Who We Are: Justin Nordine

Originally published in the Fall 2019 issue of Spoke+Blossom

PHOTO BY WILL CAMPBELL

PHOTO BY WILL CAMPBELL

Grand Junction native Justin Nordine, 39, owner of The Raw Canvas, says his life as a tattoo artist began with a leap of faith, and there’s much more to his career choice than he thought.

While earning his masters in art education in Denver, Nordine built a curriculum around the art and history of tattooing and taught it to high school seniors in the city. While teaching, he discovered his major passion for the art form and ultimately left the education field to pursue it as a career.

“I wanted to do this,” says Nordine. “I was missing being an artist. I loved teaching art but I wasn’t creating anymore. So, I took the leap.”

Many thought he was crazy. And Nordine says to their defense, he kind of was. He left his stable income to become a self-taught tattoo artist. He stresses that he doesn’t recommend teaching the art form to yourself, but under his circumstances, it was how he had to pave his own way.

When he was teaching, Nordine’s students developed a fake tattoo studio in the classroom and named it “The Raw Canvas.” In October of 2008, he came back to The Raw Canvas, but this time opened it as a real studio in Grand Junction. Nordine’s style is an infusion of watercolor, nature, animals, geometric shapes and humanity. He opens his bookings twice a year, and within a 24- to 48-hour period, he’ll receive anywhere from 200 to 260 inquiries.

Nordine competed for the title of Ink Master on Paramount Network, which aired this past summer on June 11, 2019. He was sent home on the fourth episode, and while he hopes to return another season for redemption, he also says it’s time to respect the climb he’s been on and just enjoy life.

Nordine originally thought it would always be about his art, but it’s not — it’s the clients that he describes as the beautiful humans who sit in his chair every day that make him love what he does.

“They share their lives with me, triumphs and tragedies, all in the name of a tattoo they can take with them and have as theirs,” shares Nordine. “The stories they have shared and the return of so many has really given me a beautiful look at life and all the stuff we all go through …. We are all so much alike, just with different stories. But we all bleed the same.”

PHOTO BY WILL CAMPBELL

PHOTO BY WILL CAMPBELL

Lexi ReichWho We Are