High Class

Q & A With Audie Fulfer

by Lisa Talley | lisa@fresnoflyer.com

Pop culture, comics, realism, full-color renditions of your favorite childhood (or, let’s face it, adulthood) characters, Audie Fulfer of High Class Tattoo and Body Modification of Fresno has made it his business to bring them to life on your skin.

From The Maxx to Breaking Bad to Ghost Busters to Superman, Fulfer is no stranger to pop culture requests. Often tackling portraiture work of famous characters, he’s also nailed down fictional creatures, cartoons, and monsters born from films and graphic novels. An unabashedly self-proclaimed ‘nerd,’ it’s difficult to say who’s enjoying the tattoo more, Fulfer or his clients.

We had a chance to chit-chat with the Owner of High Class to get to know the man behind the explosively colorful tattoos bringing people to Fresno from all over the world.

Year you started tattooing:

I started tattooing around 2005-2006

Was it a linear path to tattooing or a surprising detour?

I would have to say that I just kind of fell into it. It wasn’t planned whatsoever. I had a totally different route that I was going to take with my art but after doing it for so long, people close to me – knowing that I was artistic – would always ask me to draw things for them. Over time, all of that eventually turned into me drawing designs for their tattoos as well; I was basically nudged into that direction slowly.

Are tattoos the only type of artwork you do, or are you also a painter, sculptor, photographer, filmmaker, etc.?

Yeah, I do a lot of drawing still when I can, which I feel is important as a tattooer because not everything art-based should completely revolve around designing the next tattoo. Drawing for fun is always something that I’ve done.

Favorite tattoo on your body (why):

I got my first when I was 16, I’m 35 now, so that’s a lot of years to collect plenty of tattoos that I’m both happy with and those that I’m not, but I would have to say my favorites are my kids’ names. They were tattooed how they wrote them in kindergarten. When they got a little older, I let them tattoo a little piece next to each one of their names, which is pretty special to me.

Favorite tattoo you’ve given or most memorable (why):

I think that’s a million dollar question for most tattooers haha… I’ve done so many that I thought were awesome; it makes it really hard to say what was/is my favorite because each of those tattoos is memorable in its own way.

Artwork by Audie Fulfer of High Class Tattoo in Fresno, CA

Talk about how you got into tattooing – where did you start:

In the beginning, I just did small tattoos here and there on close friends, mimicking what I saw in magazines – but I never took it too serious mainly because I just didn’t want to mess people up. After some time, I did become more confident, but I was still playing it safe. However, I knew that if I really wanted to tattoo correctly, I needed to get into an actual shop.

Eventually, I ended up at a shop, and I finally got my foot in the door. It helped me get a feel for what needed to be done in order to be clean, safe, and sterile. So, in hindsight, it was the beginning of an apprenticeship. After a few months though, I got thrown to the wolves being told that I had to step-up and start tattooing after one of the artists was fired – I had to hit the floor running. I stayed within my skill set at the time, but it was difficult and mind-racking. So I guess you could say that I had a partial apprenticeship, but mostly, I taught myself.

You own High Class, talk about the early days?

Well, I had been tattooing for this shop, and things were going good for a while, but eventually, the owner started doing things that were unsavory to me. He was treating customers and the staff like crap, snaking clients from his own staff and then taking advantage of the situation without appreciating any of it because he wanted to be the rockstar of the shop. So when I decided to leave, I told myself I didn’t want to work at a shop that treated people unethically or wrong but then a buddy that worked at the shop with me said that I should open my own place instead of working for someone else. Ten years later, here we are!

Who’s your ideal client?

I would have to say someone who knows what they want but wants me to fully take creative control and design the tattoo because I know what will look good, work, and hold up over time. There’s so much trust that’s needed for that so when a client is willing and shows that amount of trust the results end up being awesome.

Favorite moment in your career thus far:

If I absolutely have to pick one I would have to say when I first got an email from a client in Canada who wanted to fly to Fresno just to get a tattoo. For me, it was a big deal because I finally knew that my work had started to make an impact in the industry. Since then, I’ve had numerous clients fly from different parts of the world.

Artwork by Audie Fulfer of High Class Tattoo in Fresno, CA

You do some amazing colorwork, were you classically trained in art or self-taught?

Everything I do has been self-taught for the most part, that and also discussing techniques and theories with other tattoo artists during my travels.

You also do quite a bit of portraits and renditions of famous characters – would you say that’s a specialty?

Well, it just kind of happened. I did a few here and there and since I’m a fan of a lot of the things I happen to tattoo and people started to take notice of that. Over time, more and more people wanted similar art done by me. I guess now you can say it’s definitely a specialty of mine.

What would you say your specialty is?

I would say full-color tattoos is my thing. I do a lot of different things but full-color realism, illustrated style art, and animation tattoos are what I’m known for.

Who (or what) inspires you?

Everything inspires me, I know that’s probably a cheesy response, but for now, I feel that it’s an accurate answer.

What’s next for High Class – any plans fans can keep an eye out for?

Well, we just started our 10th year, so I’m looking forward to seeing what another ten years bring. Also, I’m going to be starting an online store for my artwork. I’ll be offering t-shirts and stickers, buttons and prints, patches, sketchbooks and color books all based on my style of tattoo artwork and pop culture. That’s definitely going to be something to look out for.

Social media where people can follow you: 

Instagram @audie_tattoos @highclasstattoo

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