An Interview with Tim Beck

Our friend Tim Beck is a great tattooer who owns Freedom Ink Tattoo in Peoria, Illinois. He’s best known for his amazing take on the Traditional style, but he can work very well in ANY style. We’re honored to have him answer some questions for us.

TattooYou – How did you get into tattooing?

Tim Beck – I’ve drawn literally everyday since I was a little kid and grew up seeing my Dad’s neat old sailor tattoos. He was stationed in San Diego during the Korean War Conflict and was on a destroyer over in Korea. He had a beautiful classic anchor on one arm and an eagle head on the other arm. Both done by Painless Nell in the early 50s. I remember thinking he was VERY tattooed, even though he only had 2 tattoos. I think this subconsciously drew me to tattooing, or at least to the classic style of it. I was playing in a few ska and punk rock bands as an early teen and was looking for a way to make money, since music wasn’t cutting it. After dropping out of high school, I ended up getting a tattoo at 18 years old and watching the guy doing it and said to myself, “I can do better than this guy”. So, I immediately scoured the magazines looking for “tattoo kits”. I got a Joe Kaplan set from the Empire State Company. 1997 was the start of my “tattooing out of the trailer year”. Thankfully, I didn’t mess TOO many people up before I landed an apprenticeship with my teacher, Nick McCarty in Pekin, IL in early 1998. Been tattooing ever since.

TY – You’re able to tattoo in any style, but you’re most known for your traditional work. What draws you to Americana and the classic tattoo style?

TB – Well, I think if you’re going to call yourself a “real tattooer” or “street shop tattooer” you better be able to accommodate any style (since it’s our job to serve the public). But, obviously traditional American is pretty much the embodiment of what I think a ’true’ tattoo is in our culture here in America. It’s strong iconic imagery and bold aesthetic just works. That also goes for traditional Japanese, early European flash, and even more importantly, Tribal. These styles lend themselves to the medium we are working on which is (quite frankly) aging, dying skin cells. The reason why is because the originators of each style intentionally did it. It was no accident why the designs were drew they way they were drew. I appreciate the classic style, mainly because of the rules and there is generally a right and wrong with little exception. I like that because I don’t like art in the ‘express your feelings’ kind of way. I want it to look good.

TY – You’re always posting new paintings for sale. What drives you to create so prolifically?

TB – Not sure what drives me, other than wanting to provide for my family and get as much of my junk out there as possible. That is how I stay busy and will stay busy in the future. My wife is a stay at home mother with our 2 children and I want them to have the best, if the Lord wills.

TY – What are your very favorite things to paint or tattoo?

TB – Classic girl heads, eagles, Christian imagery. Pretty much, new takes on the old flash. Trying to make it nicer, not wonky-er

TY – You’ve had your own shop for a while. What advice would you give a young tattooer wanting to apprentice and eventually open their own shop?

TB – It’s such a hard thing, because part of me wants to tell them “DON’T GET INTO TATTOOING” because there’s so many out there (much like the flood of photography majors, graphic designers and hairstylists coming out of college with no jobs awaiting them) but the other part of me wants to encourage them to do it correctly because, like me when i was young, they’re going to do it anyway. I guess the best advise is to do it right. Don’t get into it to start your own shop. I didn’t even think that was a possibility when I started. I just wanted to tattoo, tattoo, and tattoo. I didn’t give a crap about owning my own shop. Now all these 2 year old tattooers own their own shops. It’s scary and downright sad. They need to be under their teacher for MUCH longer. Be willing to humble yourselves and put yourself in a learning position for 5 years minimum with that person.

TY – Why do you think people come to you to get tattooed?

TB – I would hope because my work is solid, well applied, and safe. Definitely not my good looks, haha. I try to be accommodating and understanding yet stern in my knowledge and confidence in what I do. I think people respect that and feel comforted by that. I wouldn’t want an artsy fartsy guy that questions and second guesses all of his decisions tattooing me. Get it in there right the first time, is what I was taught.

Pinup by Tim Beck

Pinup by Tim Beck

TY – Your classic pinup girl design we printed – what inspired you to create that? Is there any significance or meaning behind it?

TB – Not really, just a good ol’ pinup. Love the classic sailor girl flash.

TY – Your dagger heart design we printed – what inspired you to create that? Is there any significance or meaning behind it? And the words “Lord Change My Heart”, any significance?

TB – For sure. “Lord change my heart” is a tattoo design representing the life changing work of the good news of Jesus Christ. Also a portrayal of how our hearts NEED to be changed because by default, they are in defiance to Him. Only by faith in Him alone, we can be saved. Good meaning in this design 😉

TY – Tattoo is fundamentally permanent. How do you feel about having some of your designs being used as temporary tattoos?

TB – I love it. I’m glad there is a company like you doing this. I was honored to be asked and told about you early on by my buddy, Dan Smith. It gives people a chance to have a fun temporary tattoo that is of super high quality by some of the best guys in the world of tattooing. Maybe after they wear the temporary one, they’ll feel more comfortable getting the real deal? There’s no reason to push them for the real ones if they aren’t ready to wear it forever. Thanks for having me amongst these great artists, thankful to be a part.

Check out Tim’s temporary tattoos on his TattooYou page.

You can follow him on Instagram.

And, you can check out Freedom Ink Tattoo Co.

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