In the tapestry of history, tattoos have woven tales of cultural significance across civilizations. From ancient Siberian nomads to Indigenous Polynesians, tattooing has left an indelible mark. Chief Master Sgt. George Bender, a distinguished member of the 168th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, not only serves as an Airman but also breathes life into his artistic passion as a tattoo artist at Sublime Line Tattoos in Fairbanks, Alaska.
A deep-seated love for art ignited Bender’s journey into the world of tattoos. His sister’s influence fueled his artistic aspirations, sparking a fascination that eventually led him to tattoos. His love affair with tattooing began at 17, evolving from a mere interest into a full-fledged artistic pursuit.
Venturing into the world of tattoo artistry, Bender’s skills flourished. From covering up his first tattoo with a design of his creation to drawing in tattoo shops, he immersed himself in the craft. A pivotal moment came when he seized the opportunity for a tattoo apprenticeship, balancing family life and his commitment to the Air National Guard.
Enduring a rigorous apprenticeship, Bender delved into the intricacies of tattooing. His training encompassed 1000 hours of in-shop tattooing, observation, drawing, colour theory, and a comprehensive study of hygiene and safety protocols. On August 11, 2018, he emerged as a professional tattoo artist, a testament to his dedication.
Bender’s artistic prowess extends beyond tattooing. Over the years, he has contributed to the rich visual tapestry of the 168th Wing, crafting designs for KC-135 Stratotanker nose art, unit patches, and various projects. His creations adorn the halls of the Maintenance Group building and embody the unit’s pride in its maintenance craftsmanship.
One notable tradition at the 168th WG MXG involves the dedicated crew chief selecting nose artwork for their assigned aircraft. Bender takes pride in being part of this tradition, infusing aircraft with unique designs that reflect the unit’s identity. His artwork, featuring a Yeti, Alaska Pipeline, and a gas pump, pay homage to the 168 WG’s aerial refuelling mission.
For Bender, the essence of tattooing lies in connecting with people. Whether immortalizing a beloved pet’s paw prints or translating personal stories into ink, he finds joy in creating meaningful pieces. He asserts that people are the most rewarding aspect of his craft, and their faces light up when a design holds significance.
As a seasoned tattoo artist, Bender exercises discernment in choosing projects. The delicate balance between his full-time job, family, and artistic pursuits requires careful consideration. Maintaining the intrinsic joy in his work is paramount, ensuring that tattooing remains a passion rather than a mere occupation.
Bender’s artistic journey has traversed continents, collaborating with his cousin Ricky, a tattoo artist based in England. Their transcontinental collaborations exemplify the global reach of art, fostering connections across borders.
From winning first place in a tattoo art competition to creating deeply personal pieces for his daughter, Bender’s portfolio reflects diverse artistic expressions. As he gazes upon his creations, the tattoos that resonate most profoundly are those forged through personal connections.
Chief Master Sgt. George Bender stands at the intersection of military service and artistic expression, an Airman whose tattoos echo stories of unity, pride, and the enduring power of human connection.