- Associated Press - Saturday, November 22, 2014

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) - When I first met Paul Dhuey inside his Green Bay studio at 309 N. Broadway, the first thing that I noticed was a fly on his neck.

Heck, the majority of his body is covered in ink, but all I saw was that fly. I knew there had to be a great story behind it, like that classic dare or that funny story of a conceived tattoo permanently marked on one’s canvas thanks to a large amount of consumed alcohol. But you know the saying: Never judge a book by its cover, or in this case, never judge an individual by his tattoos.

Dhuey, who is from Casco, was influenced at a young age to the world of art thanks to his father and his aunt, Judy Thiry, who babysat him after school, Press-Gazette Media (https://gbpg.net/1ulTy6W ) reported.

“She always had a painting going on,” Dhuey said.

After graduating from Luxemburg-Casco in 1994, he went to the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design to pursue a major in painting and minor in illustration. He got his first tattoo at age 18.

And the rest is history.

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Just like the electromagnetic coils to a tattoo machine, Dhuey moved back and forth from Green Bay to Nebraska to Milwaukee to Madison to Minnesota to Texas, learning and getting comfortable with the medium. With the limited knowledge in the Midwest, Dhuey made the jump and moved to the West Coast, one of the major meccas of tattooing.

His most recent stop was in San Diego, where he tattooed for nine years at one of California’s premier shops, Guru Tattoo. He did some guest stints in Los Angeles, too.

“People (in California) are more interested in how they look. Everybody has tattoos in California,” he said. “The competition is higher, and there are a lot of shops with a lot of good artists.”

After San Diego, Dhuey moved back to Green Bay to be with family and to open up his own studio in downtown Green Bay: Katana Tattoo in 2012.

He knew that he had something to offer Green Bay - something different. He wanted to bring a little California to the Midwest and now he had the portfolio to back it up.

“I knew that there were tons of canvases here in the Midwest, and that’s what an artist needs,” he said.

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Most of Dhuey’s work is Japanese style, but he does American work too. His forte is large bodywork. The Japanese style fits the body well, and it’s timeless and classy with nice flow, he said. It’s also easy to add to.

Dhuey likes to educate and inform his customers on the canvas and body placement.

“I want to educate them, to give them options,” he said.

Don’t be surprised if you go into his shop with one idea and come out with a completely different design.

Dr. John Utrie, of Suamico, is a perfect example of how an original concept transformed into a piece of art.

“My original concept was to depict an internal battle scene, and I drew up some preliminary sketches with my daughter’s help,” he said. “The next step was to find an artist to work with on developing the concept into a tattoo. The intent was to place it on my thigh.”

Shortly after Katana Tattoo opened, he brought his drawings and ideas to Dhuey. His initial impression was different than other artists he had approached.

“He was clearly a serious professional with a definite sense of self,” he said.

The two discussed the concept for Utrie’s tattoo, and Dhuey agreed to work on some drawings.

“Soon I decided his work was too good for a small scale on the leg, and I decided to turn it into a back piece.” Utrie said. “With the final drawing ready, we set out on a 54-hour adventure that ended in my tattoo.

“Spending so much time with a person gives you a sense of how they think. Paul is an intense soul with a clear idea of his skills and art. He holds true to his ideals. Without question he wants to concentrate on large-scale coordinated art. He also wants to raise the bar for quality tattooing in the area. Despite the discomfort of the needle, I always looked forward to our visits because he had a great perspective on many things. Bottom line . he is a tortured artist striving to advance his art.”

Dhuey loves the challenge his art affords him and is always trying to perfect his craftsmanship.

“Anytime you finish something at a large scale it’s totally awesome. It’s very rewarding. But like any artist, you dissect it and try to make the next one even better. You’re never satisfied with any creation. That’s what keeps you going. You always want to outdo yourself.”

Dhuey has a long list of clients ranging from nurses to firefighters to even his father, Jim, who sports a pheasant on his leg.

“It’s not about the money,” Dhuey said. “The gratification comes from the client being happy, especially when they respect it and understand it. It’s a joint effort.”

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Dhuey hopes bring in four or five artists to his shop, continue to be innovative with his large bodywork and, most importantly, influence the Midwest and pave the way to something that’s not here yet.

The scope of his work has already made an imprint in the tattoo worldwide. On a recent trip to Santa Barbara, California, Utrie was roaming the beach when a young man walked up and asked, “Hey, is that a Dhuey tattoo?”

It was a compliment from 2,200 miles away. Call it coming to full circle for Dhuey, an impression from the West Coast scene now being done in Titletown.

Tattooing is Paul Dhuey’s labor of love. It’s all he does. It’s his life. He’s an artist dedicated to his craft.

It’s also one of the reasons behind that fly tattoo on his neck - to show his strong commitment to the business. Plus, he likes it because it represents everything good about a tattoo - traditional, bold and easy to read.

“I’m just a collector,” he said. “What can I say? I like art.”

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Information from: Press-Gazette Media, https://www.greenbaypressgazette.com


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