6 Collab Tips from Harlan Kantner and Kasey Gonzalez | Painful Pleasures Community

6 Collab Tips from Harlan Kantner and Kasey Gonzalez

Tattoo artists Harlan Kantner and Kasey Gonzalez dish on the ultimate tips for a successful tattoo collab.
by Danny Tress Last Updated: August 18, 2021

Neotraditional vibrancy meets black and grey realism in a recent fusion tattoo by Harlan Kantner and Kasey “Gonzo” Gonzalez. The tattoo — a black and grey skull framed by a vivid orange tiger head — seamlessly blends Kantner and Gonzo’s specialties. These two award-winning artists from Athens Tattoo in Riverside, Maryland flexed their collaboration muscles on camera for PainfulPleasures and Peak Needles this past May.

Here are some of their tips for a successful collab.

Harlan Kantner and Kasey Gonzalez collaborating on a tattoo

Tip 1: Balance Your Styles

Harlan Kantner:
“There has to be balance in the composition between the color and the black and grey.”

Kasey Gonzalez: “It’s important to give each style room to breathe… especially with black and gray. If you don’t have enough of it or the right portion, it just looks like part of the tattoo is unfinished.”

Tip 2: Communicate

“With both styles, make sure [the design] is something you’re both comfortable with. Have an even amount of feedback on both ends; communication is so important… it’s a collaboration of ideas.”

Tip 3: Create A Plan of Attack

“When we print the stencil out, we come up with a game plan. We’ll bounce back and forth and alternate. But the goal is to get both of us on it at the same time as much as possible so we can get these big, full pieces done in a reasonable amount of time.”

Tattoo of skull with tiger head by Harlan Kantner and Kasey Gonzalez

Tip 4: Get to Know Each Other

“It’s important to be close with the other person. Kasey and I work next to each other every day. He’s tattooed me [and I’ve tattooed him], so we know how the other works.”

K: “Collaborating with the same person over and over, you learn how they work, what they need, what they do… it takes the guessing game out of it.”

Tip 5: Stick to Your Strengths

“Do what you’re best at. I’m trying to give [the piece] my best and [Harlan’s] giving his best to it. That’s what makes the whole piece so much better.”

H: “Don’t try to go and do something you can’t do. Make sure the design is something you’re both comfortable with.”

Tip 6: Collab to Learn

“The main reason we decided we wanted to do [the collab] was because we wanted to learn from one another. There’s no better way to do that than when [Harlan] is doing his thing two inches away from me — I’ve been able to watch his process through and through right here the whole time.”

Harlan Kantner and Kasey Gonzalez tattooing a thigh together

Check out the full collab in action here.


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