Painter, Tyson Johnston, and his paintings—with their bold fantastical images in thick layers of watercolor and other media—reach out powerfully to audiences, in both theme and style. Inspired by influences as diverse as Tibetan Buddhism, skateboarding graphics, and tattoo art, Johnston’s work is steeped in allegory and symbolism. And the former head of the tattoo shop Death Before Dishonor is constantly perfecting new techniques to express his fierce, dynamic visions. Calling him meticulous would be an understatement.

“I’ve been doing art my whole life, but at a certain point I figured out that I liked painting more than tattooing. Tattooing definitely put me in a different direction, but really it just made me feel bad about myself, whereas painting makes me zen out. It’s much more meditative. And since it’s not delicate, I normally like working on wood, being able to really sit into painting. But it’s always cool to get out of your element and do something different. I look to everything for inspiration—I’m always trying to challenge myself. It’s kind of like organized chaos, right?”