Keith Maynard is a tattooer and artist based out of Hampton, Virginia. Keith came up in tattooing within the Virginia Beach area and specializes in bold, bright, traditional tattoos. In 2017, Keith & Shaun Hofstetter bought Foundation Tattoo in Hampton, where Keith has been working ever since. His paintings are both highly graphic and intricately detailed, reflecting his love for traditional tattoo imagery. Whether its needle and ink or paint and brush, Keith's technique and execution are top notch throughout. Recently, we were able to grab an original painting from Keith (pictured above) and chat with him about tattooing.
Olivia Huntley: Hey Keith! Thanks so much for this awesome painting and taking the time to talk to us. I wanted to start off by asking what your background is as an artist and tattooer. Has that always been a path for you?
Keith Maynard: I have two older brothers and when I was a little kid, before I could go to school, they would bring arts and crafts projects home. My mom would sit with me and we’d recreate them together. My mom took art in college, she never finished, but she knew some stuff. She was really encouraging and I pretty much always drew as a child. She was very helpful with that.
I thought I was going to do comic books or something, but I don’t think I ever made a single comic book, which is kind of funny to think about now. Instead, I was drawing and finishing one-shot drawings and paintings. It’s kind of funny that it was perfect for tattooing, really, because that’s what tattooing is. I read books about how to draw comic art and it’s all about dynamics and making something look dynamic, and I think that’s key in tattoo art as well. There are certain design choices, kind of leading the eye…
There was something I read once that said, “Tilted heads look more dynamic than a straight up & down one.” You know, little tricks that comic guys use. I kind of unwittingly practiced these tricks that would later apply to tattoos. But I always liked tattoos too. I can remember talking about getting tattoos with my brothers, and I don’t even know where that came from because my parents don’t have any. In middle school, I’d draw tattoos on people with gel pens, you know, hideous tribal designs & stuff.
OH: What made you finally pursue tattooing as a career?
KM: Well, I saw Miami Ink… As lame as that is. I had an interest in tattoos & I’d been buying tattoo magazines. Me and my brothers used to stop at 7-Eleven on the way to school and I’d buy tattoo magazines with my lunch money. I was like, “Tattoos are so fucking cool, I’m going to get so many tattoos.” I kind of entertained getting into it and my dad was like, “Don’t do that.” I saw that show when I was 16 or 17, and as corny as it is, I was like, “No, I really want to do that.” That was kind of it, I guess. I didn’t pursue it for a couple more years, but once I got an apprenticeship, that was it.
OH: You and Shaun Hofstetter own Foundation Tattoo together, correct? How’d that come about?
KM: Yeah. I ended up working at a bunch of shops around here. Shaun and I met working about 11 years ago. He wanted to open up a shop and he and I had talked about it for a long time. Because like most tattooers, I’m a whiner, and would always complain about how other people didn’t run the shop right. Me and him were like, “The only way to solve this problem is to own our own shop.” We talked about it for years.
The two guys who owned Foundation separated and wanted to sell it. Shaun worked there and they knew he wanted to open up a shop, so they sold it to him for a pretty reasonable price. He called me and I was actually on the fence about it because my wife & I were thinking about moving down there actually, because her family lives down there.
OH: Raleigh? NC?
KM: Yeah, we thought about Raleigh - it seems like a cool place. But I was like, “I don’t know.” For years I had talked about owning a shop and now there’s this great offer to buy one and I don’t have to do any of the licensing and they’re going to leave all the equipment we need… Literally they’re just taking the art off the walls.
Kind of last minute I was like, “Fuck it.” I called Shaun to buy in. I went into the bank and got a really stupid loan. I walked in and said, “I want a loan for a big purchase.” Because I knew if I told them I was buying a business, they’d want to see documents and shit. So they gave me 20 grand with like, 26% interest or some crazy shit.
Once the money hit my account, I went back to the bank and was like, “I need to wire that money to a guy...” They’d ask me what I was doing wiring $20,000 to a guy and I’m like, “This is my big purchase! That’s what this was for!”
It was kind of funny. So it was like, Monday, I wire this money over. The next Wednesday, they closed. We painted Wednesday night and Thursday and on Friday, we opened. September 1st of 2017. It was like, boom, boom, boom.
I was about to become a dad - my wife was pregnant at the time, and we were getting married in October, so it was a crazy bunch of shit all at once. But it worked out.
OH: That’s cool. Do you think you’ll stay in the Virginia Beach area for awhile now that you’ve settled in?
KM: That’s a good question, I don’t know. I talk to her about that all the time. My parents are talking about retiring soon and moving to Florida. So if they move to Florida, I’m probably going to move to North Carolina.
OH: North Carolina is awesome. I’ve never actually been to the Virginia Beach area before, I’m trying to get out there, but my impression of it is that there is just so much tattooing going on. Tattooing in that environment has got to be, hopefully, really energizing being around all of that.
KM: There are a hell of a lot of people doing it. It’s kind of weird… Previously, there’s some really important history around this area. I think it was due to a hepatitis outbreak in the 70s, but they just cracked down on that shit. Everybody closed. So, it kind of broke all of the lineage in the area. It was like 2000 or 2001 when it started back up around here, so it felt like Richmond was the real tattoo capital.
Now, there’s so many people here tattooing, it’s not like it was when I was younger. I’ve got a lot of friends who I really like their work around here, and it is energizing to think about how many people tattoo in this area now and be like, “They’re a really fucking good tattooer.”
A lot of people did new school stuff around here for a long time, so getting into more traditional stuff, it wasn’t as prevalent in this area. Richmond was the place where traditional was prevalent. But it’s a hell of a lot more prevalent now in Hampton Roads than it previously has been, and that’s been fucking awesome to see happen.
OH: Speaking of traditional, what’s some of your favorite imagery to tattoo or draw?
KM: Pretty much the classics. Skulls, onis, hannyas, snakes, dragons, grim reapers. I’m trying to figure out how to word this… If a non-tattoo person knows its tattoo imagery… Like anything on Ed Hardy pants, you know, I want to tattoo that. I used to want to do shit all weird and now I really enjoy the normal, straight up images. I guess I still do some weird, not so straightforward stuff. But I really like the classics.
OH: Who are some of your biggest artistic influences?
KM: Brian Bruno. Big time. He did a sleeve for me, he did my back. He’s the fucking man. I like Tim Lehi a hell of a lot, Timothy Hoyer. I always joke around whenever I get on Instagram like, “I gotta check in and see what the Tims are up to, man.” Derrick Snodgrass. Chris O’Donnell. Those are the dudes who I’m looking at their stuff the most.
OH: How did you go about developing your own specific art style? You mentioned being influenced by comics…
KM: Traditional tattoo imagery & comic books are the most noteworthy things that have really shaped how I draw. I still have “How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way” in my booth. I reference a lot of 70s/80s era comic books. That’s the era that I really fucking like.