With names like Drunken Moon and Acid Grandparents, the tattoo designs of David Côté are vibrant and surreal. A man and a woman's faces are filled with dark night, stars, and doorways into another dimension. The silhouette of a cowboy, à la The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, is a colorful sunset with a cactus and a noose inside its outline.
Stars and faces are also common in Côté's work, which frequently deals with outer space and psychedelic symbolism. The tattoos are richly colored, and composed of thick, bold shapes. Dreamlike and whimsical, the designs sometimes integrate pop culture—from full sleeves of movie-based imagery, to a portrait of Jay–Z overlaid with the New York City skyline.
While his style is unmistakeable, Côté's subject matter varies in seriousness. While some pieces are trippy meditations on nature, space, and time, others are homages to Spirited Away and Adventure Time, or portraits of Beyoncé. After Côté's first couple of years as a tattoo artist, working in a 'normal' style, he began to experiment. "I would try to keep the classic idea of the design but give it a new twist," he says. He experimented with removing black outlines and replacing them with color. Eventually, he developed his unique style, and gained enough attention for it that he now tours internationally, though he works at Imperial Tattoo Connexion in Montreal for most of the year.
In collaborating with other artists, Côté uses his distinct designs as contrast. In an anatomical heart tattoo, a collaboration with Philip Beaulieu, Côté's half of the heart is a rich and vibrant red with dark oozing black, while Beaulieu's half is an intricate black drawing made up of thin lines, a sketch-like representation. The result is a staggering contrast between the animated, dreamlike style of Côté and the detail-oriented intricacy of Beaulieu.
Cote's inspiration comes mainly from the everyday, he tells Creators: "It could be the silhouette of something making it look like a head or it could be on an ad I saw on my way to work." What about when he's stuck? "I look up vintage posters, especially the ones from Poland from the 80s and under. I love how those graphic designers would use black to create such an impactful message."