Winston the Whale

Age: 32

What does he make? Singularly trippy tattoos straight out of an acid trip.

Before there was the psychedelic tattoo artist Winston the Whale, there was the muralist known only as Dave.

A native of Charlotte, N.C., Dave—he refuses to disclose his last name—moved to Portland in 2009 and began painting walls and tagging the streets with hand-drawn stickers of a smiling, salivating cartoon whale. During those formative years, friends began pestering Winston, as he eventually named himself and his logo, for tattoos, despite the fact he had no experience doing them.

(courtesy of Winston the Whale)
(courtesy of Winston the Whale)

"I already had my thing going," he says. In time, however, he gave in and performed his first stick and poke on a close friend. "Then I did it, and immediately got hooked."

Over time, his technique grew more sophisticated. When a customer in Seattle asked for an anaglyph tattoo similar to a red and blue 3D image, others took notice, and his name— Winston the Whale, to be specific—spread through the Pacific Northwest tattoo scene. Three years later, he has his own studio on Northeast Alberta Street, 247,000 Instagram followers and a fully booked calendar of appointments.

(courtesy of Winston the Whale)
(courtesy of Winston the Whale)

Today, Winston The Whale is best known for his hallucinatory designs—bright, vivid colors merge to form butterflies, spacecraft, skulls and more abstract images. Though he's tried his fair share of psychedelics, Winston says mind-altering substances are not the sole inspiration of his work.

"I just really love colors," he says, "and as I've gotten better at using them, then I've been able to turn the style up more and make them a little bit more complex."

FIND IT: @winstonthewhale on Instagram

(courtesy of Winston the Whale)
(courtesy of Winston the Whale)
(courtesy of Winston the Whale)
(courtesy of Winston the Whale)
(courtesy of Winston the Whale)
(courtesy of Winston the Whale)
(courtesy of Winston the Whale)
(courtesy of Winston the Whale)
(courtesy of Winston the Whale)
(courtesy of Winston the Whale)