SEQUIM — Keith Dulin has traveled up and down the West Coast in pursuit of achieving his dreams as a tattoo artist. While he has been tattooing professionally for five years, his experience as an artist has been developing since he was a teen.
Dulin’s journey into the tattoo industry was not an easy road, but now he sits at a desk in his tattoo shop, Black Reign Tattoo at 150 S. Fifth Ave., with a half-drawn sketch sitting underneath his arm as he talks about his new business.
“I’ve had a vision with what I wanted to do with my career and my passion for it,” Dulin said.
“I knew eventually one day this was going to have to happen or I wasn’t going to feel like I was making progress.”
Dulin opened the doors of his shop Nov. 11 but held an official grand opening Nov. 25. His shop is open from noon to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.
Before he opened his tattoo shop in Sequim, Dulin worked at Dermawerx Tattoo in Silverdale for two years and in Port Angeles before that. He grew up moving around different parts of California and moved to Sequim in 2002.
Dulin first showed interest in becoming a tattoo artist in high school and said he has always been drawing and doodling since he was a child. His grandfather and his uncle both were professional artists and he too wanted to become a professional artist.
“Tattooing in itself is a highly personal, expressive art form,” Dulin said.
“The tattoo community is going to be just as diverse as artists are in the real world,” he said.
“It’s fantastic to be a part of that.”
When it comes to making a name for yourself in the tattoo industry, Dulin said it’s not an easy task.
An apprenticeship is how tattoo artists get started, but finding an artist that wants to take on an apprentice happens seldom.
“It’s really cut-throat,” Dulin said. “Landing an apprenticeship is difficult.”
“I think a lot of it really is you can’t just go into someone’s shop expecting to teach you a trade without giving them any kind of commitment.”
When he was in high school, Dulin said he would show up at a tattoo shop near his school regularly so he could ask the artist how he got started in the tattoo world.
“I’d go in there and bug this guy every day that I could,” Dulin said.
Eventually, Dulin said the artist helped him expand his grasp on how to approach getting into the industry and gave him his first tattoo at 18.
Dulin would later take several apprenticeships on top of working full-time. He said apprenticeships demand a lot of time and commitment and one of his former mentors in California required him to be at the tattoo shop every day regardless of his job and social obligations.
“It’s not a career, it’s an obsession,” Dulin said.
“You dedicate your entire life to it.”
Dulin said he finally took the leap to start his own business after several years of apprenticeships and working as a professional tattoo artist. He is excited to bring his artistry to the Sequim area.
“I definitely wanted to put that foot forward and start marketing myself more,” Dulin said.
“I think the goal for most tattoo artists is opening their own shop or finding a good place to work,” he said.
“I think that’s one of the harder things for most artists is finding where they belong.”
When it comes to Dulin’s tattoo work, he said his art has strong roots in traditional styles with bold lines and bright color but he also integrates Japanese tattoo styles into his designs and conceptual work.
“I want to say I’m trying to develop more conceptual design elements that Japanese tattooing brings to the table in the way they like to make their design layouts,” he said.
“The Japanese approach paints more of a scene; it’s a mural, it’s not just a tattoo.”
Dulin said his starting shop minimum is $70 per hour and $100 per hour for bigger pieces such as sleeves. He said he always tries to give his clients a ballpark estimate and takes the time to meet his clients face to face to make sure he knows exactly what they want.
“The first time you’re setting up an appointment with someone, go see them,” Dulin said.
“You want that face-to-face consultation to really feel things out,” he said.
“What you’re describing and what I’m seeing in my head are probably two very different things.”
He also can do cover-up pieces and touch-ups for clients who want those services.
Dulin said he has brought over many clients from his work in Silverdale and is excited to meet new clients as well. He hopes he can provide his artistic expertise to customers in the Sequim area and provide a service to the community.
“At the end of the day, we’re still a service industry,” Dulin said.
“I’m going to do the best job that I can for you and give you exactly what you’re looking for,” he said.
Dulin said he likes to schedule price quotes and consultations in person, but he has multiple avenues of communication if a client wants to contact him: via phone at 360-477-4370, Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Black Reign tattoo/ or on his website at BlackReignTattoo.com.
Erin Hawkins is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.