Everyone has been talking about it… you know, those designs that “tattoo fixer” Sketch has traced and passed off as his own on the Channel 4 programme Tattoo Fixers… so we got tattoo artist Antony Flemming to give his opinion on Sketch and the Tattoo Fixers… #fucktattoofixers
Print by Antony Flemming, for sale for £10, check Instagram for info.
“Now, I have to be extremely careful writing this, as Channel 4’s legal team are a tad better than mine, or anyone else in this industry for that matter. So what I am about to say is factual and backed up with evidence. I will not speculate or stray from the truth.
“Firstly I want to talk about tattoo shows in general. Normally, tattoo shows in the UK come and go – and whether we like them or not, they don’t really affect the industry. The artists on the shows are normally at an OK to good standard and the tattoos shown are of a passable quality and generally up to an average standard. With the exception of a few, who are talented, such as the guys on London Ink.
“But… Tattoo Fixers is an absolute abysmal representation of the UK t7attoo scene and I shudder to think that the public thinks these guys (as stated on the show) are “three of the best artists in the UK”. Quite simply, in my opinion they are not. Now of course, art is subjective and there will always be people who think they are, but I honestly think if you asked the guys on the show, they would agree they are not the three best artists in the UK. And if they actually believe their own hype, then really that says it all.
“The reason I am so concerned about this show is because they are deceiving the public, innocent people that actually don’t know any better. A TV company comes to them and says: ‘Hey, do you want a free tattoo by one of the best artists in the country.’ I mean damn! Of course they are going to say yes – if they are uneducated about the tattoo industry. But as I’m sure you’ve seen from the customers that have been publicly upset about their experience and finished tattoo, this has not been the case.
“I have been upset with certain elements in the tattoo industry before, but I have never spoken out about anything, because to be honest, who cares what I think? But Tattoo Fixers is something different, it’s exploiting people. And it’s damaging our industry to a point where people assume that the guys on that show are at the very top of UK tattooing, and it’s simply not the truth.
“I think for me, as an artist, the main thing that I have an issue with is ‘Sketch.’
Again, as I’m sure you have all seen, he has been stealing artists’ designs. Line for line tracing. I don’t mean just stealing ideas, because of course, every idea has been done and not many ideas are truly original. I’m talking about tracing a one-off custom tattoo drawn for a customer.
“I get it, when you are just starting out, everyone copies their favourite artist to an extent. I mean we are all still inspired by people, whether it be in the tattoo industry or not. But you very quickly learn to find your own path and everyone cringes when you think of a few tattoos or drawings you did that was a little too close to the guy or girl you wanted to be.
“But Sketch… He doesn’t cringe, he doesn’t seem fazed by the fact he is ripping off people’s original designs. He just shrugs his shoulders and seems to think its ok. After posting the comparison between my tattoo and his rip off, he messaged me.
Tattoo on right by Antony Flemming and left copied by Sketch
“At first it seemed like a genuine apology, and I was taken by surprise, as all I’ve seen online is him saying things along the lines of: ‘I don’t have time to draw my own designs’ and ‘I have a family to feed and a life to lead.’ But after the initial apology, he went on to justify why he had stolen my design. He said that the customer had come in with the design and he couldn’t just turn him down, and send the guy to World of Tattoos where I work, because he has a family to feed.
[edit: since this article was first published, it has come to light that this neck tattoo is on Sketch’s old apprenctice, making his reason a lie]
“No fair enough, you don’t have to send the guy to another shop. But you can, however, redraw the design so it is an original. I think Sketch seems to think I work in a private studio and I don’t understand the average walk-in customer. What he doesn’t realise is World of Tattoos is essentially a highstreet walk-in shop, as many of my customers will vouch for. Our team and I deal with these customers everyday. Someone will walk in with a print out of a tattoo they want, and generally this is how the conversation goes: ‘Ok cool! That’s a great idea. We will redraw that for you, so you have an original design and book you in.’ Now I know for a fact that 99 out of a 100 people won’t even bat an eyelid, and that one other person isn’t worth jeopardising your career over. It certainly isn’t worth the backlash this has caused. So to be honest, that excuse does not wash with me.
“But if that was his excuse, then surely posting tattoos with the caption: ‘custom design’ attached would suggest the customer didn’t bring in that design at all and he is actually deceiving his customer. An Emily Rose Murray piece, which has been copied by Sketch, even won an award at a convention! Sketch went on to say that he credited Emily, but when called out on it, he lied about not having a Facebook page and the post being a fake, well actually until the post got deleted, it came from his shop’s business page on Facebook…
“After Sketch’s ‘apology’, I gave him some advice… I told him the best thing to do, is concentrate on his tattooing rather than being a ‘celebrity’, stop going to clubs and making ‘special guest appearances’. Sit down and draw, better yourself. Come out of this with a bit of respect. If people see you are actually trying, you may rid this stigma. I also told him to publicly apologise to all the people he has stolen from. If he did that, what can we say? Other than, fair play. Well done, you’ve openly admitted you messed up and you want to do better. He can only gain some respect from the tattoo industry.
“But guess what…? He asked me to keep the apology between us and didn’t say a thing about it publicly, then made his account private. If he had done these things, I would have left the issue and deleted my post. Alas all I saw publicly about it was Sketch almost laughing in my face, telling people on Twitter, he doesn’t know why he is getting hate about it as 90% of artists do it. And he said it was two years ago? That’s a lie. Remember Instagram lets you know when you’ve posted something, and it was less than a year ago, as were all those other rip-offs…”
“And I think that’s it. I think that’s why people are so annoyed and disgruntled. Everyone has had their designs stolen by different people, everyone knows it, but for the most part when people are called out on it, they know they are in the wrong and admit it. But Sketch hasn’t done that, he just comes up with excuse after excuse and isn’t doing a damn thing about it. It is also infuriating to see Channel 4’s legal team and spokespeople silencing any whistle blowers (I expect a cease and desist order in my emails any moment now). Instead of confronting the real issue, I also saw a spokesperson from Channel 4 saying they had licensed the designs from artists to be used. Perhaps they did for some, but I know for a fact they didn’t ask Brian Thomas Wilson (@the_noble_mountain) or Mitch Allenden (@sneakymitch) I also found a rip off of a Crispy lennox piece this morning that won another award…
“I also wanted to briefly mention the fact Sketch is so open about buying his first machines on eBay and starting to tattoo from home. I think it sets a dangerous precedent when it comes to impressionable youngsters that perhaps want to become tattooists. I feel that kids who don’t know any better will pick up a cheap machine and think it’s OK to tattoo from home, risking the possible spread of infections such as Hepatitis. Not to mention scarring people for life.
“It’s simply becoming a joke. I’m not sure what the answer is. Writing this is a good way to vent but realistically unless it goes viral to the masses, I’m simply preaching to the choir. I feel that the industry needs a voice in the public, something people can actually see, and something that can show the average Joe that actually tattooing can be incredible. Something that shows the real side of tattooing, the working 12 hours a day to come home and draw until 2am in the morning, the not going out with your friends for most of the year because, ‘ah sorry mate, I’ve got to do a drawing,’ the relationships we’ve lost because we have locked ourselves away in our drawing rooms. Don’t get me wrong this isn’t a woe is me sort of thing, I know we have the best job in the world, but when a TV show portrays it in a way where it looks like we are rock ‘n’ roll stars not having to do any work, it bugs me, and especially when the little work they do, is actually a rip off of all the hard work real artist do, then that is a line well and truly crossed.
“I could go into many other things about the show and my opinion regarding health and safety and other issues that are cropping up every day but (editor) Alice has told me to keep this at around 700 words and I’m pretty sure I’m already well over that!”
What do you think? Have you been watching the show?