David Gant learns trade from tattooing legend Wes Grimm

Bryan Stalder
Northeast News

“The universe was blowing my balloon around and eventually, it led me here,” said David Gant, grinning from behind a desk at Grimm’s Tattoo, located at 3915 Broadway Boulevard.

Gant is quite literally covered from head to toe in tattoos, but his affable smile cuts through any trepidation one might have of him upon first glance.

He moved to the Independence Plaza neighborhood in 2013 with his partner, Lola Cash. At that time, Gant was making a living doing freelance work such as storyboarding and illustrations, primarily working with paint.

You may have encountered Gant’s work before without even realizing it. In 2016, he painted an image of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump in the likeness of Eric Cartman, an animated character on the popular television series “South Park.”

He took the painting to some protests with the intention of getting it photographed by the media, and he shared a scanned image of it on Facebook, which quickly went viral, racking up millions of views in a short period of twenty-four hours.

“There was a women’s march after [Trump’s] inauguration, and I saw people holding up large signs with my painting on it, and I saw that on CNN!” Gantsaid.

“As an illustrator, that had an impact on me, regardless of whether or not I made money, it was wild to know that an image I created was shared so much.”

It wasn’t until more recently that Gant began learning the art of tattooing. He became interested in tattoos at a very young age. “To my parents’ detriment,” he tells me. He lifts his shirt to show some of what he refers to as “punk rock stick and poke DIY tattoos,” many of which were self-administered.

“At that time, I really had no one to offer me guidance or direction.”

Gant says “I never really thought I could just get into tattooing as a career path,” but then one day, in 2017, he was contacted by an old friend who was working for Wes Grimm, a tattoo artist with a shop located at 39th & Broadway. His friend told him, “David, I was thinking you would be really great at tattoos, and if you’re interested in learning the trade, I’m sure Wes would give you a job.”

Gant, who was expecting his first child with partner Lola Cash, was torn between scaling back on the freelance jobs he was taking, jobs which paid the bills, and taking a position answering phones and booking appointments at Grimm’s, all the while learning the art of tattooing; essentially starting over in his career.

Ultimately, Gant recognized the opportunity to learn the art from Wes Grimm. “I could never ask for a better guide into the tattooing world,” Gant said. “He’s part of one of the oldest tattooing families in the world. There’s not many Wes Grimm’s running around to learn from, y’know?”

Grimm, who greets me wearing a black leather jacket and a black suede cowboy hat, owns the shop in Westport. When asked how long he’s been tattooing, he says “I’ve been doing tattoos since 1980.”

He learned the trade from his grandfather, and his grandfather learned it from Wes’s great-grandfather. “…On my mom’s side. At that time, tattoos weren’t really something that women did, so it skipped a generation,” Grimm added.

Grimm gives me a tour of his shop; he has numerous framed newspaper articles about the tattoo art of various family members going back a hundred years, photos of some of the tattoos his grandfather did many decades ago, and he even shares stories about the time his grandfather tattooed “Pretty Boy” Floyd, and his great-grandfather tattooed “Wild Bill” Hickok.

Indeed, if David Gant was going to “just get into tattoos as a career path,” he found a great mentor.

Eugene Francis Grimm, or as most folks called him, Gene, was an East High School Alumnus and learned the art of tattoos from his father at a young age. While serving as a Navy Quartermaster on a ship in the Pacific Ocean during World War II, Gene would type daily reports, giving him access to the U.S. Navy’s paper supply, which he would occasionally use for drawing tattoo concepts. Photographed here is an illustration that Gene drew of the East High School Bear crest while serving his country nearly seventy-five years ago. photo by Bryan Stalder

Gant continues to grow as an artist. He still takes commissions for murals and illustrations, but is primarily focused on his career as a tattoo artist. His latest client sits down to have another rose tattooed on his bicep. David has been working on a series of roses for this particular client over the winter season.

As I part with Gant to allow him to focus on his work, Wes sees me walking toward the front door and he shouts from his office, “Come back when you have some money and we’ll put a tattoo on you!”

Speaking as an individual who has never undergone the needle, I can honestly say that after visiting with David Gant (and Wes Grimm) for a few hours on a Thursday afternoon, perhaps the universe will blow me back in sometime for some custom ink of my own.

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