We chatted to 31-year-old tattoo artist and jewellery maker Holly Astral from Hertfordshire about her painting style, her inspirations and the art shows she has been involved in.
Do you have a background in art? I studied art at school and college before doing a degree in model making and special effects. With regards to painting and drawing I’m self taught, just figuring things out as I go along.
How did you get your apprenticeship? Why did you want to become a tattooist? I am trained as a model maker, and spent the first ten or so years of my working life prototyping toys and products for manufacture. To cut a long story short, I realised I wasn’t in love with what I was doing any more and decided to make a change. I love to paint and draw, and I had been thinking about expanding this. I wanted to learn to tattoo for years, but it was always a kind of distant far away dream. It occured to me that the only way to learn would be to make that dramatic change and immerse myself fully into learning to tattoo. I was working for myself at the time, so I stopped saying yes to model making jobs, closed my toy making company and got cracking with finding an apprenticeship!
How long have you been tattooing? Just over a year, but it’s gone so quickly! This year has flown by. I am loving every minute of it!
What kinds of things do you like to tattoo? I love tattooing animals and flowers the most so far! Flowers look so lovely flowing across the body. I am still just working on smaller, simple pieces right now.
How would you describe your tattoo style? I’m still just getting started, so my style is still very much in the developing stages. I’d say it’s pretty girly and some times cute but not too cutesy-poo. And more spacey, dreamy and magical when it comes to my art. In terms of painting I love to paint spacey pin up style ladies, and I hope my tattooing takes me in that kind of direction once I’ve built my skills up further to do larger pieces.
What mediums do you use? Oil paints mostly, sometimes acrylics. I always add some gold leaf to each painting, too. I like a bit of sparkle
Where do you get your inspiration from? Magic, nature, films – I love fantasy films and anything with ghosts or aliens in it. I am also really inspired by the vast loneliness of space, it kind of depends on how I’m feeling that day. Usually I start by sketching away in my sketchbook, I draw every single day, and then I see which ones start to flesh out and feel real to me on their own. My favourite part of any drawing is adding all the tattoos and long swishing hair.
Can you tell me about the gallery shows you have been involved in? I’ve exhibited at galleries in Europe and the USA, including The Sho Gallery Wales, Forbidden Planet London and the Japanese American National Museum in LA. A lot of the shows in the states I sent my work over, but I always prefer to go to the show and getting to meet all the other artists involved. My art has taken me all over the place, all around England and Wales, and LA. I used to run my own line of collectible plush toys called Cavey, I produced a small numbered run of them each month in a different design, a bit like beanie babies. For Cavey’s birthday each year I would put on an art show where other artists and toy designers would contribute their own interpretation of the Cavey platform. The show was held at a pop up location each year in London, but one year I put the show on in LA. That was a lot of fun!
In April I put on my first solo show at Toycon in the UK and I’ve also curated shows at pop-up locations in London and LA.
Were the pieces you created for the galleries based around themes? Often the show will have a running theme that the artists are encouraged to work to, and I really like to work this way. Having a little bit of direction as to what to produce really gets the creative juices flowing!
A favourite show of mine was ‘Dragons’ which took place in Wales. Each artist was given a blank plastic dragon toy to customise, and everyone made their own interpretation of he platform. I made mine in the image of Falcor from The Never Ending Story. It was such a fun night!
Where can people buy your art? I have a small online shop where I sell my silver jewellery. My artwork is available to purchase privately by emailing me at email@example.com
Holly is currently doing guest spots in Hertfordshire, if you’d like to get tattooed by her email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Holly on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr for more artwork and tattoos.