xxx = FLOW A Story of Tattooing and Jiu Jitsu Dave Koenig Documentary FLOW_A_Story_of_Tattooing_and_Jiu_Jitsu__Dave_Koenig_Documentary Fireside Tattoo Network

Drawing For Tattoo Design: FLOW A Story of Tattooing and Jiu Jitsu Dave Koenig Documentary

FLOW - A Story of Tattooing and Jiu Jitsu | Dave Koenig Documentary

Creating a unique style in tattooing is essential for standing out in the industry, especially in recent years. Distinct mark-making, technique, creative shape design, fit and most importantly “FLOW” are what separate the tattooers from the tattoo artists.

Dave Koenig stands among the few who have transcended beyond just being an exceptional tattoo artist. He has set himself apart, transitioning seamlessly into commercial art, showcasing his creativity and versatility. His unmistakable scrollwork, gestural figures forms and clear structural prowess glide your eye through his compositions, elevating not just his clients anatomy but any object he applies a brush or a pencil to. From murals to cars, bottles in bars, signs and guitars, Dave has pretty much done it all.

We hope that you enjoy this first, short foray Fireside is taking into documentary making. If this is enjoyable please let us know who you’d like to see us spend some time with next. Hopefully we will make this and ongoing series of deeper, more in depth pieces on stand out people in the tattoo community.

Dave Koenig Ten in One Collection Cards

This episode was made possible thanks to:



Interview by By Jake Meeks —

Writing By Daniel Pushcarich —

Topics: Dave Koenig, Tattoos, Omaha Nebraska, Owls, Jiu-Jitsu, Brazilian, Athena, 


Heron, lady, and owl tattoos, by dave koenig

“It's just one of those things where you’re hating it, and you feel like you’re no good. Just show up...just show up… it's a challenge... but you just keep trying… you're going to be depressed and then all of a sudden boom! Something will click.”

— Dave Koenig

Dave Koenig (@davekoenigart) studied Fine Arts, Anthropology, and Native American Studies at the University of Nebraska Omaha and later taught art for two years in Iowa, including at the St. Augustine School on the Winnebago Reservation. He began his tattooing career in 2001 and has since worked at numerous studios locally and internationally, including Tenth Sanctum Tattoos in Omaha and various studios in France and Norway.

Dave's artistic style combines controlled line work with delicate color treatment, influenced by Japanese culture, American Traditional, and Art Nouveau styles. His work spans multiple mediums, including ink, watercolor, and large-scale acrylic paintings. He has curated art shows and his art has appeared on skateboards, t-shirts, album covers, and event posters. Expanding into commercial art, Dave co-owns Soapbox Guitars, where he paints custom guitars and illustrates liquor labels.

Dave is based in Omaha, NE, and owns/tattoos at The Oak

Please enjoy!

The Oak Logo



  • Connect with Dave Keonig: | The Oak | @davekoenigart

Dave Koenig Snake and Lady backpiece


  • [00:54] Tattooing, Art, And Community In Omaha
  • [07:04] Inspiration and Artistic Process
  • [10:43] Creating Flow in A Composition
  • [13:18] Overcoming Challenges in Art and Tattooing
  • [20:07] Finding Individuality in Jiu-Jitsu and Tattooing
  • [23:31] The Dynamics of Art and Jiu-Jitsu
  • [26:38] Insightful Mentoring and Problem-Solving
  • [29:10] Is it A Trick? Or, Is It Technique?
  • [34:21] Evolving Artistic Perspectives over Time
  • [35:30] Jake’s Reflection and Future Endeavors

Athena Backpiece by Dave Koenig, Top Half

Inspiration and Artistic Process

Dave uses a blend of research, fieldwork, and artistic vision that drives his creative process. Drawing inspiration from surroundings, travel experiences, and cultural elements to enhance the uniqueness of each design. His process often begins with loose mark-making and evolves into a structured composition, allowing for spontaneous creativity to guide the initial stages.

His meticulous planning and execution, incorporating cultural references, showcase the intricate artistic process and dedication to continuous improvement. For instance, depicting mythological elements like Athena with the hoplite helmet, alongside the intertwining elements of the medusa head and her iconic pet owl requires a deep understanding of historical and cultural contexts.

Athena Backpiece by Dave Koenig, Lower Half

Parallels Between Tattooing and Jiu-Jitsu

Tattooing and jiu-jitsu share a common foundation of perseverance and continual improvement. In both fields, practitioners must commit to ongoing learning and refinement of their techniques. Just as a tattoo artist continually hones their skills to achieve precision and creativity in their designs, a jiu-jitsu practitioner practices relentlessly to master complex moves and develop their own personal style or “game”. Both disciplines require a mindset of humility, recognizing that mastery is a perpetual journey rather than a destination.

The value of resilience and overcoming self-imposed limitations is evident in both tattooing and jiu-jitsu. Artists and athletes alike face challenges that test their skills and patience. In jiu-jitsu, practitioners often feel frustrated by the slow progress, much like an artist struggling with a difficult design. However, by persistently pushing through these obstacles, they experience moments of breakthrough that significantly advance their abilities. This shared experience of growth through perseverance fosters a deep appreciation for the journey itself.

Mentorship also plays a crucial role in both tattooing and jiu-jitsu, providing personalized guidance and support. Experienced mentors offer tailored solutions and insights based on their own experiences and proximity to the challenges faced by their mentees. This individualized approach to learning helps both artists and athletes develop their unique styles and techniques, enhancing their overall proficiency. And mentorship doesn’t happen singularly from the master themselves, it can also be pulled from your colleagues and peers around you. Whether it's a tattoo technique for better blends or a jiu-jitsu move to get you out of a tight spot, the influence of knowledgeable mentors is invaluable in achieving excellence.

Devil, Muay Thai, and Eagle Tattoos by Dave Koenig



Creating Flow in Artistic Composition

[10:55] “I just love flow. I like it when you look at a piece and my eyes feel like they can easily travel one direction, but then it can keep traveling. I like a drawing to look good on a flat surface and to look good when it's on an organic surface such as somebody's body”

— Dave Koenig

The Dynamics of Art and Jiu-Jitsu

[23:31] “I might not draw like [Frank LaNatra], But that dude can put some pigment in the skin. I want to learn, I need to learn the techniques. I might not use the techniques, but I think it's good to know as much as humanly possible. I think life revolves around helping each other in knowledge, you know? I just want to learn and that's the thing I love about jujitsu, no matter how good you might think you are, you're not, you just have to keep learning it. It's ongoing.”

— Dave Koenig


Reaper and Stanley twins by Dave Koenig




Crane and Snake backpiece, Lady Chrysanthemum Backpiece, by Dave Koenig

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The Fireside Tattoo Network is home to the Fireside podcast, Fireside Technique video series and our Fireside Weekly blog.

The Fireside Tattoo podcast is hosted by veteran tattooer Jake Meeks, check out our episodes where we discuss, argue and wax philosophical, from tips for all levels of artists to trends in the tattoo world. Many guest artists have sat down for interviews and in-depth conversations and many more are planned…check back often!

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Drawing for Tattoo Design

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Fireside Tattoo Network simplifies the tattoo design process with the Fireside Method. By focusing on the principles of Shape, Value, Edge and Color, we help you identify and solve your biggest challenges early in the design process.

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FLOW | Dave Koenig

- 06/28/24