OWNER, CITRUS CITY TATTOO
TATTOO ARTIST, TATTOO TEACHER, TATTOO STUDENT
Keith established Citrus City (look to his town’s name for inspiration) in 2006, then moved it to its present, larger location in 2010. He lives with his wife, Sara, and daughter in Orangeville.
So have you always been a doodler, a hands-on guy?
I suppose, yes… I was always drawing and painting as far as I can remember. My one uncle, he’s a biker, and I used to just draw a lot of tattoos for him and his friends, and then they’d get them done and they wouldn’t be done as good as my drawing… so I figured I might as well get paid to do it.
Did your uncle see your drawings and go, hey you know what? Make me this.
Did you ever do him?
Yep. Some skulls and some more skulls.
I like on your website, you have, “No pipes, no bongs, no bullshit.”
Basically, the tattoo industry now has gotten watered down and saturated, with TV shows and the like. A lot of the shops nowadays are owned by entrepreneurs, not artists. They sell bongs and drug paraphernalia, vape sticks and clothes and piercings and everything else… but we are strictly a tattoo shop. We focus on tattooing, that’s it. We don’t divide our attention on 20 different things. It should be focused on artwork and tattooing.
Our tag line for Headwaters is “Where Ontario gets real,” and that’s a part of that. When I was a kid and you saw a guy with a tattoos you crossed the other side of the street you know what I mean?
Nowadays it’s just a fashion statement. Everybody’s got them, everyone wants to look like The Rock, everybody wants to have the same thing as Miley Cyrus or Rihanna or whatever. It’s all fads, but there still is a lot of custom good artwork being done as well.
So is it the artwork that differentiates the real? Tell me how you separate the trendy from the real thing.
We try and educate our clients. If they come in with an idea that’s a Pinterest fad or something, we’re pretty blatant and forward with people: we do custom, one-of-a-kind artwork. We try and educate people as nicely as possible without offending them, and try to steer people in the direction of more custom original work.
How about your own style?
I can pretty much tattoo everything, from writing to realist portraits of animals, to graphic stuff. Personally I do a lot of skull work, skulls and biomech, which is organic looking. My stuff has a lot of… strangeness.
Are you interested in what lies underneath?
Not so much. It’s just the design aspect. I don’t know how to explain!
What are people looking for these days?
Well, old-school-looking stuff is coming back again. Just like everything else, what goes around. Everybody likes old-school looking stuff, some people like stuff that’s realistic and full colour. I’m kind of lucky that I can pretty much handle any style.
Often a tattoo is inspired by the death of a loved one, or a pivotal experience…
There’s a lot of people with stories, there’s a lot of people with their Doctor Phil moments… and then there’s a lot of people who just want cool imagery. Some people want them to mean things, and other people just want memes.
You mean, flavour-of-the-month kind of things? Do you ever send somebody home, and say, I want you to really think about this?
Oh yeah. I’ll tell people straight out, I don’t think this is a good idea, or I don’t think it’s going to look good. At the end of the day, they’re the one who has to wear it, so sometimes you’ve got to give them what they want, and then other times I can just say no I’m not into doing that, and I don’t do it.
Because you’ve got to be really happy with it?
The charity side of things is a tradition for you. Your annual show, where artists interpret a theme, is called… Dead Things?
Yes, it’s it’s always the first Saturday in November and it’s our 7th year this year. We’re doing turtle shells this year. Tattoo shops used to have a lot more art shows, but it’s been dwindling. Our show’s now the longest-running art show in the tattoo industry. We started doing it with real skulls, and the first year that we did it our dog died, so my wife decided to give all the money to the OSPCA. We did that for the first six years, I think we gave them just over $30,000. And then last year we decided to change it up. We decided to give it to the Hospice Dufferin group last year. They’re a local organization, not government funded, and they basically help people deal with death situations, palliative care.
The charity must be blown away. Do you challenge yourselves to top it every year?
Last year we did eight grand for them. This year maybe 10… that’s the hope, anyway.
I always wanted to ask a tattoo artist this: who does you?
I’ve got work on me from over 40 artists from all over, coast to coast. Usually all my buddies that I’ve worked with, and people that I look up to and want to learn from.
So is it an honour when you ask somebody to tattoo you?
Yes, it really is.