Local 26-year-old an award-winning tattoo artist

BY BEN SCHUFF | JULY 26, 2011 7:20 AM

Ben West/The Daily Iowan
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David Rich likes to conquer new ideas.

If something he wants doesn't exist, he'll create it.

With tattoos inked up and down his arms, on the sides of his neck, and one hidden beneath black Dickie-brand shorts on his right thigh, the 26-year-old sits in his recently acquired Vesania Ink tattoo studio in the Hall Mall, talking about his young but incredibly successful career.

For Rich, the important part isn't necessarily the particular tattoo a customer wants but rather how he is going to handle it.

"It's just like what tattooing styles have been done already — this has been done, this has been done, and this has been done," he said about the process he takes customers through. "These are your options, but this is what we should do to stay away from it because this is something new and different.

"The main idea is trying to conquer. That's what I do — always trying to be steps ahead."

Being steps ahead is something Rich has done throughout his life when it comes to art forms.

He began tattooing in 2006, when he started an apprenticeship with Exile Tattoo — the former name of Vesania Ink.

In his first five years, he won awards at tattooing conventions attended by 50 to 60 other tattoo shops. He received recognition in various categories such as color, portraits, and horror, among others, and he has earned 12 awards to date.

"I always describe David as a prodigy," said Javier Silva, who has worked alongside Rich since 2008. "It's insane the amount he has accomplished in such a short period of time.

"It actually shocks people when they find out, like professionals — people who have been in the industry for decades — they find out how short a period of time David's been tattooing, and it blows them away."

Art has been a big part of Rich's life since his school days, when he consistently took art classes ahead of his grade level. He enrolled in a junior-high art class in elementary school, and in his first year at City High, Rich was the only freshman in an advanced upperclassman class.

A self-described "comic-book dork," Rich attributed part of his tattooing skills to his previous work of drawing comic books for fun. He's also an avid comic collector; he has 64 boxes sitting in his home containing an estimated 10,000 comic books.

All of his previous experiences have been a factor in Rich becoming a master of his current craft.

" 'Amazing' is usually the best word," said Nikki Powills, a fellow artist. "He just has people describe things to him, and then he takes it and makes images right there. It's exactly what they want."

In May, Rich became full owner of the tattoo shop, which is when he changed the name to Vesania Ink.

Taking on the role of owner also brought about a profound change in the new businessman.

"In the beginning, I was thinking all about myself," Rich said. "When I bought the shop, I realized it wasn't for me. I'm here — and so is everyone else who works here — for everybody else that is out there. We put good work out there for our customers."

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