He’s got grit. The kind of grit that comes with hard won experience. Do you know Dave Sanders, the face behind Renegade Tattoo? You know, the shop at 183 Ottawa Street North dolling out ever-evolving artistic window displays and storefront live performances from acts like The Vaudvillian? Well, he started tattooing when he was only 16. “I pieced together a Walkman motor, a Bic pen and a fork to make my first machine,” he bemused. “It was a thing from nightmares! But, I built my professional life out of that awful Walkman motor contraption.”
Dave creates original, detailed and compelling pieces on skin, but he’s also sold over 250 canvas paintings. With experience using airbrush and other techniques, anyone coming to see him for a consultation is guaranteed to get something original and versatile for their bod. To boot, he’s had the privilege of seeing how his work has “aged” over the span of his 22 year career. “I’m always impressed with how well the ink I use holds and lasts.”
This is important, because clients don’t want to wake up one day with a tattoo that looks horrible. Fiercely protective of the need for quality in tattoo work, he does elaborate cover ups for clients, some of them who can be heard referring to Dave as the ‘cover up King’. “It’s a lot harder than starting with fresh skin,” he explained. “When I pull off a terrific cover up, or hear a client has travelled across the country to get me to do a cover up, I get an amazing feeling. I get a chance to remove someone else’s regret.”
While he prefers to train staff personally, sometimes Dave will make an exception to bring someone special to the shop. This summer, he plans to host a tremendous artist from Malaysia, Eric Keuh, for one of the rare guest appearances he will bring to Ottawa Street.
The commitment behind the shop is evident, and Dave has become a regular sight, sitting on his steps, sketching in the daytime. Getting Renegade Tattoo up and going wasn’t always smooth sailing, though. “I cannot begin to describe the horrors of moving to Hamilton with a small business,” he sighs… But we called foul, because you can tell that wasn’t enough to stop him. Probably not even close. Dave’s last shops hailed from Petawawa and St Catharines, and he made the jump to Hamilton for the birth of his daughter. She’s not quite old enough for a tattoo from Dad (a bit of an understatement), but when she is, she’ll be getting a piece at the hands of an artist who earned his skill out of tenacity and resolve.
[Photo cred Kerry’s Party For Less – just across the street]
183 Ottawa Street North