Skin Deep Tattoo is one of Maui’s oldest tattoo shops. If you’ve been on the island at any time during the last 31 years, you probably already know it’s the shop across the street from the Banyan Tree in Lahaina. Spike Fuqua has been a tattoo artist there for over a decade. Recently I had a chance to talk to the outspoken artist, in Skin Deep’s air-conditioned Front Street parlor.
MAUI TIME WEEKLY: What made you decide to be a tattoo artist?
SPIKE FUQUA: It just looked like something I could do. I’ve always drawn, and I’ve always liked tattoos. Plus I was sick of schlepping t-shirt artwork all over the island so this was perfect.
How long have you been doing this, and have you always worked at Skin Deep?
Twelve years now. I got my first tattoo here. Oh yeah, I’m never leaving. Yeah, I got my first [tattoo] and my last one right here. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be that old guy they prop up in the corner doing novelty stuff.
Where are you from originally?
Eugene, Oregon, but I grew up in the Red Hills of Dundee, up in the wine country actually. That’s where I spent most of my time growing up.
Did you or do you now, paint or draw much?
Yup. I started out painting windows as a kid, you know, like candy canes and Christmas shit. Basic window stuff is what I started doing, then some t-shirt design and anything anyone wanted drawn, from skateboards to surfboards to whatever. Now I’m doing a lot of acrylics painting, I’m just trying to branch out. Can’t tattoo forever, I want to put a beret on and sit at home and paint.
How would you describe your style?
Most of my stuff is real colorful and cartoonie. I’d say it’s vivid, whimsical—it’s like a cross between, say, Peter Max and Hanna-Barbara cartoons. Colorful but not pretentious, you know, I hate pretentious artists. I’ll even go next door here and look at that art and think, “$1,200–you gotta be fucking kidding me, right?” So a lot of my stuff is just simple and colorful. It’s just pop art. I have a hard time pricing my stuff, but I think it’s a lot better than some of the crap I see around here.
What’s your favorite piece you’ve done on someone?
There’s a bunch of good pieces. Favorite, I don’t know. There’s this Iron Man here in the front of my [portfolio] book—that thing kicks ass. There’s the big Rat Fink thing I did for a buddy, it’s got my name on there twice—that guy’s my bitch for life. Anything I don’t fuck up and I get paid for is a good tattoo.
What’s your least favorite piece?
I don’t have a least favorite piece but, like, I hate doing… I’m just at the point where I don’t want to be challenged. I want to be the guy that does the dolphin on the ankle. You have these guys who want to do these big pieces, but for me A.D.D. kicks in, in about an hour. If the tattoo isn’t over in two or three hours, I’m over it. More favorite stuff, too, is the little tourist stuff, honestly, ‘cause it’s just badda-bing. You know, a hundred bucks, a hundred bucks, next. I’ve already filled my [portfolio] book up, I just want to get out of here at the end of the day and go play my X-Box live.
That kind of answers my next question, which was, how do you feel about doing dolphins and such?
I love it. Dolphins, hibiscus, geckos—all day. Tikis, palm trees—love it. I’ll never get tired of doing that stuff. Whales, turtles, any marine life.
Have you ever had to talk anybody out of a tattoo?
You mean subject matter? Yeah, all the time, I’ll just tell them no. But you have to be diplomatic, you have to say things like, “I’ll interpret what you mean by doing this.” I always say no to barbed wire, unless they can prove to me they’re a rancher. Also, it’s hard for me to do traditional Polynesian pieces on some dickhead from let’s say, Nebraska. Now granted they probably see it done on the Discovery channel and think it’s cool, but that makes as much sense as some Samoan guy getting a tattoo of an ear of corn.
If you had to pick one subject matter to do for the rest of your career what would it be?
The hibiscus, the size of a half-dollar coin. That’s it right there.
Skin Deep Tattoo is located at 626 Front St., Lahaina, 661-8531. MTW