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Local tattoo artist creates a vibrant community through art (7 photos)

From ink to canvas, local Indigenous tattoo artist shares his love of art through tattooing and painting.

From an early age, local tattoo artist Ryan Pooman has always been interested in creating things and the artistic side of what that means.

From tattooing to painting, Pooman says this practice has been his outlet for expression and well-being.

“I’m forever grateful I can create art for a living,” he says.

As an Ojibwe artist and member of Fort William First Nations, Pooman has been a tattoo artist for eight years and most recently rediscovered his love and talent for painting.

Using acrylic on canvas, he says his inspirations stem from traditional woodland art, stories from his community, and the stories that the land and nature hold.

By taking inspiration from traditional pieces and combining them with his own stories, Pooman uses bold lines with his neo-traditional tattoo style to create his paintings.

Being an artist at High Tide Tattoo Parlour on Park Street in downtown Port Arthur, Pooman has taken this skill and transformed it to his painting style.

“I’ve learned a lot from tattooing that I now apply to my paintings; it’s helped shape my artistic style,” he says.

Growing up in Thunder Bay, Pooman found most of his inspiration while skateboarding and the graphics that are incorporated within the sport that emphasizes a person’s own unique expression.

“I learned at a young age to paint from a childhood friend…and we spent most of our time doing this and skateboarding. I’ve tried lots of different mediums throughout but have stuck to painting.”

Connecting land to art

Pooman feels a connection to the land and the people here, noting he has always felt accepted and without judgement as an artist in the city, even with the minor setbacks of unfamiliarity.

“Some people in the community are nervous to get tattooed in the downtown area, but I think it’s reassuring to let them know that I’m Indigenous and they can come here and feel comfortable,” Pooman says.

Through tattooing he’s gained relationships and understanding of each story he hears.

“Being able to meet so many different people from and around our community and giving them meaningful pieces of art is definitely the best part [about being an artist in Thunder Bay].”

Pooman believes Thunder Bay is a place that has given him, not only inspiration, but the safe haven to learn about his act of creating and his artistic practice.

“I’ve never felt the need to leave Thunder Bay. It’s always been home for me."

Artistically ahead

Pooman describes his style as bold, traditional, organic and inspired. Styles that, one might say, are individualistically his.

“We have amazing tattoo artists in the community that all have their own style and seeing their work makes me happy to be part of the tattoo artist community.”

He praises the small community of tattoo artists and hopes to see it grow and flourish in the future.

Through both artforms, Pooman will be painting the city bright and bold for everyone to discover crave for more. 

Ryan Pooman can be found at High Tide Tattoo Parlour on Park Street to purchase a painting or discuss a tattoo, reach out to him on Instagram @ryanpooman

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