Tattoo artist, Andrew Stortz in his tattoo shop in Portsmouth, NH.

The Tattoo Series: Meet Andrew Stortz

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What is the Tattoo Series? 

This highly caffeinated collaboration shows our undying love of tattoos and the culture that surrounds them. Nine supremely talented tattoo artists from across the country share their flashes of genius—all inspired by coffee—the bold elixir of life. Every mug and tee you collected from the tattoo series supported the tattoo artist who designed it. 

Meet the Artist: Andrew Stortz 

Hailing from the small coastal city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Andrew Stortz shares his talented artwork with us. His design is bold enough to wake the dead—open coffins, open minds.  

Tattoo artist, Andrew Stortz drinking out of a black and white mug with a coffin and Grim Reaper.

Unfiltered Q&A with Andrew Stortz

1. Are you a coffee drinker? If so, what’s your favorite roast, and how do you take your coffee?

I am a coffee drinker, and I typically prefer darker roasts. I'm not super picky generally, but I will controversially admit that I drink a lot of decaf so I don't shake through my tattoos each day! 

2. Do you have a favorite coffee shop in your town?

My shop is lucky to be very close neighbors with my favorite coffee shop in town, White Heron. They are masters of tea, coffee and delicious food, and we've got an internal door right into their shop. Everyone at the shop is definitely a frequent flyer over there. 

3. What inspired you to become a tattoo artist? Did you always know it was your calling?

I didn't always think I was going to be a tattooer. It wasn't really a generally accepted, viable career when I was younger, at least not to me. I was always drawn to tattoos and tattooed people through skateboarding and the music I listened to growing up, but I wasn't much of an artist at that time. I was 100% focused on being a musician, and it wasn't until I was 22 and got an opportunity to apprentice that I really started focusing on drawing in a real way. I was bad for a while. 

A chemex coffee maker and a black and white coffee mug with a Grim Reaper rising from a coffin.

4. What was your inspiration behind the design?

My inspiration for this design was the idea that if you’ve got strong enough coffee, it can wake the dead! 

5. What was your initial exposure to the tattoo world, and when did you first add your own piece of ink to your skin?

I got my first tattoo when I was 18. It was winter break after my first semester of college (where I was studying music education), and I had lined up an appointment with a tattooer whose work I was really excited about (thanks Myspace). Dustin Horan from Albany, New York, did my first few tattoos the following couple years. I probably didn't say more than a dozen words each time I saw him. I was just taking it all in and trying to be cool. I am sure he was impressed. 

6. When did you know that you wanted to be a tattoo artist? How did you get started in the industry?

I had friends that worked at a tattoo shop in my hometown. I started hanging around, and it snowballed into eventually learning to tattoo from a talented tattooer, Ryan Cogswell, who still owns his shop, Body Art Tattoo, in Plattsburgh, New York. He did what he could to coach me through my terrible left-handedness, and I slowly started to suck less and less over time. In those early years, I knew I wanted to be a tattooer, but it just seemed so impossible. It has by far been the hardest thing I've ever learned and the one thing I have put the most into. 

7. How long have you been tattooing?

I have been tattooing for 13 years. 

8. How would you describe your tattoo style and how you got to it?

I have always focused on doing multiple styles so I could give people what they wanted instead of trying to talk them into what I wanted to do. Over time, I started to do a lot of colorful, bold traditional tattoos, which is the stuff that I have always been drawn to most. To contrast that, I have also done a lot of black and gray work, including larger scale realistic-ish stuff, which couldn't be more different from how I approach traditional tattoos. Variety is the spice of life, they say. 

A man with tattoo covered arms wearing a black Death Wish Coffee shirt with a Grim Reaper rising from a coffin.

9. Has your style changed over the years?

I have definitely started to be a little more selective in the work I do so I can focus more on the stuff I like. I am lucky to have a lot of trusting clients who get excited about drawings I do, so I feel good about pushing my own stuff more now. I was always of the mindset that it's best to be able to cater to everyone, but after proving to myself that I could do certain styles that are more technically demanding, I don't feel like I have to do it all the time. I can't tattoo everyone, and there's plenty of amazing tattooers around that can crush all sorts of styles that people want. 

10. Can you tell us about your own tattoos?

My own tattoos are mostly bold American traditional tattoos. I have been able to get tattooed by a lot of my favorite artists over the years, which is always a great experience. I try to soak up at least a little of their mojo and take some mental notes when I get the chance to have a front row seat to their process. 

11. How many tattoos do you have?

Most of my body is tattooed. I've lost count of how many tattoos I have. 

12. What inspires your work?

A lot of different things inspire my work. Of course, there is no shortage of inspiration from within the tattoo world from great tattooers, past and present. I'm always taking photos of stuff I see out in the world, as well. Antique stores, gardens and old books have filled my head with all sorts of ideas and references. It's exciting to try pulling inspiration from outside of tattooing because it can keep things a bit more fresh than just regurgitating what everyone else is doing. Not to say I'm any sort of pioneer, but coming up with original ideas is always a goal. 

13. What does the process behind your tattoos entail?

It's very common for clients to have their ideas and reference imagery for what they want to get, so that's typically my starting point with custom work. Once I have a drawing set in stone, I stencil on as much as I can. I draw some designs directly onto the skin with markers if the job calls for it and I feel that it would benefit from that. 

14. What do you like to tattoo, and what would you like to do more of?

I like tattooing weird stuff that many people may not want to get. It can be a counterproductive quest, but there are surprisingly plenty of people that are down for whatever (within reason). Using American traditional-type imagery and obscuring it, morphing it, combining it or turning it into something else is a lot of fun. It can be like remixing music. There are bits and pieces that feel familiar, but it's something new at the same time. 

Andrew Stortz tattooing a woman in his tattoo shop.

15. What does a typical day at the shop look like for you?

I usually do my drawings for the day in the morning before I get to the shop. My days are usually pretty packed with 2-3 appointments that keep me busy until it's quittin' time. If I can fit a sandwich in at some point, it's a good day. 

16. What do you like to do outside of the shop?

I make a podcast called "Books Closed" that has taken up a lot of my time outside of tattooing. The show is about tattooing, so it's not much of a departure from being obsessive over tattooing day to day.  I have had some of the best tattooers in the industry as guests on the show, and it has proven to be such a valuable experience for me on top of being able to make some great episodes. My mind has been ripped wide open, and I view tattooing so much differently than I did when I started. Growth is good, and I feel like it's even had an effect on my tattooing in a multitude of ways. 

17. What do you like to do outside of the shop?

When I'm REALLY not working, I hang with my wife and dogs. At the beginning of the pandemic, I was embarrassed to realize how much I missed going to restaurants. Is that what hobbies look like when you get older? I always turn any hobby into something too serious to fully have fun with, so I guess I should just enjoy any leisure time I have! 

18. What’s your biggest pet peeve (personally and in the shop)?

I have a lot of pet peeves, but I also don't like people feeling like they can't be a certain way around me—so I'll keep them to myself. If it's bad, I'll let you know—with a smile. 

19. What’s the strangest tattoo you’ve ever done?

The strangest tattoo I can remember was one that said "My Wife Fucks Security Guards" on an older guy's arm. Long story short, his wife cheated on him, and that was his big idea to get revenge. Seemed a bit short-sighted to me, but he made his decision. It was all laughs and jokes when he got it, but not so much when he came back a few weeks later to get it all blacked out. His wife was pissed it said "security guards" plural, but it was just one. 

20. What is your favorite thing about being a tattoo artist?

Tattooing is a job, and some days it feels like it a lot more than others. To me, it is the best job ever. I can't imagine doing anything else at this point. I have a lot of freedom and the ability to focus on various things within the tattoo world when I want to. I take it all very seriously and always try to do right by all of my clients. We have a lot of fun at the shop. I co-own Worship Tattoo in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with my best tat-bro, Bill Rocha. I couldn't ask for a better person to run a business with. I think we truly have the perfect balance between our skills and what we excel at when it comes to all the stuff outside of actually doing tattoos. He also does slick tats, as does our other artist, Mijo, who has been with us for the past year. Without this career, I'd never know them or anyone else I've had the opportunity to work with. 

21. What is the tattoo scene like in your area?

Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is a great tattoo town. It's a small coastal city, so it's got that classic military port thing going on, which is always cool for tattooing. There's a lot of talent in the area and lots of people walking around with beautiful tattoos. 

22. What moment in your career are you the most proud of?

The moment I am most proud of in my career is this moment right now, making it to the end of these questions. I told myself not to self-deprecate ... I did. I told myself not to admit how bad I was when I started ... I did that too. If you're reading this and have made it to the end, you should be proud too. Social media algorithms haven't totally rotted your attention span yet. Joking aside, I have tattooed my dad a few times over the last couple years, and that has been stressful and rewarding experiences. I didn't tell my parents I had a tattoo until at least a year after I got my first one. It's funny to look back to that time, which really wasn't THAT long ago, and now my dad has gotten three tattoos from me in his 70s. Life is a wild ride. 

Drink of Choice: Dark Roast

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