Good Guy Feature: Eric Brunning

Good Guy Feature: Eric Brunning

Posted by Jordan Stricker/@jaystrickz on 2024 May 8th

If you forced Eric Brunning to define his style of tattoos, he'd tell you it's illustrative. But when you see the work up close or online, you realize the label doesn't nearly do his work justice.

His style is far from simple; it's a multi-layered tapestry of artistic expression. The 'illustrative' label is a convenient response to a complex question.

"I know that is a vague term, but I can't think of any other way to describe it," Eric said. "One thing I've always been interested in is light sources. I started going into that with my style, playing with colour and light, trying to make things super dramatic using those elements."

Eric hails from Nanaimo, B.C. He grew up surrounding himself with art and constantly drawing.

"I was a shy kid who was always into art," he said. "I was always the kid submitting drawings for school projects."

Tattooing as a career path hit him when he started getting tattooed at 17.

"Just being in the tattoo shop, the whole vibe and the chill atmosphere of all the artists involved. I was like, 'Yeah, this is something I want to do.'"

After showing the guy tattooing him his drawings, Eric received nods of approval and was pointed to where he could hone his artistic ability.

He spent two years at Vancouver Island University and two years at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design for Visual Arts, focusing on Illustration.

Eric said he did notice how much of a different vibe the art school world was compared to the tattoo world.

"With Emily Carr and the fine art side, they want you to look at the art and not get it at first glance," Eric said. "With tattoos, you sort of need to look at it and get it."

While at Emily Carr, he tried incorporating his interest in tattoos into his projects but noticed it didn't translate well.

"They weren't that into it. It's understandable, they are more conceptual." Eric said. "It's not that they didn't like delving into tattooing; they just didn't seem super jazzed about it. But I did learn a lot from that school in terms of technical abilities."

After art school at the end of 2011, Eric hit the streets with his portfolio, looking for an apprenticeship as quickly as possible.

"This was before all of the online portfolios; at least, there weren't as many as there are now. Social media was a lot less prevalent," he said. "I went to a bunch of shops and ended up with a traditional apprenticeship from a man named Jimmy Collier."

Jimmy owned and operated Lotus Land Tattoo, a shop in Kitsilano. It was an excellent spot for Eric to go and learn the trade. Unfortunately, at the end of his apprenticeship, Jimmy passed away.

"Right after my apprenticeship ended, Jimmy passed away unexpectedly," Eric said. "It was a tough time for everybody involved."

While Eric and another tattooer did their best to keep Lotus Land's doors open, the decision to close them was made about a year and a half after he died.

"It's a bummer the shop ended up not making it because it was a pretty reputable spot," Eric said. "Even though there was one main artist working there, he was well-known and kind of a go-to guy."

After moving on from Lotus Land, Eric bounced around, refining and figuring out his style until he landed at Black Rider Tattoo in 2016.

"That is when I found out this place is my vibe, and these are my people," he said. "I've been here ever since."

Looking back at his journey in tattooing, if he could speak to a younger version of himself, he'd say to slow things down and not get ahead of himself so early.

"I was so eager when I was young. I was always trying to do these bigger and bigger pieces when I still hadn't grasped the technical aspects of tattooing," he said. "Especially after Jimmy passed."

Eric said before he passed, he'd get someone requesting a larger tattoo, probably way before he was ready to take it on, and he would ask his mentor if this was something he should be doing.

The always-eager Eric never wanted to turn anything down, so he would take on large-scale projects, do them, and find out maybe he had jumped the gun a bit.

"He'd say, 'That was a test, and you failed. you shouldn't be doing stuff that big yet.'" Eric said. "But after he passed, I was struggling to keep things open. I was doing larger projects when I didn't know how to tackle them. I rushed into that a bit too quick."

He added younger artists should take more time to study the approach rather than rushing into things and figuring it out from there.

"You can always spend more time studying and redrawing and thinking about things more. You can't take back the actual tattoo on the skin."

Looking at his work now, it has worked out no matter what advice he would have given to his younger self. Eric is a highly sought-after artist with enough projects on the go that his books are currently closed.

For over a decade, he has been inspired by the talent he surrounds himself with and the other great artists he knows in the industry.

"That still drives me. Looking around at all of my friends and colleagues killing it out there," he said. "It's inspirational. You see artists doing these crazy things I've never thought of. It's really cool to just gain any sort of inspiration."

His journey has brought him here today through all the ups and downs. Luckily for us at Good Guy, he is officially part of our sponsored artist team.

He is another addition to an already stacked lineup, and we couldn't be more stoked to have him riding with us.

Eric said he chose to join the Good Guy team after years of supporting the company.

"I've known these guys for years. They have always been so nice and welcoming," he said. "They stand behind their product, and it's run by people I totally respect. They are tattooers. They know what they want, and they know what people want."

He added he's been supporting Good Guy since he started tattooing.

"The Supreme cartridges are phenomenal," he said. "I've never opened a box and had cartridges I need to throw out."

While his books are currently closed to the general public, he'll attend the upcoming Winnipeg and Montreal conventions, with some possible guest spots yet to be announced.

If you'd like to stay updated with what Eric has going on, check out the shop Black Rider Tattoo or follow him on Instagram.