High as a Kite: A Guide to Marijuana is not, as its many co-authors have stressed, “a guide to growing marijuana” but “a collaborative effort by creatives to showcase the beauty of cannabis through tattoos.”
Here’s another way of putting it: High as a Kite, a collection of cannabis-related tattoo art collected from across the country, is an extremely dope must-have new coffee table book born from the passion—and imagination—of a Houston-based tattoo artist named Danny G.
For most of his early life, Danny, who was born in Colombia and raised in Texas, didn’t know how to draw and had never picked up a paintbrush, but he was so obsessed with the look of and ideas behind tattoos that he reverse-engineered the process.
After putting his mom under considerable pressure from the rest of the family when he convinced her to buy him a tattoo kit at 14, Danny discovered an extensive and supportive community hidden in the tattoo industry.
This community stretched from New York to Los Angeles, with stops like Chicago, Denver and Ohio in between—and Danny explored them all as a traveling tattoo artist taking on freelance assignments.
When asked about his favorite spots, he finds himself torn between Baltimore and Detroit. Baltimore—because customers from more than three different states flock to the little seaside town like moths.
Detroit—not sure, but he is aware of the fact that the still recovering city has a certain allure that has kept on drawing him back over the years. In fact, when we rang him up for this article, that’s where he was.
Traveling from state to state, Danny was able to take a closer look at all the artwork that was being made by tattoo artists from across America. In an age where social media did not exist and art couldn’t be promoted online, this was quite an eye-opening experience.
Other creative industries whose visual artwork won’t or can’t be exhibited inside museums—like film, television and even video games—commonly release said visual artwork in the form of big, encyclopedic art books sold online and in bookstores.
In the tattoo world—being more of a loosely connected string of small, largely independent shops rather than a tightly interconnected and meticulously organized industry—it was difficult to amass the resources necessary to make such books.
The best approach to doing so was a grassroots one, and that’s exactly what Danny ended up doing: by asking artists—whether starting, working or long-retired—to contribute some of their favorite, weed-related pieces.
Because every tattoo artist has their own unique sense of style, Danny figured that, by giving the book a single theme, he would be able to piece the images together into a cohesive whole, making them easier for readers/viewers to digest.
He also couldn’t have picked a more fitting theme. Tattoo artists love weed as much as the next friendly neighborhood stoner does, not to mention both artform and flower have long been indispensable components of American counterculture.
Every time I get to interview an artist for this particular magazine, I simply have to ask them if they smoke during work, if smoking affects their creative process and how it factors into everything they do and make.
Danny gives me a sobering, simple answer: “I’d rather be high than not.” It also helps him get into that Zen-like state in which tattoo artists effortlessly pull off the most delicate hand movements without breaking a sweat.
That’s not to say you can get “high as a kite” for every job, though. Danny recalls how, when he got off the probation he was put on after he got arrest in San Antonio for weed possession, the first thing he did was light up like there’s no tomorrow.
This would have been fine, had he not arranged to tattoo an image of M.C. Escher-level complexity onto the back of someone’s neck moments after finishing his last joint. Danny’s advice: don’t smoke too much—at least, not until you’re done with the linework.
High as a Kite is not only offering tattoo artists a way to exhibit their work to large amounts of people, but the book also enables its readers to enjoy said work without having to put it on their bodies first.
As for Danny himself, he’s doing the best he can to help the tattoo world stay connected—a goal that, he says, has already become much, much, easier to accomplish thanks to social media platforms like Instagram.
Another thing that’s worth noting is that 10 percent of all proceeds made from High as a Kite sales are donated to the Last Prisoner Project, a non-profit organization that provides legal advice to and lobbies on behalf of people who have been incarcerated for cannabis-related crimes.
For Danny, whose previous collaborations and projects donated money to food banks and homeless shelters, this cause feels particularly personal. While he walked away from the same ordeal with only a probation, others have been put behind bars for years.
“It’s only fair,” Danny says. “If you’re making money off weed, you should do your part helping.” A man of his word, pre-orders for High as a Kite went live on 4/20 and quickly raked in more than 900 requests.
As fresh prints of the book are arriving from overseas, Danny has his eyes set on the second volume. He already knows the theme: psychedelics. He says he did ayahuasca when he was “little,” so he’s looking forward to that.