Interview Series: Zach Nelligan

DCM Photography

Pursuing your passion and turning it into a career is the American dream.  In this interview, Zach Nellian, tattoo artist and businessman, shares his life and what drives him.  

Could you fill readers in on your background?  

My name is Zach Nelligan.  I’m 26 years old and a life-long resident of Austin, TX.  I’m a tattooer and I work at Triple Crown Tattoo Parlour.  I have a BFA in Studio Art from the University of Texas at Austin.  Note of interest for people that might care:  AJ and I have been friends since the 3rd grade, and he’s always been a top notch dude.  Thank you so much for taking me into consideration for this.  

When did you realize you wanted to be an artist as a profession?  

 I’ve been drawing my entire life and have always wanted to do it as a living, and always just assumed it was what would happen.  Of course, this is rarely the case, so I couldn’t be more grateful that it actually happened!  I have no idea what I would do otherwise…
How did you decide on being tattoo artist?
It was at some point later in college.  I had been getting tattooed since I was 18, and they steadily got bigger and better.  I began researching the art and profession more and more.
Can you describe your experience breaking into the Austin tattoo scene?
Austin has a huge tattoo scene.  Just about everybody here is tattooed and we have one of the highest per capita counts of shops.  Some of the world’s finest tattooers work here and there are more and more everyday.  It’s very tough and competitive, but unlike other cities, there isn’t too much drama between shops.  As far as breaking in and making a name for myself, I’ve just done what I always do:  be as nice and genuine of a person as I can be, while working as hard as I can and constantly keeping up with my clients as far as communication and updates of my online and physical portfolios.
How would you describe your tattoo style?
I prefer to do primarily old school, traditional designs or subjects that evoke a vintage nostalgia.  I do bright, clean, bold tattoos that will hold up over time instead of super delicate, rendered, soft tattoos that will blur and fade quickly.
No tribal or Chinese characters then?
If that’s what you really want, I will gladly do it!

Bring ’em on!  I’m also here to get paid, haha.  


What has been the “wackest” tattoo you’ve given someone?
Wackest?  Maybe some of the stuff I was doing when I first started, haha.  Wackiest?  I do a lot of wacky tattoos.  I still really like the $%^# wizard riding the dragon.  It took up a girl’s entire thigh.

I do a lot of weird tattoos.  It’s a niche I’ve broken into.  See the answer above, and I also did a skull eating a @#$%&# in this dude’s armpit.  That was an interesting challenge.  

Whom or what do you draw (no pun) inspiration from?
Anything vintage or nostalgic, and also my clients’ ideas.  Old clip art, ads, tattoo designs, objects, etc.  I have a lot of reference material.

What’s your approach to attracting customers?  Any networking involved?
My business is primarily word of mouth.  If I’m kind and attentive to my customers and give them a nice tattoo worthy of being proud of, then they will pass my information along.  Besides that, the internet is huge.  I have a web site, Myspace, and Facebook for that.
Our shop also participates in different fund raisers, South By Southwest, East Austin Studio Tour, and we did a movie night for a while.  I also travel often for tattoo conventions, and our shop is involved with the Austin tattoo convention.
To what extent has the internet and social media been integrated into your business?
It’s a huge part of it.  I’d say half of my business comes from the internet, especially with Myspace, Facebook, and Yelp.  That’s where everybody turns to for everything now, so you have to participate and take advantage of its possibilities.  I try to keep all my stuff online as up to date as possible.
How long have you operating online?
I’ve had my site and profiles since I was an apprentice.  I guess about five years now.
Besides tattoos what other mediums do you work with?
When I paint, I use watercolor paper and liquid acrylics.  I used oil paint in college, but haven’t used it since then.
How do you see yourself advancing as an artist and businessman?
There’s no place to stop advancing.  It’s a natural thing to just want to get better at your craft, and it happens exponentially.  Especially now that tattooers and artists are getting better and better at younger and younger ages, it’s really important to always be on your toes.
As for business, I’ve recently broken into the publishing game, but it’s mostly been for fun.  I don’t plan on owning a shop until I have the means and the market needs another one.
What keeps you hungry to get there?
Personal growth primarily.  I don’t want to short change my potential or my customers with work that isn’t striving to be the best I can possibly strive to produce.
Lastly.  For those readers looking to get inked, where can you be reached?
I can be reached at:
Thanks Zach!

2 Comments on “Interview Series: Zach Nelligan”

  1. Linda says:

    this has got to be the most interesting interview you’ve done. loved it. skull eating a vagina?!! and what’s a dick wizard??

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