Tattoo Artist David Peyote on the Stories Behind His Tatts

Montreal’s David Peyote has found a way to ensure that the memories of his travels as a guest tattoo artist never fade.

Montreal-based tattoo artist David Peyote’s personal canvas is like a scrapbook of the “who’s who” of the tattoo art scene and of his pre-COVID travels – a collection of ink by the international talents who inspire him and whom he typically meets while globe-trotting as a guest artist. “The experience of getting a piece from someone whose work I admire and whose energy I vibe with, in and of itself, creates meaning for the tattoo,” he says. “I have tattoos from almost every city I’ve visited.”

For instance, there’s a four-headed dragon, one of his most beloved tattoos, by Taipei artist York Yeh, which he had done in Brussels; an astronaut space monkey squeezed in between a few other pieces on his forearm by Italian tattooer Luca Font during a trip to Milan; and an Eye of Horus, an ancient Egyptian symbol, free- handed near his elbow by Los Angeles-based Henry Lewis during a tattoo convention in Kelowna, B.C. Fun fact: “The tattoo glows in the dark!” reveals Peyote.

Another noteworthy piece of ink for the artist is the Rubik’s Cube on his neck that was drawn in Montreal by his longtime friend Alban Bachand. “I’ve always loved Rubik’s Cubes. I find the fact that every position can be solved in 20 moves or less fascinating,” comments Peyote, who got the tattoo at the age of 19. “This truly connects with my philosophy in life: that just because something seems impossible doesn’t mean it is impossible. There’s always an efficient way to reach your goals.”

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY SASKA AKOPIAN

If he had to guess the total number of tatts he has from tip to toe, including the ones around most of his
head (even on top) and on his knuckles and ears, Peyote nonchalantly estimates about 150. “I’ve never really calculated,” he says. Peyote’s very first tattoo pays tribute to a close friend who sadly passed away. “There was a group of maybe five or six of us who were close to the person, and we all got a little commemorative tattoo for him,” he chronicles.

“His girlfriend was just starting out as a tattoo artist, and we all gathered together. Everyone got the same theme: the first letter of his name but with a different souvenir attached to it.” Peyote’s chosen memento was the logo from the band he and his friend used to listen to reimagined with the special initial. From there, his body ink addiction was instantaneous. “I’m happy I did it because it opened so many doors to future tattoos,” he says.

As for his own craft, Peyote is well known for what many describe as eye-popping surrealist-meets- hallucinogenic tattoos created using vivid colours and thick inky-black lines. It’s an electric signature that he has been mastering for about nine years and that has garnered him over 296,000 followers on Instagram.

Asked to describe his own style, Peyote is quick not to put his art into a box. “Personally, I never like
to name something because I feel it loses its intrigue,” the artist responds. Instead, he enjoys keeping people guessing. “I like my tattoos to be a complete mystery for people – for them to ask ‘Are these surrealistic? More psychedelic? More graphic?’”

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY SASKA AKOPIAN

Plus, for Peyote, his tattoos pull from various spectrums. “I’m inspired by a lot of different things: art, things in my daily life from lighting to colours – everything that I live.” Tattooing, travelling the world and amassing tons of fans along the way is a career path Peyote “never, ever expected” when he was back in college studying graphic design. But when a friend brought over a tattooing machine one day and asked Peyote to tatt him up, the passion sparked. “I did a very, very bad tattoo, but the rest is pretty much history,” he comments. “I kept on tattooing, taking it seriously, and then I started travelling.”

As for his greatest career accomplishment to date, Peyote names his Montreal studio, Velours. Co-founded with his longtime manager a year and a half ago, “it’s a hybrid creative space centred around tattooing, music and streetwear,” he explains. Along with offering tattoos, Velours carries its own clothing line and even has a music studio. Most importantly, at its heart lies an “all together” ethos, affirms Peyote. “Artists of all back- grounds are welcome, and a dialogue between different genres, media and cultures is encouraged.”

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