Spaceblues Tattoo Artist Profile - Josh Ford


 Spaceblues Tattoo Artist Profile - Josh Ford of Landmark Tattoo (Denver) and Orange Tattoo Company (Annapolis)


When you think of Colorado, visions of fresh powder and roaming buffalo herds immediately come to mindbut Colorado is becoming reputable for far more than having an abundance of free-roaming wildlife and things to climb up and ski down.  A virtual hotbed for artistic expression and yes, extreme sports, Colorados capital is known for housing a population of unique individuals who adopt a very zen approach to the extremities of the Mile High Citylike tattoo artist and MMA expert Josh Ford .


The tattoo industry is a large part of Colorado culture and Josh is one of the most highly sought-after artists in the state. We caught up with the California-born, semi-retired professional MMA fighter, family guy, and artist to talk about tattooing in Denver and the symbiotic relationship between extreme sports and ink.


Check it out:


Where are you originally from?


Josh Ford: I was born in San Diego, California. I spent half of my youth in San Francisco and the other half in Atlanta, Georgia. I moved to Denver when I was 18.


When did you first get into tattooing?


Summer of 1996I was 19 years old. I originally started learning how to tattoo when I was working at a shop in Atlanta during the summer Olympics. The guy that was teaching me disappeared, so I put tattooing on hold for a few months until I moved back to Denver and started learning under Mike Nickels.


Why did you get into tattooing?


I was into getting tattooed and I had always been an artist growing up. I was a high school drop out with no direction. So when the door opened to give tattooing a tryI jumped at it.


What were your first tattoos?


I was 13. It was a hand-poked tear drop on my ankle. I thought I was a little suburban gangster, ha! My first professional tattoo was the day I turned 18. It was an amazing yin-yang the size of a dime surrounded by some sick ass 90's tribal on my chest. Ugh [laughs].


What was the most memorable tattoo you have ever done and why?


Hmmmmm, that's a tough one. There are a lot of memorable tattoos that I've done. There have been a handful of tattoos that I will always remember as "next step" tattoos for me. The ones that I did, and then stepped back and said to myself, "Wow! That's better than I thought I could do." Those are the ones that always seemed to open up a new level of tattooing for me and gave me a new confidence to push forward and do better.


How many tattoos do you have?


Ummmmm, a lot! [Laughs] I'm not fully covered, but I have a large portion of my body covered. I have some large tattoos that are unfinished - like my back - which I'm about to start going through a lengthy laser process to lighten and have a new tattoo done from my neck to the back of my knees.



If you had to pick, what is your favorite? Or do you have any memorable stories or meanings behind any of your tattoos?


I would say either my chin tattoo or my left hand tattoo are my favorites, or most meaningful. My chin was done by the guy who taught me to tattoo and it was sort of my coming of age tattoo to signify that I was accepted as a tattooer.


My left hand is a vertical eye surrounded by flames that I got from GRIME about a year and a half into tattooing. He was, and still is, a huge inspiration to me. The experience of getting tattooed by him and talking with him gave me a different outlook on tattooing.


How would you describe your tattoo style? What are you known for?


I'm pretty open. I do most styles of tattooing. I really enjoy doing Japanese style tattoos, but not too traditional. I love the imagery, but I still want people to know a cowboy did it, ha!


Anything you wont tattoo?


I try to stay away from anything gang related or racist related. I think people have a right to get what they want tattooed, but I also have a right to decide what I will and won't put on someone.


What other types of art do you do?


I used to paint more, but I stay pretty busy with family, tattooing, machine building and all the other stuff I do in life. So, it's hard for me to find time to just sit down and do other art.


When did you first get into MMA and why?


My first fight was in 2004, but I had been doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for a few years already.


MMA was really just another thing to experience in life. I started coaching MMA more in 2009, which is when I also decided to fight more. I had a handful of fights, but they were more for me to bring more first hand experience to coaching guys that wanted to make a career of it.


Do you still fight?


I don't fight anymore, I don't even coach for a specific team anymore. I only teach private lessons these days and work with a handful of fighters that want to work specifically with me.


What do you think is the big connection between MMA and tattoos?


I don't really know. I think it's like most sports, it's not a normal 9-5 job, so you don't have to go to work in a suit everyday or worry so much about how you look. I guess it just comes with the territory of having a little more freedom in your life.


What is the worst tattoo you have ever been asked to cover up?


Sheesh, there have been a lot. Probably the one that stands out most was a half sleeve-sized outline of half a "Taz" on a guys arm. He got drunk at a party and woke up the next day with half of a giant outline. It was horrible, kitchen wizard style with a home made tat gun.


What is the best and worst part about being a tattoo artist in Denver?


Denver is a great town to tattoo inthere is a huge population of heavily tattooed people. I feel like Denver is a bit more accepting of tattoos than a lot of other cities.


Worst part? There are a lot of shops around Denver and the surrounding areas, with only a small percentage doing good work. I guess tattooing in general is like that these days though...ton of tattooers, but the majority of tattooing being done is still not very good. Kind of a bummer sometimes. I don't think I'm the greatest tattooer, and I'm always trying to learn and be better, but there are some people out there that just do horrible tattoos and think they are God's gift to the world of tattooing.


You can find more of Josh Fords work at and