is the kind of guy someone would want to have tattoo them because his confidence is presented with a cool demeanor and welcoming personality. Nothing is shrouded in ego or rudeness; patrons who come into his shop can simply lean over the counter and ask him questions even while he is at work.

His has no preferred atmosphere and is comfortable in the middle of a busy shop or one that is only filled with music. Friday night, it was The Slackers.

Wojo's work has appeared in every major tattoo magazine, including Tattoo Magazine, Tattoo Planet, Tattoo Weir, a German magazine, and Skin and Ink.

Wojo has traveled across the world and even tattooed famous bodies such as NOFX's Eric Melvin.

"Everything I wanted out of art, I have pretty much gotten out of tattooing -- respect of my peers, getting to travel, making a living off of art. All my high school teachers were wrong," said Wojo, whose teachers always told him his chosen art would never take him anywhere.

"Basically everything I got in trouble for in high school I make a living off of now," Wojo said. "There are more ways than people can imagine to do something that (they) love or be artistic and be able to make a life out of it."

Rhodes writes a weekly column on local arts & entertainment. 
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