In another life (or what seems to be), I was a publicist of Keyano Theatre in Fort McMurray and the volunteer president of an organization that produced the interPLAY Festival. It was the early 2000s, when the northern oil sands capital was booming, and people with big dreams were arriving from around the world.

One of the young creators I met at that time was Chris Rhyason, a talented musician and artist. He was a student at Keyano College and the leader of a band (Unicyclone) that I hired multiple times to play at our festival. Eventually, Chris moved on to pursue his education and we lost touch until Facebook arrived and we became connected to each other's lives in this virtual realm. We reconnected in person yesterday for the first time in almost 20 years.

Chris runs a successful tattoo shop called The Sterling Skull Studio in downtown Grande Prairie. We met there yesterday for a wonderful visit and tour. Scattered throughout are a stunning array of unique drawings and designs. Chris creates everything he does by hand and out of his mind. He also keeps meticulous records of each of his projects. In one file, pulled randomly, he finds session notes, reference photos, and various sketches that were done leading up to the final design that was tattooed on the client. 

I will confess that I don't know the tattoo world at all. I don't have one, and don't see the day that I will. But I have enormous respect for these artists who create body art. My sense is that some practitioners are more technicians: able to find a cool design in a catalogue or Internet and do the work to put it on a client. Others are artists: able to translate a concept or wish into a visual idea that is absolutely unique and one-of-a-kind.
Chris is a highly respected and renowned tattoo artist in the second camp. His artistic voice is completely unique and, frankly, transferable. His drawings and stories could easily find their way into a graphic novel. His illustrations can be found in posters and potentially in magazines, promotions, advertisements and elsewhere. 

While we talked, I was able to connect with Boogie, the studio's latest recruit. Check out his impressive work in the video above. 



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