For Steve Cvinar, the power to move forward rests with a reverence for what came before.

For Steve Cvinar, the power to move forward rests with a reverence for what came before.

"You can't innovate without knowing where you're coming from," Cvinar said.

A partner in the recently formed Sovereign Collective, Cvinar is a deeply devoted student of art history, especially the Japanese tattoos and woodblock art that play out so beautifully in his tattoos.

While Cvinar's painting leans toward the early Northern Renaissance style and early Flemish painters like Robert Campin, his tattoos are often characterized by dragons, koi fish and heavily armored ancient warriors. He's a local authority in the increasingly popular field of Japanese tattoo art.

"I like the mythology of it all," Cvinar said. "I like the mixture of religious aspects that go into formulating those myths and stories - kind of a sense of action and peace at the same time, if that makes any sense."

Cvinar got his start as an apprentice in Cleveland, but he learned the most working for the late Lou Sciberras in Miami.

"Sixteen years later, I think of the things he said and did all the time," Cvinar said.

He worked in New York for a while before a seven-year stretch running a shop in Minneapolis and commuting part-time to Chicago. After a stint in Southeast Asia, he came to Columbus two and a half years ago to be closer to his sister.

In Columbus, he continued tattooing and dove deep into other projects like The Study, a collection of his oil paintings and charcoal drawings showing June 6 at Rivet.

Eventually he jumped on board with Sovereign Collective, more a publicly engaged art gallery than a tattoo shop. Sovereign's holistic approach to art and educational emphasis were a perfect match for Cvinar, who has come to appreciate the process of tattooing as much as the final product.

"Working on the tattoo is much more important to me than being done with it," he said. "I'm sad when it's done."