Devon O’Keefe makes his living as a full-time artist, and while he loves art, music is his full-time hobby. He works as a tattoo artist at Glass Heart Tattooing & Arts in Plains Twp. but also is an illustrator who has given his talents to many children’s books and does commissioned paintings, too. He studied voice and piano at Baptist Bible College (now Clarks Summit University) and graduated with a degree in graphic design and illustration from Marywood University. He and his wife, Danielle, have two daughters, Story, 3, and Ivy, 2.
Meet Devon O’Keefe…
Q: Tell me a little about yourself.
A: I grew up in a church setting. My parents were heavy into faith, and my whole family still is. When I graduated, I worked at a church for seven years as the worship and art director. I met my wife at the youth group at Grace Bible (Church) in Dunmore.
Q: Tell me about your background in art.
A: I started drawing when I was little. I drew animals all the time. I decided I wanted to be an illustrator, so I took a class at Marywood, as well as a graphic design class. At first, I got a lot of work in graphic design working with small businesses on logos and signs. I’ve been in contact with authors and worked on different books. One of them was my sister; she wrote a book, and I illustrated it. I’ve done book projects, and I started getting into the gallery scene where I do these big paintings. I do a lot of commissions for people, and I love to do that. When I was working at the church, I would also do a lot of live speed paintings.
Q: Describe your style as an artist.
A: When I start drawing something, I’ll have a vision in my head, but when it comes out, you can tell it’s mine. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly it is, but if I had to choose words to describe my work, it would be earthy with spiritual undertones and kind of eclectic. As far as tattooing goes, I’m not a fan of traditional tattoos. My tattoos aren’t traditional at all; they’re more illustrative. I tackle each piece as an individual piece of artwork that my style can flow into, then I tattoo it.
Q: Which came first, the studio art or tattoo art? How did one lead to the other?
A: I illustrated a book cover, and it was a collection of poems someone wrote. He asked me to do the book cover, which was a watercolor conch shell. He ended up going to Derek Zielinski, who is now the owner of (Glass Heart Tattooing & Arts), to get that tattooed on his arm. He showed it to me after, and I thought it was really cool. I decided I was going to go to him for my next tattoo. He tattooed my hand, and he knew of my art before I came to him. While he was tattooing me, he was secretly interviewing me, and he told me afterwards. He called me a week later and asked if I wanted to be his apprentice and tattoo with him. I fell in love with it. Coming into it was a totally different way from the normal way of getting into tattooing.
Q: What is your favorite medium?
A: There is something special about each one. There are certain things that I can do with one that I can’t do with another. I like tattooing my artwork because it’s a permanent thing, and it’s not going anywhere. I love that aspect, and the process of tattooing and the conversations we have. I also love creating giant paintings. I’d say my favorite art is this style of watercolor. I did a series, and each one is big with a decorative Victorian frame. I pack in a lot of symbolism. One of my favorite things is when they’re in art galleries, watching people look at them for a while and pick things out. The other joy that comes from this style is I love making people think about things they haven’t thought about before in a deeper way.
Q: Tell me about your own tattoos and what they say about you.
A: A lot of them are spiritual. I have one for Ivy and one for Story. I also love the design on my hand, because when I’m wearing long sleeves, it shows. I have a matching tattoo with my wife. It’s a tree with an open bird cage and two birds flying out of it. That was kind of our theme at our wedding too. My entire family, my four siblings and my parents, got our family crest together.
Q: What is a tattoo design that you are most proud of?
A: One of my favorite tattoos that I’ve done is a series of watercolor and ink that was an animal with some kind of fantasy element to it. For example, there was a rabbit with flowers coming out of his ears. A client of mine wanted something from the series, maybe an alligator or crocodile. I thought it would be cool to do a crocodile head with crystals coming out of it instead of the bumps on its head. That one was awesome and so much fun.
Q: You switch between using large and small canvases and people skin as your surface. What is the transition like?
A: My first tattoo on a person was myself. I’m so glad I did that, because it looks terrible. Everybody’s skin is a different canvas; it’s got different consistency, different skin tones and, of top of it, the place (on their body) they get the tattoo. I love it, and the challenges are great.
Q: What other hobbies do you have?
A: Music is a big part of my life, just as much as art. Me, my sister and my brother-in-law have played music together (for) years. My brother-in-law and I have been playing together for 10 years. The day we met, we became best friends. Then he married my sister, and I was all for that. That was awesome because we could still hang out. We played together at the church every Sunday for years. We recently went to audition for “America’s Got Talent” in New York City. Good things are coming, and we’re still blown away by it. My daughters like to sing along; they know all my songs by heart. We like dancing and singing together. I love being outside. My buddy and I … do rock climbing. I love bringing the girls on hikes too. They love every second of that.
Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape who you are today?
A: The first thing that comes to mind is having kids. They’ve taught me so many lessons in life. I’ve also been a spiritual person trying to practice the presence of God in every day, but these girls have taught me unconditional love and lessons of just existing. These girls are everything to me.