Terry Stevens:  The Man Behind The Art

by Louis Gilmore

In life people have different things that they cherish and take pride in.  I interviewed my tattoo artist from back home and he revealed to me the pride and joy of his life.  Terry Stevens is his name and he is a 39 year old guy from the metropolitan Detroit area.  He grew up here form the age of six and lived most of his teenage life in this area.  He is the middle child of three siblings an older sister and a younger brother.
His mother was never married.  All the children had the same father but once the youngest child was born he took a leave of absence and never returned.  This was something that really hit Terry in the heart.  He was close to his father at that time and when his father left it put a void in his life.  In the interview I noticed a blank stare of pan and anger when he talked about his father and the day that he left.  “I remember coming home from school one day and I saw my mother in the kitchen crying and I asked what was wrong and she never said anything.  I walked back to my room and I noticed that all my pop’s things where missing from the room that he and my mom’s shared and that’s when I knew what had happened.” This is what Terry mentioned and I could see a deep anger and sadness that he had through his body language.  He looked out the window and he began to bite down and grind down on his teeth.  After is father left Terry found that the only thing that kept him at peace was art.  He would spend countless hours drawing and doodling.  He found that this filled the void of his father leaving and it would calm him down when he was mad.
When Terry was in High school he took al the art he could take.  He even stayed after school sometimes just to b able to work in the art room with the teacher and learn different drawing techniques. He made a comment, “I was like a crack head when it came to art.  I could not get enough of it and I would do anything to be able to participate in various art showcases around my hood.”  He said this with a bi smile on his face as if he was remembering every moment that he spends drawing and hanging out after school and how much fun he had, but with all good things there comes a time when things get bad. 
Living in the middle of one of the roughest neighborhoods was not the easiest of times.  There where many times when terry would get in fights coming home from school or just hanging around the neighborhood playground.  He said that “In my hood you had to fight for whatever you needed or wanted.  I had to fight other guys to pass through the path going home from school, for a swing on the playground, or just because someone did not like me.  This attitude for survival was one that came around very fast for Terry. After his father left his mother had to work two jobs to help take care of the family and to keep food on the table.  This was not an easy task.  “There where times my mother would go for days without sleep because she went from one job to the next one.  She would come home long enough to feed us and to check homework but soon as the clock hit 4:30 she was out the door w her way to the other job.  Terry felt that at the time he was responsible for being the man of the house.  He would work little odd jobs at the little corner store near his house and rake leaves or shovel snow for people but that did not make him much money just pocket change.   So Terry moved to the drug game.
He was 13 years old when he started selling drugs.  He started off as a runner for the big guys delivering little brown baggies from one place to the other and bringing back the money to his head man.  H did this for about 3 months until he had enough money to start buying his own supply and selling it on his own.  He got to the point that he was bringing home $500 dollars a day and that was on a slow day.  “I had a great system that I used.  I had a select amount of buyers that would come everyday at he same time that way I knew who to sale to and who not to sale to.  I would get my supply every week on Tuesday and would re-up by Friday.  And the money would come in every hour on the hour.”  At this time in his life the art was on the bottom of his list of priorities. “I had to watch out for number one first and that was me.  People who sale drugs like me where mad and jealous because I had the best product in town and their customers where coming to me, and I was making the money.  I had to constantly watch my back and protect my life from the other pushers and from the police so art was the last thing on my mind.  As he said this it was a foreshadow to something that devastated him. The day he was arrested with 1 oz of marijuana and 2 grams of crack cocaine.
One of the other pushers in the neighborhood called in an ammoniums tip and Terry was arrested on the steps of his house.  He was sentenced to 9 years in prison.  Wile in prison he was treated like the typical prisoner he got into fights, and was treated bad by the guards.  He went through a stage of depression and was down and out until one day his mother sent him a drawing tablet and a set of pens.  This was the one thing that was missing art kept him at peace and it kept him stable.  As he began to draw again the depression went away and he became like the old Terry. 
Once the art came back he found that art was not just for paper he saw another inmate who was an artist giving a tattoo to one of the inmates on his block.  He found it to be fascinating to see art work on someone’s body.  He started reading books on tattooing and watching the other inmate and the more he got into it the more he liked it.  He even found a way to give tattoos to people.  “I would use the shaft of a bic pen to hold the needle.  I got my needles form one of the nurses in the infirmary that I became good friends with.  I had a guard who had a brother that tattooed on the outside so he would toss me ink in return for good behavior.” He found his calling in life and developed and perfected his talent into what it is today.
Terry ended up only serving 3 of the 9 years he was sentenced to and moved back home.  He got a job at tattoo studio called Lucky Mushroom.  This was a shop that served his local community as well as famous hip hop artists and celebrities.   He later moved out to California and worked with the famous artist named Kartoon who did the tattoo on the rapper 50 cent’s back. Terry has since then relocated to High Point, North Carolina, and is working at Inflictions Tattoo and Body Piercing Studio.  He has been featured in Tattoo Magazine and has won countless awards in the tattooing industry.  The love for his art has been his main focus in life and he has been determined to let his art speak for him.