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Meeting kim gidlund

This meeting is somewhat different. Kim Gidlund takes me back to my days as a tattoo artist. Everybody in that industry knew who he was. Kim is six foot, big and muscular, tattooed from the soles of his feet to the top of his head, a stereotypical alpha male, known for the good and the bad. A former loose cannon in the front line surrounded by thugs - and as we decided to call them, “Pirates”. He’s the owner of the infamous tattoo parlor Lifestyle tattoo. A shop that used to be known for its hard core customers. These weren’t the regular people coming in for hearts and quotes. This was people with a bad upbringing, face tattoos with a gangbanger reputation. Meeting Kim was a special moment. Even though we’re friends today we’ve never really spoken about his old days. It’s nothing he hides, he doesn’t run away from his past and you can kinda tell by his appearance that he’s not like other people, not even wild tattoo artists. Kim is one of a kind, a person who has made a dramatic turnaround in life making the name “Lifestyle” even more meaningful. A thought I had in mind for this meeting was to digest the past and the present. I wanted to ask if his inspiration has changed over the years. And something I carried over from Grebbys interview last week was how she felt like inspiration was a collective force.

How has Kims source of inspiration changed considering how his life has changed?

From one lifestyle to another, how did it start and how did you get inspired back then and what's the difference now?

“I think I've been inspired by both lifestyles. When I lived a crazier life I was drawn to those types of tattoos, hatred, skulls and demons. People looked up to me for my bad rep and hard core lifestyle. I’ve always been an alpha male and most of my surroundings were stereotypical alpha male similar to me but I was one of the main guys in the frontline. I had a broad network and most of my friends/customers were pirates. They liked my dark street style tattoos and they believed in me. It went well, even though I wasn't that good in the beginning I always had friends who gave me work. A lot of them had the cash even though I didn’t charge much, I got enough and it kept me going. Ten years ago I drew and tattooed darker stuff. One of the darkest tattoos is placed in the back of my head. Things from back then I would never tattoo today, it’s not who I am, I don’t even sketch those types of things. I want to draw happy and lovable stuff, things I stand by. I don’t want to have messy people in my life. I don’t want violence and troubles, I prefer hearts and flowers hah!”

That brought me back to what I’ve done in the past, not a crazy lifestyle but different projects I've worked on and how my artistry has changed. A few years ago I was working with quantum physics, which was a tough subject to digest and I had to go through so many hours of learning about theories, experiments, professors and so on. It took forever before I even got to the creative and artistic stage. After a while I felt like the process became kinda repetitive even though it was fun. I decided to go back to my roots as an artist, to my childhood. I wanted to bring back parts of me, the kid who started this journey. The transformation in my art was a complete turnaround. From black and gray and science to a naivistic color bomb. In other words, did I go back to my childhood and base my present creations from my vivid and playful imagination as a kid? Grebby made me think about how our surroundings force inspiration on you while Kim has made a complete turnaround in what he creates due to his surroundings, and I went back to my roots and brought it into the present. It’s a playful thought and I wonder how much my surroundings play into what I paint and draw today. I kinda want to say that they don’t affect me but I know that I can’t shut my source of inspiration off, therefore I must be affected. Damn it… (or?)

Kim and I talked for a few hours and as I was listening to his story he opened up about how he started to paint back in 2017. Tattooing requires a hard commitment both as an artist and a craftsman. It's an occupation for perfectionists. The linework, the coloring and shading has to be perfect every time or else you won't get any customers. To Kim, tattooing is more of a job today, that’s what puts food on the table and a roof over his and his daughters head. When he paints it's a different story. He took me to his art studio. A basement room that looked like a subway station from the mid 80’s in New york. Hundreds of spray cans, caps, brushes and color everywhere. A complete mess. This is where he gets his emotions out. I felt how this is where he heals his past but also where he gets to relax after a day of tattooing. His tattoo shop is as clean as a surgery room. Not a drop of ink anywhere while his art studio doesn't have one clean area (from color). He splashes color and works with tons of layers, if something doesn't feel right he goes straight over it. Sometimes he fucks up and yells but it's just part of the process - steaming off, letting the emotions out. He dances to music and laughs out loud. The complete opposite of his daily job.

“It really is. When I’m tattooing, I mostly do black and gray, a lot of fine lining, when I paint I have no goals, the process is the joy, I get away from the ordinary, it’s just me going off, that’s what I truly want to do when I make paintings” I never went to art school, I come from vandalism and graffiti, I don’t have a set idea, I just go at it. It’s impulsive. I go on layer after layer, a lot of feeling runs through my body and soul. I’m always by myself in the studio. It’s a meditative state and a healing process. As I’m working I start to see things, like the painting and my subconscious is showing me where to take it. I never know what will happen. I just feel an urge to release my feelings through art. I had one painting that I painted over six times. There were so many layers, you could almost find fossils in there. I hated it, I couldn't be bothered by it. But for some reason I brought it to my first exhibition and it got sold, so regardless of what I feel about the painting, If I like it or not, it is what it is. It was important to someone else and I still got my release through my process.”

Oh Kim, the joy I get when I’m listening to you. What you came from and where you are today, YOU have become an inspiration to me. The best part about you is that you only know how to be You. There's no shell, you’re not hiding anything. You are genuine and even if your deep laughter is slightly intimidating it’s nothing but pure love. You carry yourself with pride, as you should. You come from hard work regardless of what you do. Listening to my recording of our conversation and writing this makes me truly realize what a journey you’ve made and gets to me. I can see how the painter in you is growing. I used to view you as a messy and hard core brawler and tattoo artist. But I don’t anymore. Thank you for doing this with me.


Kim went straight for the deep fried fish with no hesitation and I picked "Today's three" as I was stuck deciding of all the goodies on the menu. We talked for a few hours so obvously we had to order two popcorn shrimp too! YUM!

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