Most tattoo artists gravitate towards a style that is well known and typically popular. From the classic American Traditional to newer styles like Watercolor, these existing genres are the expected responses when asking an artist their preferred art styles. However, this is not always the case, as shown by Iron Quill co-owner Travis Browning and his dedication to a style called Art Nouveau.
Art Nouveau is a grand yet elegant style of art that has manifested itself in a variety of forms, from
architecture to tattooing. Browning credits the origin of this art style to the 19th century artist Alphonse Mucha, saying he first came across the art style around a decade ago. Browning has been tattooing for 13 years and, before he decided to specialize his craft with the Art Nouveau style, he amassed an impressive portfolio composed of vibrant and often large pieces that even dip into a goofy realm of style. Browning and I talked about one of these fun pieces I refer to as "Ninja Hot Dog." Though he really enjoys creating those types of pieces, Browning said, "There is not enough demand for me to be doing that only as a genre."
As we shifted the conversation back to Art Nouveau, we discussed the process of growing into this specific art style and what steps were taken to amass potential clientele. For the year that Browning has been trying to grow into an Art Nouveau exclusive tattooist, he first drew the line in the sand by only accepting larger pieces. He noted that larger pieces give him "the freedom to do more, because the detailing in tattooing is the most limited thing, and larger pieces give me a better pace for prep work." Browning also utilized social media outlets — notably Pinterest — and slowly took down photos of his pieces that he no longer wanted to make.
Browning describes Art Nouveau's line work as using muted and very flat colors. He passionately emphasized that "One of the words that describes the lines is just elegance, nothing really hard with it. There are no right angles and not any pointiness. It's very flowy, and one of the weird ways I describe it is the smell of a pie in a cartoon." Feminine centerpieces and nature-inspired backgrounds also characterize the style. When asked if he felt any pride for honoring this artist, Browning agreed, because "It's nice to help [Mucha’s] popularity, because it's something that is beautiful, that is really hidden. I feel that I am putting something out there that the next person is not. It feels good to know you are putting out quality work and objectively something everyone finds as a quality piece. It feels good." The last question I had for Browning was whether there were any messages he would like to pass on to readers. He mentioned that there are several other artists within Iron Quill that are also specializing their tattooing in newer, more unique styles. He mentioned thoughtfully that "It's kind of weird to be at a point where I'm rejecting really good ideas that aren't quite a perfect fit for me because I know someone else will be more passionate about it. But, part of it is the demand for what I'm doing has been more than I can keep up with for a few years now, so if I don't pass stuff I'm not passionate with, that becomes my work."