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Tattooing, repainting history, and reviving the Renaissance

By J.A. HaglJanuary 18, 2017

JD Moore 4
JD Moore 4 JD Moore

For most of his life, art was just a passion. It was on the back burner to being a Marine. But life happens and he found a different path. He started a tattoo apprenticeship and kept up his fine art on the side. Now he's commissioning paintings, installations, and tattoos.

Meet JD Moore— a tattoo artist, oil painter, and photographer trying to repaint history.

J: How would you define your style of art?

JD: As far as fine art goes, I’m trying to incorporate complexity. I like realism, which relies on intricate details. I’m focusing a lot on portraiture similar to the renaissance’s style of art. Nothing that’s abstract that would go over people’s heads. I would say something that shows a level of technical execution with some substance.

J: How would you describe your tattoo art?

JD: It’s similar. Tattooing and fine art are the same in the commission process. I’m taking other people’s ideas so I don’t have on a specific thing I’m doing every day.

J: Why did you decide to get into tattooing?

JD:  I thought I was going to be in the Marines. The timing just wasn’t right. It was discouraging and I was trying to just push through. At the same time I was working at Jason’s Deli with a classmate. He was talking about his dad being a tattoo artist. It peaked my interest. I asked how do you start learning how to do this. He said you have to go through an apprenticeship and he asked his dad if he needed one. I was just curious but he needed an apprentice. I started a month later. That was back in 2012.

J: What’s the best tattoo you’ve ever done?

JD: I recently did a dog portrait. For the first time, I incorporated my painting techniques in a tattoo.

JD Moore
JD Moore JD Moore

J: Where do you draw inspiration for your art?

JD: I want to revive the Renaissance era of painting. Michelangelo, Raphael— the baroque painting is where I pull a lot of my inspiration from. I want every little detail to have meaning. On the surface, they’re just nice looking pictures, but the goal is to depict people that aren’t represented in this type of manner. I feel like there’s a large section of the world that missed out.

J: Why not minimalism?

JD: I’m not personally drawn to it. It has its place. Whenever I take a picture of somebody, what’ve I been trained to do as a tattoo artist, is to see all of the detail. I was taught not to leave out detail because that’s what makes a good tattoo. I think that’s just carried over into the artwork. It’s what I am comfortable with and it more easily shows the level of difficulty. Whenever you have a minimalist artwork there is a lot of skill, but it can often be overlooked because it looks so simple.

J: Why not pop art?

JD: I feel like pop art is a lot like other pop art.  Popular things are good for a short window of time. When you do something so relevant that only makes sense with the current time, it can be pleasing to the eye but I don’t feel like it has the ability to last.

J: Who is your favorite artist?

JD: It was Chuck Close. More recently, it’s been the Renaissance artists. I don’t feel like that’s going to be that way for very long based on what I am learning.

J: What things make you think you’re going to change?

JD: The word renaissance means to be reborn or reawaken. Before, Europe was in the Dark Ages. One the land and the people were living on it were uncivilized. That’s was happening in the specific piece of the world, what’s often not talking about is what’s happening everywhere else in the world. People of color were dominate — people like the Moors. Then wars were happening between Africa and countries north of the Mediterranean. Eventually, those ruling powers were overthrown, ushering in that period of time we know as the Renaissance. Artists like Michelangelo were basically paid to rewrite history through art. One of his most popular pieces, the ceiling of the Sistine chapel, depicts a series of events from the Bible. All of those people are painted as European. My renaissance heroes like Michelangelo created these masterpieces, but from my point of view is a completely unfair thing to have that happen for the majority of people on this earth. It doesn’t really represent history in an accurate way. I want to reverse that somehow in my artwork. I guess that's where it's all rooted.

JD Moore 2
JD Moore 2JD Moore

J: What parts of your cultural perspective is embedded in your art?

JD: This mandala is from a stained glass window from my church. These are books given to me and I’ve read a couple of these. These are actual people I met and who I know. I want to have that connection with the majority of my pieces.

J: How much does you religious upbringing influence your artwork?

JD: It doesn’t make an appearance that often. Most of my artwork is practice on technique. I have pieces that are compositionally interesting but without any significance.

J: What music do you listen to?

JD: When I am painting, it depends on the mood of the painting. I feel that everything has a vibrational significance. So if I’m listening to something I will probably express that into the artwork. 

J: What do you read? Or do you read?

JD: I’m actually trying to build a library. I have the autobiography of Malcolm X, the Bible, Paulo Quantos the Alchemist and 48 Laws of Power. I’ve taken a break from those books to read On the Natural Varieties of Mankind.

J: Do you develop the story before you start painting or while you paint?

JD: A lot of the times it happens on the canvas. I’ll start off with an initial concept. As I get into the artwork I learn and discover what I am doing as I am doing it.

J: Stylistically do you see yourself changing?

JD: Possibly. I can’t really say what’s going to happen to my artwork in the next five years but it has the ability to evolve.

J: Where do you see yourself in five years?

JD: I’ll still be creating artwork. I maybe still tattooing— more so just things I want to be doing. I would like to have some solo exhibitions under my belt.  Maybe still be based in Dallas, but have the ability to travel to painting or even tattoo.

J: So is commercial art something you would be interested?

JD: As long as it falls within my interests.

JD Moore 3
JD Moore 3JD Moore

J: Is your art more intellectual or emotional?

JD: More intellectual. I want to evoke emotion in my art, but it’s not necessarily mine. I want emotion that’s in line with the story.

J: Someone says “I want a JD Moore painting,” how does that process work?

JD: It can go either of two ways. Most of the time it’s someone asking me for something specific — like a portrait of my wife or something to put in my living room. We’ll collaborate on size, color ,and style. Then I’ll combine these things and fill in the blanks based on my own interpretations.  Or I’ll just do something completely out of my mind.

J: How much does a JD Moore piece cost?

JD: That’s something I struggle with. For me, it’s always been for fun but now it becoming a business. I’ve been working with some consultants who are upping my value.

J: Is there anything you wish I had asked you?

JD: It’s coming to fruition, but I plan on putting together a tabletop magazine of artwork and explanation of all the references. Maybe as a material for a class I teach. I feel like I have a responsibility to educate. I’ve stumbled across all this information. I want to continue to pass down knowledge for reasons of prosperity in knowledge, self-worth, and ownership. Creating art can do that.

Editor's note: This interview has been condensed for clarity and length.