Tagged: artist

Interview with Elle Donlon

30-year-old tattoo artist Ellena Donlon works out of Sweet Life Gallery in Birmingham and creates traditional tattoos. We caught up with Elle to chat Korean tigers, as well as what and who inspires her work…

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How long have you been tattooing? I started my apprenticeship September 2015. Prior to that I went to the University of the Arts in London studying a degree in Fine Art and I think I graduated in 2012. Graduating was a tough time, I never really enjoyed my degree as I felt I had to stop drawing and painting to make way for more conceptual work to please the tutors, that meant I lost a lot of direction, so I decided to figure things out and move back to my hometown, Birmingham.

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What inspired you to join the industry? Did you do anything related to art before? Me and my partner opened up a record shop and as I started to get tattooed again after a good 5 year gap, I realized that tattooing would be my dream job. I started to seek out an apprenticeship, which took a long time, but I persevered it was the only thing I could think of that I wanted to do with myself, and that was worth waiting for.

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Can you describe your style? Starting off my apprenticeship my style was very different to what it is now. Then it was purely a case of turning my style of illustrations into tattoos. I’ve only ever really had traditional tattoos on myself, and as my career has progressed my designs have evolved into a stylised version of western traditional.

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We love your Korean style tigers and animals, what inspires these? What influences your work? What inspires you? Korean style tigers! They’re so freaky I love them, I have a huge one on my back done by Will Geary who has a crazy good imagination, it’s actually bonkers. I guess I’m drawn to beautiful oddities. I see no point drawing things how they are in real life, the world can be very monochrome it’s up to artists to mix that up, so I guess that’s why I’m drawn to them.

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Also you create more traditional women and flora is this inspired by something completely different? I get inspired by a lot of religious imagery particularly from Asia, I love south western tribal art, alchemy and witchcraft and the 70’s! But I must say my biggest push are other tattoos artists. Some of my inspirations are Walter McDonald, Dan Higgs, Robert Ryan, Windle Berry and Gregory Whitehead. All of these people adopt this weirdo traditional style, which is what I hope to one day pursue. I love that surreal style it pushes me to work harder with my own and attempt to think in different ways.

But my true loves are Claudia de Sabe, Rachel Rhatklor, Valerie Vargas, Wendy Pham and Lizzie Renaud. Apart from Wendy Pham these women predominantly tattoo traditional ladies and lady heads. Ladies and flora have always been my favorite subject to draw even before I tattooed, I can draw and tattoo them forever no inspiration even needed, it just cheers me up. I don’t really see my lady heads as a separate thing per se, but they certainly come a bit more naturally to me than my animal or surreal work.

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Is there anything you would love to tattoo? I’m desperate to do more famous lady heads. I Would love to do anything from a John Waters’ film, Dolly Parton, Cher, Poison Ivy from the Cramps, the girls from B-52s, Kim Gordon if any of those trigger anyone’s fancy!

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Can you tell us about your own tattoo collection. My personal collection is predominately traditional. The thing I love so much about a traditional tattoo is that is gets better with time, like fancy cheese! In my opinion this is the style (alongside Japanese traditional and tribal) that celebrates the body so perfectly, it is timeless yet has still evolved with each decade. I love Dan Higgs, I have tributes from both Nick Baldwin and Teide who are both fans of his work and I think they’re my favorites. Me and my partner are going to LA later this year we’re hoping to get tattoos from Derrick Snodgrass, And I’m saving my hands for Rachel Rhatklor, if I ever get chance to go over to Australia or she guests over here.

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Do you have any guest spots planned? I will be guesting at Crooked Claw in Sheffield in April and Death’s Door, Brighton in June, with some other exciting ones in the pipeline!

Interview with Ruslan & Tonya

26-year-old Tonya and 29-year-old Ruslan are tattooers from Russia. The couple work together in their private studio Abusev Tattoo in Moscow. We speak to Tonya about their unique style of tattooing…

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When we’re not tattooing at our studio we travel around Europe, soon we’ll be working in Barcelona, then Istanbul and Berlin.

We started our tattoo collaboration over five years ago in Russia. Since then our tattooing has transformed into what we call BIOGRAFIKA. It is not a style it is more like a way to see form and composition on human body. We both tattoo in black and color ink, although I mostly enjoy playing around with my colours and Ruslan likes to stick to black.

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We both work on the composition of a tattoo, creating its shapes and forms. Although I enjoy using colour  in my work, I do agree with Ruslan that black fits best on skin.

Inspiration is what makes our collaboration so special. We inspire each other to be better people, better artists, better tattooers! Working together is not always easy, it takes a lot of patience, and a great will to create something truly unique! We always try to bring something new into every tattoo project.

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It is pretty hard to describe how we met and how we started tattooing together, but each of our lives had wild twists before fate brought us together. Ruslan was working as a professional tattooer when I found him, he did a cover-up for me, and it all went from there – it’s our crazy story!

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One which you would love to see in a movie. I truly love the place we have reached so far, it’s a happy life of two tattooers that never let eachother get bored. Tattoos brought passion into my life. And from what I see, every tattoo we create brings a new life chapter to the person wearing it.

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Shaded: Pot Yer Tits Away Luv

‘Shaded’ is an ongoing interview series created by 23-year-old Bournemouth-hailing music journalism student, writer and editor James Musker, which focuses on tattooists, the interesting people who wear their work and both the artist and canvas’s relationship to the craft.

Emma Low is a Leeds-based ceramic artist who creates pots that represent the human-form in all of its wonderful shapes, sizes and colours. At first gifts for those closest to her, Emma’s pots were soon in-demand, and the Glasgow-native found herself starting up her pottery business ‘Pot Yer Tits Away Luv’. Here, Emma speaks about her “inclusive brand”, tattoo tributes to her cat Trouble and how her work aims to celebrate differences and liberate women. “Tits don’t mean sex.”

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Tell us about ‘Pot Yer Tits Away Luv’?
 Pot Yer Tits Away Luv is a pottery business that I started in February 2017. My main inspiration is a realistic representation of the female form, but I also do some work with the male form as well. It all started with a Christmas present that I made for my boyfriend. I wanted to give him something that was personal so I made him a pot with my tits on it. It was okay for a first attempt, but it looked nothing like mine – regardless of that fact, he loved it. People saw it and wanted me to create pots that represented them, and then from there it’s just snowballed. I never expected that it would eventually become my full-time job. I now spend five days a week crafting pots with tits on them, which is pretty mad.

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What first attracted you to working with clay? My boyfriend had done a short course and really enjoyed it, so I thought I’d try it out! It was really difficult to figure out in the beginning, but like everything else, practise makes perfect. I then enrolled in a night class and learned more about the craft. I never made any tit-related items, though. It was all really basic, and most of it wasn’t actually that great.

As well as creating works that celebrate the human body, you also share the work of painters, illustrators and photographers that aim to do the same thing. Can you speak about your on-going relationship with the subject? I’ve always been fascinated by form. It’s amazing how we all have bodies that essentially do the same thing, yet they vary drastically in relation to what they look like. I grew up in a very body positive environment. To me, naked bodies were never deemed as sexual. I like to try and express that in my work – especially when it comes to the female form. Tits don’t mean sex. I think a lot of people misunderstand what my work is about. It’s supposed to be liberating, not about sexualising women. I always love to share other artist’s work because I think it’s important to express gratitude towards the people who inspire you. Social media can be such a useful tool when it comes to finding out about new artists or being exposed to new ideas. There are so many amazing artists who share similar views to me when it comes to feminism, and I like to promote those ideas.

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What’s your relationship with tattooing? I started getting tattooed quite late in comparison to most of my friends. I think I was 24. My first tattoo was done by my friend’s boyfriend when I went to visit them on holiday in Berlin. It’s a black heart with ‘Trouble’ running through it. Trouble was my cat, he passed away last summer but I’d had him for around eight years. The last tattoo I got was by Olivia Chloe Lewis, and it’s a vase! I think regardless of whether your tattoos have a specific meaning you can tell a lot about a person from their tattoos and that’s what’s always drawn me to them. I’ve only ever had my thighs tattooed, I wouldn’t want to move on to anywhere else on my body until my legs are completely covered.

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Your pots represent the human body in so many different ways – large and small, and sometimes tattooed. What is it you feel you are addressing with your all-embracing work, and how do you feel tattooing is part of that conversation? I just want to have an inclusive brand where everyone feels like they are represented. People who have tattoos usually want me to incorporate them into custom pieces, and I really like drawing them on because it can sometimes be challenging! Just like anything else; scars, piercings, moles, third nipples, freckles. Regardless of whether it was a choice, like a tattoo, or a mole you were born with, it all makes you the individual person that you are and that’s what my work is all about: celebrating differences.

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Who influences you? My boyfriend, Archer. He’s very creative, and I wouldn’t be doing what I do now without him. My best friend, Tammy, has built her own nail empire (NAF! Salon). She has shown me that it’s not at all about getting lucky, it’s about hard work, dedication and endless passion. When it comes to artists I absolutely love, the work of Sally Hewett. She is unapologetically honest. Her work is so well thought out and the end product is always so beautiful even if to society the subject might be seen as “ugly”. I have a massive girl-crush on Jen Gotch, founder of Ban.do. Her personal Instagram is so refreshing. She talks openly about her struggles with mental health, is a huge babe, dresses like a crazy old lady, and pulls it off, and somehow also manages to run a very successful business.

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What’s next for you? I have a few collaborations in the pipeline! The only one I can really talk about at the moment is a jewellery collaboration with Lou Clarke. We’re doing earrings! It’s such an exciting time for me. I feel like there are endless possibilities when it comes to doing fun things, but at the moment I haven’t really got a clear path. I’m just gonna keep doing what I’m doing and see where it takes me. I’m not really one for planning – plans stress me out! So yeah, to be honest I have no idea, but for now I’m happy just living in the moment.

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A rose is a rose is a rose

Our guest writer Katie Houghton shares five of her favourite rose inspired tattoos…

 While June may be home to ‘National Corn on the Cob Day’, and you’re god damn gutted that you missed out, June also happens to be the month of the rose, and we’re all over that. A natural emblem of love and passion, roses as tattoos have been one of the most constant designs since ink touched skin. While some signify death, some eternal love, some balance and some signify the relationship between a sailor and his favourite bird (mother dearest), we know that rose tattoos are an anything-kind-of-game, and we’ve decided to find five of our favourites.

 Harriet Heath/Lone Rose Tattoo

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I love the plump attitude behind all of Harriet Heath’s work and designs, and the name Lone Rose Tattoo was too good an opportunity to miss on a list of rose tattoos. The tattoo above has sass, it has slant, and the little rose touches on the head band give the whole piece a cute and continental pop that gives her portrait work a recognisable edge.

Tommy Oh!

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I don’t know a lot about Tommy Oh!, but I don’t think I need to. Provocative and full o’ spunk, his blackwork is bold, it’s brazen and now I want spider webs on all edges. Standing out due to the thickness of leaf, location and line work, Tommy’s work is unapologetic and pricks like a bloody thorn.

Emily Malice: Parliament Tattoo

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If you’re familiar with the work of the stunning Emily Malice, you’ll know that she’s both saint and sinner combined. Generating provocative work, and bold statement tattoos alongside simple custom designs, Emily’s able to add a firm pop to a botanical rose piece like above that remains feminine, but still has grit and chew.

 Jenna Hayes Tattoo: Hand and Dagger

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Give Jenna a rose and she’ll give you a snake. One of the more traditional artists on this list, I think it’s not only the subtle colour work on this piece that stoods out to me, but the blend of hard edge and soft flora. Clearly able to master thick lines with an honest consistency, Jenna Hayes has got me dreaming of pythons and bouquets.

Sophie C’est La Vie

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Sophie, you had me at origami. You also had me at elephant origami (with a rose shaped peony for kicks). A tattoo artist that knows colour craft and consistency like the back of her hand, not only does Sophie generate beautiful pieces (from fauna to flora) that fuse great tones, these origami pieces are creative, they’re pieced together perfectly, and can even be converted to koala should you fancy.

The Art of Alicia Rihko

27-year-old freelance illustrator and designer Alicia Rihko lives in Spain where she creates digital pieces focusing on neon pink and black line work…

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I create everything digitally with a graphic tablet, and my work changes according to my tastes, but there are many things that inspire me. When it comes to my work I always start looking for locations, and pictures of places that I would like to be or know more about. And so I start to collect ideas. Music influences me a lot too, I always work with music on. In the end everything is mixed together, and my work is the result. 

I can’t tell you which illustration is my favourite, usually once I have finished drawing, I stop liking it. But the one I did of Freddy Krueger, is very different from all the others. It’s the craziest idea I’ve ever had, as I’ve used an existing film character, with one of my girls. Yes, it’s my favourite!

I don’t like the pink at all, it is far from being a colour that I love. But I found that it fits very well with the aesthetics of my work, and that it gives even more personality to the piece along with the other colours.

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Short documentary, Johny Midnight

Beautiful short documentary following Johny Midnight, a south London based artist, as he completes a painting, from start to finish, of Battersea Power Station.

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Johny’s gallery/studio is in Balham, south west London, gallerymidnight.com

Midnight from James Stittle on Vimeo.

Director: Andrew Grayshon
Cinematography: James Stittle, shot on Sony FS7 using Canon Lenses
Editor: Olli Abbott

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