Will Chils. The New 'Chill'.
My journey began in the slums of the Bronx. The year is 1994. I was born into a torn apart family. My parents being separated for as long as I could remember, I honestly couldn’t tell you what having a normal family is like. It was just me and my loving, caring, over religious, single mother. Things weren’t easy. From worn down New York City Apartments to trashy homeless shelters. I did it all. Come to think of it, some of my earliest childhood memories are of being homeless. In the words of James Hatfield “where I lay my head is home” was the motto I lived by as a child.
I moved around a lot as a kid. I’m also not exaggerating when I say I switched schools a lot. I think in total, I’ve been to 11 different schools. I always felt so out of place as a kid, so I escaped the daily struggles of fitting in by drawing. Being able to draw was probably the most important thing to me as a kid. I loved it so much because it was the only thing in life I knew would always truly be mine. My hands, my creativity, my imagination. While there were some kids who grew up with the finer things, I had nothing but a notebook and a pen by my side. Though simple, it made me happy.
It makes me even happier that all these years later I’m now able to draw on people every day of my life and get paid for it. But it wasn’t easy getting here. I started tattooing at the age of 16. Using myself as a test dummy the first time I ever tried tattooing taught me a valuable lesson. Don’t fuck up! I got my 1st apprenticeship by a local New Haven tattoo artist when I was in high school. I learned the basics there. When I graduated high school and left for college in Manchester, New Hampshire that’s when things got interesting. From tattooing in tiny dorm rooms to tattooing in people’s kitchens. I tattooed wherever, whenever I could. I was far from being a talented scratcher, let alone a tattoo artist. The underground scene is where I was at, but I had a vision of one day becoming a great tattoo artist.
Soon after I left college I returned to New Haven. I returned with hopes of establishing myself as a tattoo artist at one of the local shops. I compiled a portfolio of whatever drawings and shitty tattoos I’ve done and went off on my journey. The search was tough. Nobody saw the need for a fresh out of college scratcher with aspirations. It was bullshit, I surely thought. I soon lost hope and told myself the inevitable but obvious. I told myself to “wake the fuck up and do something with your life”. So I did.
I started working with animals at a veterinary hospital and loved it. Worked my way up from the Kennels to Veterinary Tech Assistant in under a year. Never in my fucking dreams would I have thought that I’d be working in the medical field with animals. Yet there was. I was just beginning to accept the fact that this was my career now. I was beginning to get my shit together. Soon after working at the veterinary hospital, I got a job offer from a wildlife specialist agency in Miami Beach. So I dropped everything in Connecticut and moved down there.
It was there, where my father also lived. I figured it was never too late to salvage a relationship with my own father. After six months of living and working in Miami I had still not adjusted to the area. I knew nobody beside my father. He was always ranting about me “getting a hobby and getting out more” and that “life isn’t all work”. Until one day me and my father were getting lunch at a Cuban diner, we happened to walk by a tattoo shop. My dad wanted to go inside because he thought the place looked cool. I couldn’t imagine why, he had no tattoos! It was there, when we went inside he proceeded to ask one of the artist if they could teach me how to tattoo. In my mind I’m thinking “You Motherfucker” but surprisingly the artist seemed interested. I was in actual fucking shock. My mind went from thinking “you motherfucker” to “how in the fuck?” that was the day I met my now very good friends, Steve Ramos and Robert Lemez. Two of Miami Beach’s best tattoo artist, in my opinion. I learned most of what I know from watching these guys tattoo. I worked alongside these two magnificent boneheads for two years. It was wild. That’s a story for another time :x .
I eventually decided that my time in Miami was over and chose to branch off and move back to Connecticut. This time, I’m going back to New Haven with confidence and two years under my belt working in the Tattoo capital of the U.S, Miami Beach. When I left for Connecticut I had no plan, I figured I’d let the universe take over on this one. On the train ride back to what I felt was my hometown, I looked up “tattoo shops in New Haven” and came across Show Off Ink Artistry. I still remember like it was yesterday when I first spoke to Ashley Velasquez over the phone about a guest spot at her new shop. She was pretty open to having me guest spot there. One thing led to another, now I’m here tattooing as a full-time tattoo artist, and I am absolutely loving every second of this wonderful experience. Not many people can say they get to become what they wanted to be when they grow up. God only knows how grateful I am. I guess I made it pretty far from the little kid with a notebook and pen by his side.
One can only know what my future holds within the tattoo industry. I’m determined to make a name for myself out there. For me, failure isn’t an option at this point. In this sink or swim industry, we call tattooing, I’m determined to fly. So far though, I like the path I’m currently on and I’m definitely looking forward for what is to come.