Stace Forand is an artist heavily influenced by Japanese style. After leaving art school to pursue tattooing, Forand has developed a style that comes from a desire to strive for authenticity from deep within himself. Being self-taught, Forand discusses the importance of striving to learn from both the close community around him, and the expanded horizons of other cultures and places.
What is your name, birthplace, and year of birth?
Stace Forand, born in Calgary, Alberta. 1988
Where did you grow up? Please describe your upbringing and sociocultural background.
I grew up in the suburbs of my birth place, Calgary. I didn’t come from a wealthy family, but was surrounded by lots of love. My family was very blue collar–long work hours and discipline were prominent in achieving what you needed to. My parents really supported imagination. My friend group was definitely a melting pot, which allowed me to experience a wealth of different ideologies and culture. It really shaped my interest in alternate ways of thinking about worldly aesthetic and values.
How did your family’s blue collar approach to living influence how you approach your work now?
It really taught me to embrace hard decisions, so that later I will have created more ease and allow room for more achievement.
Where do you currently work? Prior to that, where have you worked?
I’m currently at a private studio in Vancouver, BC. Prior to that I was at Steveston Tattoo and two small studios.
How long have you been tattooing?
I started in Winter 2011.
What inspired you to learn tattooing, and what did you initially learn how to tattoo?
I was extremely attracted to the Japanese aesthetic and Ukiyo-e for some time before it led me to discover Irezumi and Horimono, which changed my whole outlook on the possibilities of tattooing and its disciplines. It was this aesthetic and mentality that drove me to pursue a career in tattooing. It embodied everything I loved in life.
What did you specifically learn from Irezumi and Horimono?
Initially, it was the intentionality of the shapes and subject matter that influenced me. The simplified representation of life, history, and narrative seemed challenging and beautiful. I became really intrigued by the foundation of this.
Did that training help as you learned the mechanics of tattooing?
Knowing what I didn’t want to do clarified my ideals in what mattered to me. School taught me how to be decisive and pursue what I really wanted.
Were you trained through a formal apprenticeship? Describe the circumstances of learning.
I hadn’t been trained through a formal apprenticeship, even though I tried hard to get one. The climate at the time I wanted to start was strange, no one wanted to take on apprentices, so I felt at a loss. I attempted a small tattoo during this and immediately became fascinated by the medium and challenge of it. I still felt I needed to get an apprenticeship to continue, but wasn’t able to. Even though I should have waited to get one, I became obsessed and couldn’t be pulled away from trying. Ever since, it’s been an endless search of knowledge and learning from the right people.
I feel I lack a lot of experience and knowledge because of it–but that only motivates me to keep learning.
Have you previously studied art in an institutional setting? If so, what level of training did you reach and in what disciplines?
I attended art school for a couple years, only to find out I was spinning my wheels. I thought I would gain a wealth of knowledge on techniques or abilities, but it just ended up being an expensive place to make art–at least for the programs I was taking. I realized shortly after that tattooing possessed all I desired in mentality and imagery. I decided to drop out of school and pursue a path on tattooing.
How did you develop your style? How would you describe it? What are your influences?
I think style is just an organic reflection of our perspective. In my opinion, I think style should be a natural output; the ability to honestly understand what comes naturally or what doesn’t. Almost like a genetic code we can’t exactly comprehend, but embrace. No matter how much influence we siphon, it will always have a bit of our individual flavor. It takes years to try to understand how to actually become and embrace who we are, and how we want to interpret what we see. The more we strive to become ourselves, the more original the work becomes, and the more natural it flows.
So, for my style, I guess I try to be as honest with myself as possible–and know where my strong or weak points are. I’m heavily influenced from Japanese ukiyo-e and other realms of illustration. I find that visual language very pleasing and I love how intentional it is. Growing up in the west, I feel it’s important for me to try and develop an individual outlook on production while respecting and appreciating my influences. I really enjoy the challenge of seeing how far I can bend my perspective, and the capacity to be malleable.
Have you had or do you have plans to take on apprentices?
I will probably never take one on due to my integration into the industry. I never learnt from another professional when I started out, so I feel I’m a student for life, and not in a position to teach.
What do you look for in a shop?
Over the years I’ve began to understand what environment works best for me. I prefer a small group of people in more of a studio setting. Somewhere I can be creative with whatever medium I choose. I used to want to be solitary, but I’ve come to really appreciate the magic and sentiment that people bring to my life.
Do you have any hobbies outside of tattooing?
Painting–I guess most of my painting stems from the Japanese aesthetic and fundamentals, which in turn carries over from and to tattooing. For the most part, my planning derives from that. I’m also influenced by a lot of illustrative approaches. I have shown pieces in group shows internationally and locally but never a solo show thus far. I don’t feel I have enough of a cohesive body of work yet. Recently I had the opportunity to present a collaborative show in Germany at 1900 Galerie with my friend Zac Scheinbaum. It was a good challenge to keep work under wraps for under a year, and solely focus on the process.
What inspires you generally?
I would say historical imagery and contemporary imagery, but that might be too simplified. For some quick inspiration, although it may sound uninspiring, I find really large structures or environments inspiring. Mostly man made–I’m drawn to something that looms over me. It reminds me of the possibilities of our minds and how insignificant we might be. So, taking risks doesn’t have to be so scary.
Are any other forms of media, traditional or digital, important to your work?
I’ve been experimenting with airbrush a bit. I’m not very good but it’s fun! It allows me to inject different moods into my paintings, more ethereal sensibilities, and it’s fun to mess with. It gives me an opportunity to be free creatively with things tattooing doesn’t lend itself to. On the other hand, it emphasizes the importance of tattoo boundaries and understanding the limits–to know when you can really bend the rules, or when not to.
Is traveling important to you? If so, where do you usually travel? Do you have any interesting experiences abroad that you can share?
I do like to travel, but my most significant trip was Japan when I dropped out of school to pursue tattooing. It solidified my interest in that direction and gave me the energy I needed.
What is the main challenge of tattooing today?
Probably accepting the evolution. Mechanically, aesthetically, ideologically.
Ideally, how would you like to see tattooing evolve? How do you think it will evolve realistically?
It’s so important to uphold and preserve the past. The people and stories really matter–none of this would exist without them. That should always be a main effort. In addition to that, making room for new people and challenging ideas is a good thing. People that really make us think and expand our perspective. Evolution can’t exist without innovation. Realistically I think that might actually be what happens. There are enough people in both realms to achieve just that. So, I’m excited for the future and I’ll keep collecting books and stories that remind us on how we all got here.