Art, Ink & the Open Road

 

Written by Amy Dee Stephens in the February 2019 Issue

Tattoos and Travel

Ryan Townsend’s artistic career took off when he was a teenager working at his father’s paint and body shop in Edmond. His talent for airbrush painting was so evident that he was soon doing custom paintings for clients’ cars and motorcycles. This led to a successful YouTube channel and Facebook following, which is how he met his girlfriend, Faith Estes, who also learned to airbrush. Ryan next turned his artistic eye toward tattooing, and soon, he was working at a studio in Dallas.

But Ryan and Faith felt trapped. They’d achieved traditional careers and bought a house—and wasn’t that the goal? So why did they always feel like they were trying to escape?

Gotta Get Out of Town

“Living stationary felt like an anchor, not a sail, because what we really wanted was to travel all the time,” said Ryan Townsend. “So, we bought a tent, then a camper, then a bigger camper—and we mostly stored them at the house that we didn’t want to be at.”

Last Fourth of July, the couple claimed their independence. They gave away their stuff, traveled to a RV wholesaler located in an Ohio cornfield, and bought a Fifth Wheel trailer. “We drove away in our new home,” Ryan said. “It was like learning to drive a semi-truck. We headed to Arcadia Lake, near our families, and parked it until we could figure out how it all worked.”

Cross-Country Painting

Having mastered the ins-and-outs of RV living, they next embarked on Ryan’s “on the road” art career. It was a bold idea to become a traveling tattoo artist--but it is working!

“We use social media to promote my next location, then I’m invited to work as a guest artist at various tattoo and airbrush studios. Sometimes I teach classes or demonstrate artwork in front of a large crowd,” Ryan said. “Faith manages the schedule, and everywhere we go, we make new friends and contacts who help us get connected at our next location. We were recently in Las Vegas where I worked at the SEEMA auto show and a tattoo convention. Now, we’re in southern California for about a month. I’m working in a highly-respected tattoo studio with one of my mentors. Our RV is parked outside of Disneyland, so we walk over there frequently.”

The “Art” of Travel

Although Ryan and Faith are still discovering their new lifestyle, they foresee travel as a forever fit. “We meet fascinating people as we go, and we are accumulating friends nationwide. Clients are excited to see us come, and they look forward to us coming back. We don’t have a permanent address like we used to, but with the internet, it’s become easy to live remotely. Actually, we’re learning that a lot of people live this way,” Ryan said.

“Nearly every day, I say that I feel more at home in our RV than I ever felt in our house. We didn’t know how satisfying it would be to just pull up to a rest stop after a long day of travel--and we’re home. We get out of the truck, take care of the cats, make dinner, watch a movie and go to bed. We wake up at home. But what’s outside is a place where we’ve never been before.” 

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