Bear's Skin Art Tattoo & Piercing Studio
By Gene Kosowan

Nothing Unusual Here

Try to come up with the most unusual idea for a tattoo and where to put it, and chances are, Bear has seen them all. As one of Edmonton’s most experienced tattoo artists, Bear — yes, just Bear — has been inking epidermal creations since the 1970s, so nothing surprises him.

“Unusual is a word that doesn’t apply,” says Bear, whose own store has been around since 1991, the longest-running parlour currently operating in the city. “Artistically, there are a lot of individual expressions that are very particular to each person who gets the tattoo. And placement? Well, there really isn’t an odd placement.”

Fantastic tattoos are really brought about by the composition, the development of the artistic concept and the presentation by the tattoo artist. - Bear, owner.
Bear's Skin Art, Tattoos, Tattoo cover-ups, Piercings
Owner and tattoo artist Bear, hard at work. Photo by Gene Kosowan.

Tattoos Booming

As someone who’s been working in the craft long before tattoos became a fashion statement, Bear has seen a lot of trends come and go. “There was a phase in the tattoo community when it wasn’t socially accepted,” he says. “People who got tattoos were on the fringe of society and they were not looked at as not being normal, so there was a prejudicial viewpoint of those who got tattooed.” Bear credits social media for the latest upsurge in tattoos, which has also enticed more artists to enter the trade and more shops to open.

While growth is good for any industry, Bear says the increased options could be detrimental to the consumer. “We’ve been through this before,” he says. “I think the consumers are more into the mentality that with that many shops around, they can get a tattoo right away. So then there are these spontaneous decisions where they can get a quick tattoo and instant gratification. If the consumers are unhappy, they’ll tell everyone and that shop goes out of business.”

Bear`s Skin Art, Tattoos, Tattoo cover-ups, Piercings
Bear’s Skin Art also facilitates piercings. Photo by Gene Kosowan.

Professional, Clean and Safe

Instant tattoos don’t go over well at Bear’s. A lot of careful planning goes into an indelible work that will be a part of you for life. The laid-back surroundings provide an opportunity for artists to focus on their work as they carefully ink the designs into the skin. Another thing you notice in Bear’s swanky digs is the emphasis on sanitation. Outdoor footwear is not allowed in the space and hand sanitizers are kept very handy. It’s certainly a far cry from the seedy perception of parlours operating in infested quarters.

Bear also chooses his staff carefully. At least two contract workers apprenticed under Bear, so he knows the skill level and quality of their work. “What separates one artist from another are good tattoos versus fantastic tattoos,” says Bear. “Fantastic tattoos are really brought about by the composition, the development of the artistic concept and the presentation by the tattoo artist. And that’s very dependent on the technical expertise of getting the ink into skin, their artistic understanding and awareness of basic artistic principles, the composition of the artistic design that suits the body position and the layout. Those are what set great tattoo artists aside from mediocre ones.”

Bear`s Skin Art, Tattoos, Tattoo cover-ups, Piercings
Bear’s Skin Art has been around since 1991. Photo by Gene Kosowan.
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