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Art Talk by: Maryssa Rose Chavez
Photography by: Jinni J 

We are constantly searching for ways in which we can find comfort in the uncertainty that is life on earth right now. Finding people who are willing to be vulnerable is rare, and also comforting. Aaron Yuhas arrives as someone who displays a true vulnerability and care for people and his community. All along with being an artist, illustrator, and someone who opened a tattoo business called, Noble Jackals Tattoo with a couple friends in 2020. They opened this space with an ethos of keeping people as safe as possible while getting tattooed during an ongoing pandemic. 
He was also able to put out multiple very popular and successful t-shirt designs utilizing  Raw Paw Drop Ship.  We are excited for you all to learn more about Aaron and his perspective that is uniquely his own as a veteran, business owner, and full time artist. 

Photography by: Jinni J

Maryssa:
How old were you when you started tattooing? Was this a lifelong dream or something sort of spontaneous for you? You can also use this space to write a blurb about yourself, we love a back story. <3

Aaron:
I was 24 when I picked up my apprenticeship. I’d always been very interested in tattoos as a kid. I at least knew that I wanted to get a bunch of tattoos as well, my arms were always covered in sloppy pen drawings. I decided that tattooing was probably an unattainable goal and didn’t give much thought of pursuing it as an adult. I assumed the community was closed off and that it would be too difficult to break in. But, as I’ve learned in several facets of life, if you’re open about what you’re about, opportunities seem to line up. I’m sure it’s more of a mindset thing than some magical unseen hand, but things have an interesting way of presenting themselves to you when you’re honest about who you are.
I met the man who would teach me to tattoo serendipitously. My wife researched for an artist that could crush neo-traditional work in our area for her birthday tattoo and we found ourselves in a shop owned by a wonderful person named Heath Thomas. Through the course of our conversations that night he told me I should bring a portfolio by the shop to see if it was worth pursuing an apprenticeship.
Upon getting back home I decided that everything I’d made up until that point sucked, so I created a new portfolio over the next month. He liked what I brought him, so I worked my Air Force gig during the weekdays while spending nights and weekends at the tattoo studio for my last couple years in the service. 

Maryssa:
Does being a veteran inform your art practice as well as running your business? I would love to learn about how that experience informs your art today?

Aaron:
Absolutely in regards to informing my practice, not so much on running a business. When I first got out of the Air Force in 2016 I had a lot of myself to reclaim. I had to hide a lot of parts of who I was while I was in, and in the process of hiding those parts, some of them got lost. I left with a whole host of mental and physical health issues. I felt guilty about using my G.I. Bill to go to school, I felt guilty about having disabled veteran status and benefits.
I felt guilty that I had this great opportunity and resource to go to school and have it paid for while I watched fellow students 10 years younger than me struggle with multiple jobs to pursue a degree that in all likelihood wouldn’t place them in a career field related to their studies and their passions. There was a lot of stuff I had to put into perspective to be kind to myself and to appreciate that I had paid for these benefits with 6 years of my life, my mental, and physical health. Part of coming to terms with my reality was to make art about it. I was regularly sickened with the blatant disregard for the inherent value of human life while I was in, so I made art about it.
Flying made me feel dejected because of the connotations that it had for me now; previously aviation was a HUGE part of me growing up and bonding with my father, so I made work about it. My anxiety drove my whole person, so I made art about it.
Seeing first hand how our government manipulates populations at home and abroad made my skin crawl, so I made work about it. I felt like I betrayed who I was by enlisting in the first place, so I made work about it. I wish I had positive things to say about it all. I’m happy that I got the benefits that convinced me to sign up in the first place, for sure. I met a small circle of wonderful people with whom I’m still friends with. I grew up fast in some regards, but entire other parts of development were put on hold.

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Maryssa:
What were some of your early encouragements or motives for why you began working in art and illustration?

Aaron:
I come from a pretty creative family; my dad is a musician and photographer, my mom has been known to make various sculptural works and metal mosaics when the mood strikes. My step-dad was a machinist and fabricator who was involved with 3D printing when it was brand new. my step-mom quilts as well. My extended family is just as full of makers, from hand building longships to illustrating pieces for The Rolling Stone.I don’t know what motivated me, but I’ve always been inclined to make art and music. It was great to have a support network full of people with a wide variety of skills and experiences to inform what I was doing. I felt compelled to interpret my surroundings on paper, in sculpture, and in song. It’s more compulsive than anything. Language only articulates so much, I need lots of ways to convey ideas.

Maryssa:
Do you have a favorite tattoo that you have given and why?

Aaron:
Oof, that’s a hard one! I connect with the work I provide for my clients for so many different reasons. I like loud, bright, tattoos. I like ‘em when they’re funny. I like ‘em when they offer a critique. Here’s a handful of really fun ones, I hope they convey the general vibe I described.

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Maryssa:
How did you start your tattoo practice, called Noble Jackals Tattoo? What are your favorite parts about running your own business?

Aaron:
It really blossomed out of necessity, I felt that in order to continue offering a non-essential personal service with close client contact in the time of a pandemic I needed to have a high level of procedural control and additional physical safety measures in place. I was about to go do another job because I was pretty sketched out about the whole thing. I applied for a ton of freelance illustration work and got zero calls/emails back. Fortunately, my partners Jordan Schwartz and Whitney Lockner were also adamant about having a space that they could establish their own safety measures.
We’re all focused on being positive forces in our community and have no tolerance for being a detriment to the public’s health. We had some talks, socially distanced, and masked in driveways and backyards, and realized that together we could make a space that we felt was safe enough to continue offering our services.
I’ve been able to take a knee when the infection rate and hospitalizations have climbed beyond my comfort level. I’ve been able to slow my workload down to limit contact, but we’ve been able to keep occupancy low. There’s always some uncertainty about working in a new space and how everybody would handle this particular problem. But it was so nice to discuss candidly every safety concern we had and identify controls to limit unnecessary risk in a way that each of us felt comfortable with. And to get to do that with a brand new team, as equals in our partnership, without an existing shop and established workflow -- it was just cool.
We made it our own and it’s been a pleasure to work with this team, I’m constantly humbled by the level of compassion that my partners approach this world with. It’s really a space that feeds us in a lot of different ways, literal and figurative. I’ve loved that we’ve been able to use our skills here to give back to the community. Each of us have been able to participate in mutual aid and have plans to continue fundraising for various organizations that we believe in.
The shop was born in September 2020, and I can’t wait to see where it goes, it’s been an excellent start.  

 Photography by: Jinni J

Maryssa:
A lot of times where there is dark imagery in art there is a very positive and supportive attitude in the culture around the art, do you relate to that idea with your work?

Aaron:
Totally! I feel like a lot of my work that might seem dark on the first take is incredibly positive with a perspective shift. If you wanna see the doom and gloom you can, but if you wanna take it as an artwork and observe the critique instead of only addressing the superficial qualities, you’ll see that there’s a lot of love in the message. Confrontational work in particular is useful for forcing introspection. Challenging societal norms is a longstanding tradition in art. I like the juxtaposition of mortality with hierarchy. It’s so absurd the level of control over our personal lives we offer up to chasing money and how blinding it really is. Manufactured shortages are one helluva motivator to keep people toiling and too tired and distracted to really stop and think about and organize around this stuff.
So the design might be a tombstone that says “it sucked the whole time.” It’s funny, it’s gloomy 'sadboy' crap. But it’s not about life sucking. It’s about the reminder that this existence is finite, that you should do what you can to make sure that your headstone is better than that one. The flash sheet might have “take comfort, one day it ends”, painted across the top, again, quite gloomy. But, this idea that we have to live a miserable existence hoping that we are given an eternal life of bliss lets a lot of terrible things come to pass in the reality that we’re currently in… those kinds of norms need to be challenged. A lot of statements I make blatantly in my work are about the defeatist ideas that we are sold and that we repeat with words and actions.
If our lives are based on constructs, and we as humans invent and support those constructs, we can change those constructs to honor our collective humanity. I know people take opposite reads of my work all the time, but I think it’s all really hopeful, I hope it’s empowering.  

Maryssa:
Tattoo work has a long history throughout the world, and I am interested in hearing about where you think tattoo artistry is moving toward currently?

Aaron:
In regards to artistry, tattooing has physical limitations simply because of the way that our bodies interact with tattooing. I think the biggest changes come in the subject matter. It’s exciting to watch timeless style imparted on new subjects. I do have some ideas about bringing tattooing into the realm of fine art to force a discussion. My favorite one to think about is the development of 3D printable, living human skin. I wonder if I could ever afford to work with it as a medium… I think it would be interesting to print a sculptural object made of living skin and to tattoo that in ways that you wouldn’t likely tattoo an actual client. I imagine that it could prompt some interesting questions. It’s a living material that requires a certain degree of resource consumption to stay alive. Is an art object worthy of these resources to simply exist? How do we treat a living art object at all? Is that even a thing? Is it a sculpture or an entity? Surely it doesn’t have sentience, but it’s more alive than a slab of marble, it’s more animal than a flower. Is it truly living? By what understanding of life?

This is all a bit absurd, but I haven’t been able to shake the concept. I just have no idea how to even pursue it, maybe somebody reading knows some people? 

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Maryssa:
You have had a couple really great Drop Ship shirt designs with us thus far. How does it feel seeing your t-shirts being worn on garments?

Aaron:
It’s awesome! I’ve always wanted to do shirts, it’s great to finally be making that happen. I love all of the photos I’ve gotten from people wearing them and it’s been really cool to have such a positive reception. I’m excited to keep it going, it’s been a great experience.

Photography by: Jinni J

Maryssa:
I would love to learn about your artist inspirations right now. I think your work is really unique, and detailed and I love learning about who/what an artist pulls their inspirations from.

Aaron:
I have been reading for inspiration lately, which is something that I’m really excited to get back to. My whole job in the Air Force was reading and smashing lots of technical information into digestible chunks. Days worth of reading went into a five minute briefing. Reading to that kind of comprehension for stuff you fundamentally disagree with is exhausting. But just under six years later, I’m able to pay attention long enough to make it work! I’ve been reading Noam Chomsky and Peter Kropotkin most recently.
I’m excited to be getting back into that sort of thing and I hope to ramp up and get a wider array of perspectives on critiques of hierarchy. I’m starting Slaughterhouse-Five with my wife and a group of friends for a little long distance reading club.Visually, I dig tweaky, detail-oriented illustrative stuff like R. Crumb, Raymond Pettibon, and Ed Roth. Anything really crunchy or unnecessarily grotesque is an absolute plus. Watching cartoons like Ren & Stimpy, Rocko’s Modern Life, Spongebob, and Ed, Edd n Eddy probably drew my eye to that sort of thing. I’ve been obsessed with animation for a long time. I still prefer it over most live action stuff. In tattooing, it’s so hard to pick any small collection of artists who I draw inspiration from.
Truly, there are so many monumentally skilled practitioners that I look up to.I’m lucky to wear some choice work by some absolute wizards, to include Heath Thomas, Jordan Schwartz, Whitney Lockner, Aaron Dor Dixon, Caleb Morford, and Victor Thompson, to name just a handful of the beautiful humans that have tattooed me. There are many more, point at any work on me and I’ll tell you all about it!

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Maryssa:
What would you say is the most important thing to you in 2021?

Aaron:
Community. It’s fairly apparent lately that we all take care of each other better than any institution can.

Thank you Aaron for your thought provoking words, and ability to be vulnerable in your words, art, business, and actions. We are very grateful to know you, and to see your business blossom.  You can keep up with Aaron and all he is doing on both His, and Noble Jackles Instagram, and his personal website. He also has a Drop Ship shirt for sale right now on our website until April 18th. Go check it out and snag one while they are available!

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