Dub Weir of Phoenix's Divinity Tattoo on Inking His Wife and Surreal Realism

When Dub Weir started tattooing in 2002, his mom wasn't really into it.

"At first, my mother was like, 'What are you doing with your life?' But now she loves it, and she's said that she wants to get a tattoo," Weir says.

To be fair, Weir wasn't a big fan of tattoos when he was growing up either. The tattoo culture of the late 1980s and 1990s just didn't appeal to him.

See also: Byron Winkelman of Gilbert's Black Lotus Tattooers on His Aversion to Portraits and Winning First Place at the Arizona Tattoo Expo

"As a kid, I was never really into tattoos. It was all of that biker bar kind of stuff and that was never really for me," Weir says. "I've always been interested in art, mostly painting and drawing, but then I started seeing really well-done tattoos and thought it might be something I'd be interested in."

In 2002, Divinity Tattoo owner Paolo Acuna was looking for an apprentice, and since he already knew Weir was interested in art, it seemed like a good match.

"Paolo said to bring in my portfolio and we'd see how it goes. Twelve years later, here I am," Weir says. "Paolo was the perfect mentor and I'm very lucky to have apprenticed under him and now work with him. I count my blessings, because it's very rare to be at a shop for so long."

Although Weir has worked in the same shop for his entire tattooing career, he's seen his style develop into a type of realism that you don't find too often.

"I like realism, but surreal stuff. Weird and dark and creepy but not evil. I like to think of it as quirky -- it's not like a lot of blood and gore," Weir says. "Even on the normal stuff, the weird fantasy stuff influences all of it. I used to do a lot of portraits, but now I do more of the weird stuff that I like to do."

When it comes to conventions, Weir primarily attends Hell City and a few others. He hasn't been able to travel overseas for a tattoo expo yet, but (unlike many artists) he's found a way to make a little money at the conventions he does attend.

"I don't always tattoo at the conventions, sometimes I'll do other stuff like the wet paint project at the Hell City show," Weir says. "I've done three conventions in Canada, and I've found that selling my prints can actually pay for the trip on those. I don't know why but Canadians are into the weird stuff I do."

What are some of your tattoos? My right arm is based on Brian Froud's book, Faeries, which I've had in my possession since I was about 4. My left arm is based on an oil painting from Paolo. I went up to him and said I wanted skulls and leaves and stuff and he said he'd just done an oil painting like that. He showed it to me and I told him that it was exactly what I wanted and to put it on me. Also, my first tattoo was this little Boba Fett Mandalorian logo.

What's a memorable tattoo you've done? I'd say when I tattooed my wife at Hell City in 2009 or 2010. It was the first large piece I did on her. It took about seven-and-a-half hours, and she sat through it like a trooper. It really was the first time we'd been together in a different way like that.

What's the most important thing to you about a tattoo? Other than sterilization and all that good stuff, I think it's whether or not I can totally immerse myself in that piece. If I'm not totally into it, then I know it's not going to be as good as it could be. I'll recommend a different artist in the shop if I don't feel it in my blood. I want to be excited to do a piece from the moment I wake up that day.

What do you look for in an artist or a tattoo shop? I really just look for the kind of people I'd like to have tattoo me. Paolo has a similar vision to mine, not the same style but the same vision. His rich style really flows with me, but I'd say everyone in this shop would be who I'd get tattooed by. I really like everyone's art here.

Would you change anything about your tattoos or tattooing if you could? Not my tattoos I have, but I would change that first year of my apprenticeship. I look back at those and I'm like "What was I doing?" I think that's with anything though, painting and drawing and stuff. I love it all, it's a whole other learning experience.

What's one piece of advice you'd give to someone getting their first tattoo? Eat a good meal before getting tattooed. Get a good night's sleep. Bring headphones if you want, or sunglasses if you don't want people to see the faces you make. Bring a book if you can read while getting tattooed. I tried to read The Hobbit while getting tattooed once, but I'm pretty sure I just read the same page about 80 times. I just want people to be able to get comfortable.

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