On The Record: Marko Livingston
BY KALANI WILHELM / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Be it from a tattoo gun, freehand or spray can, no matter what the expressive method or the tool of the trade may be, the colors dispensed represent a firm illustration of a dream realized for local artist Marko Livingston.
“Art to me is creating anything that makes me happy,” he said. “Everyone is creative in their own way. Don’t give up on what makes you happy and follow your passions.”
Livingston owns and operates Today, Everyday studio, a quaint tattoo parlor and art shop in the heart of Chinatown. The Fort Street establishment, which recently celebrated one year in business, represents a medium where he was able to set his creative soul free and focus on expressionary art, all of the time.
“Jumping right into it was the best and scariest thing I had to do,” he said. “Everything made sense once I did. It has allowed me to do all the different arts that I love not just tattooing. I have the best customers and they feel comfortable in the private studio setting I have. I can focus on my art a lot more.
“I never wanted to be my own boss. Things just work out for the best. if you put your best out there I guess,” he said. “I’m located in the coolest building in Chinatown with the only man-operated elevator in Hawaii.”
Interested folks can find Livingston’s decorative appeal all over Honolulu. Odes to Chinatown history and Chinese mythology come in the form of a series of 15-foot high murals on the corner of Smith and Hotel St. Livingston pays homage to local tattoo legends Sailor Jerry Collins and Mike “Rollo Banks” Malone. (Collins owned a tattoo shop in Chinatown during World War II, Malone later bought the shop and renamed it China Sea Tattoo Company).
Right next to the aforementioned murals is a collaboration piece Livingston took part in featuring Kwan-yin (The Goddess of Mercy and Compassion) and a lion dancer.
“Most of my street art I do for the love. I like to give back to the community and people in need,” he said. “On another level, I really study all aspects of art and art history. This helps making proper tattoos and art.”
Other noteworthy larger than life pieces by Livingston can be found outside of Fresh Cafe on Queen St., one of three installations for POW! WOW! Hawaii 2013, and a giant fluorescent Polynesian pattern cockroach on a library in Kakaako.
He says getting permission to do art on any canvas, whether it be a customer’s skin or a blank wall is a big compliment.
“From crayons to Krylons to tattoos” is Livingston’s Twitter description, and a perfect one at that.
Born in Riverside, Calif., Livingston’s love of art developed as a grom when he would draw Snoopy and Garfield from the Sunday comics. After relocating to the islands at 13, sketches of Looney Tunes characters and The Simpsons gave way to graffiti and low rider art in his formidable high school years.
“Auto body and paint was my first serious thing being into low riding and custom paint then I would say working on-air for Hawaii radio. Did that for almost 10 years and it was an amazing time,” he said.
Career paths can have a fair share, bumps in the road, u-turns and dead ends. Livingston said he is thankful that his journey took an adventurous turn filled with green lights. Now, he shares his creative passions with like-minded, art-enthused people pretty much on the daily.
“Traveling and getting tattooed by the best in the world has taught me many things from life and art,” he said. “I had the pleasure of tattooing (rapper) T-Pain, painting live with the artist I always looked up to and befriending the most talented people in the world.”
From aspiring pre-teen doodlist to a professional street art curator and tattoo artist, expect Livingston to continue to blaze a path of notoriety in local art circles. It appears no form of art is off limits.
Catch Livingston taking part a live art installation during “Elements” at the Modern Honolulu’s Sunset Pool Deck from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25.
Kalani Wilhelm covers nightlife and music for the Pulse. Contact him via email or follow him on Twitter.