Working under his given tattoo nickname, Dr. Woo is recognized for his signature fine-lined, hand-drawn works of art, as well as his personal style.
Dr. Woo broke into the tattoo world in 2008 when he was invited to apprentice for legendary tattoo icon Mark Mahoney, owner of Shamrock Social Club in Hollywood, California. Nominated one of 2008’s “Top Up-and-Coming Angelenos” by Nylon Magazine, Woo attracts an international following of musicians, pro skaters, actors, press and fashion-world innovators alike.
The 31-year-old artist continues to tattoo exclusively at Shamrock Social Club, in addition to working on select collaborations and being featured in Motorola commercials. Downtime is spent with his wife Jayme and 3-year-old son, Lyon McQueen Woo. We stopped by Woo’s home on the Westside of Los Angeles before hitching a ride with him to Shamrock Social Club to learn more about his unique approach to the art form.
When did you get your first tattoo?
I was doing little stick and pokes in sixth grade, but I think I got my first tattoo at a shop was when I was 15. A Chinese dragon on my ankle. (laughs)
What drew you to become a tattoo artist?
I always loved getting tattooed but never really imagined myself as a tattooer. I was more involved with design and creative direction [for special projects and brands], but when the opportunity to learn from the legend Mark Mahoney became a reality, I never looked back.
Where did you get your start?
At the world-famous Shamrock Social Club in Hollywood, California.
How long have you been tattooing?
I’ve been at Shamrock for about 7 years now. The first 2 years apprenticing and the last 5 as a tattooer.
How do you manage to create such compelling pieces using a greyscale color palette and minimal designs?
Definitely by not overthinking it. I just tell myself, “don’t fuck this up.”
How would you describe your style?
Fine-line black and grey.
Is there a reason you generally shy away from using color in your work?
I actually don’t mind doing color, it’s just not a request I get very often.
What’s the most elaborate piece you’ve ever done?
A sleeve of an exact score in music notes.
When did you realize you had developed your own style?
I guess when people started asking for tattoos described with: “you know, like how you do it.”
Could you walk us through the process of working on an original piece with a client?
I work best on the spot after you make an appointment – you show up, tell me what you want, I draw it up and hope I don’t fuck it up.
What or who inspires your creativity?
I think my clients are the ones that spark the ideas in which I’m grateful to manipulate. As for aesthetic and execution, I’m inspired and influenced by Mark and the entire Shamrock crew who kill it daily.
Photography: Christian Prieto for Highsnobiety.com