Tagged: Tattooist

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…


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!


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.


Interview with Lucy O’Connell

Lucy O’Connell creates stunning tattoos filled with colour and personality at Red Tattoo and Piercing in Leeds, UK. We chat to  Lucy about her evolving style and inspirations…


What made you want to become a tattoo artist? I started drawing tattoo designs for friends who were older than me when I was around 14. And through doing doodles for them, which I now realise is the most irritating thing to receive as a tattooer, because I knew nothing about the fundamentals of tattoo design, I realised I could do this for a living when I started to do more research. Fortunately tattoos were more accessible in terms of media. I would buy all the magazines available from my area and then go and look up the artists.

What do you love most about your job? I love so many aspects of my job. I love developing my practice, the ability to share ideas and discuss with people I admire, working on a moving canvas is forever a challenge. I just feel like I’m learning all the time, but I also like talking to new people about their experiences in life. And currently I’m really trying to give myself a shove to develop myself more, I give myself a hard time a lot.


What inspires your work and drawings? Everything. Recently I’m trying to look more into myths and old stories to inspire me, but I’ll probably sit on them for a while as they’re such epic tales I need a while to ponder it before I know how to combat it. Nature has a lot to play. Whatever I’m watching can have an impact, or just my mood in general. I find if I’m struggling I’ll watch Attenborough or go to a gallery. Just kind of soak something new in.

What would you love to tattoo? Like I said before I’d like to sink my teeth into some myths and legends. Maybe some religious stuff too from all faiths. Norse gods are really interesting. I think subject matter that’s way bigger than me so I can try break out of my comfort zone. And always birds.


Do you have any designs that you really want to do? I’ve got loads of designs I wanna tattoo, I keep a majority in a little book and take them everywhere with me, and the big ones don’t often get a home so they end up getting painted. I’m struggling more than ever to get rid of stuff I draw, which I can’t decide if that’s me, social media or brexit. I’ll keep trying.

How would you describe your style? It’s a clash of a lot of things. I can’t quite put a definition on it, I’m usually categorised as neo-traditional but I wouldn’t put myself there. I think neo-traditional lines have been blurred. I kind of think I’m a pop culture, neo-trad, art nouveau clash.


Is it fair to say that it has been evolving lately? I hope so, I’m trying to evolve all the time but I’m very aware of it, currently. Since the first convention of the year I’ve had a fire lit under me that makes me want to push myself somewhere that’s not so comfortable. But I hope everyone likes it or can see I’m trying.

What kind of direction would you like to take your work in? I’d like to go into a more layered version of my work. And making everything more animated. I’m also trying to take in light sources. We’ll see what happens.


Do you have any conventions or guest spots planned? I do! No mor plans other than these:

Newcastle – Big North Tattoo ConventionApril 28th & 29th

Essex – Jayne DoeJune 14thth, 15th & 16th

Leeds Tattoo ExpoJuly 7th & 8th

Berlin – Sticks and StonesAugust 9th, 10th & 11th

Interview with Joaquin Ardiles

Because music is in itself an art, it comes as no surprise that so many involved in the industry also have an affinity for tattoo culture. 31-year-old guitarist Joaquin “Jo” Ardiles of Good Tiger has taken his love of tattoos one step further by becoming a tattoo artist. When he’s not on tour, Jo can be found tattooing a mx of western traditional and illustrative styles at Kilburn Tattoo in London. 

Photo by Tom Barnes

How long have you been playing guitar and how long have you been tattooing?I’ve been pretending to play guitar now for about 15 years, and tattooing for about six or seven years I don’t remember exactly.

Which one do you love more? Or is it like picking a favourite child? They are both a lot of fun and I enjoy different things from each of them, I’m lucky that I get to do both. I think I get the same enjoyment from playing a sickhead riff as I do from finishing a cool tattoo. I like the freedom the tattooing gives me to be able to go out and play music and I like that playing music means I get to be tattooed by people in different parts of the world that would be difficult/expensive to get to otherwise.

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What was it about each craft that drew you in and peaked your interest? How do they make you feel? I started playing guitar because I thought chicks dug that shit, but actually they like saxophone. I quit playing the saxophone to play guitar, so I really fucked up there. By the time I realised it was too late and I was already invested, so I just kept going. Also I wanted to slam some sick riffs and be Tom Morello from Rage Against The Machine. Playing guitar means that I get to hang out with my friends and play a lot of Nintendo Switch with them in tiny backstages across the world, which is cool, I’m into it.

I started tattooing because I thought it would be easy and I could make some money in between touring but it turns out it’s not and I had to work hard for my place. Luckily I had a bossman that was ok with me going on tour, as long as when I was back I was at the studio watching and learning. I knew very little about tattoos when I started, I was a bit of an idiot actually. I love the world of tattooing now, I love that it’s not easy to get into, and I love that I still have a lot to learn.

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How would you describe your style of tattooing? What influences you? Are there any artists you admire? I think my style is a twist on western traditional, I like to keep things a little weird, make it’s something that’s mine as much as something the client wants. I’m influenced by other tattooers, by video games, music, comics. It all plays a part in influencing the way I draw, even if its not obvious in the piece itself. There are so many good tattooers out there right now, I could probably make a really long boring list but I think right now @greggletron is next level. @scumboy666 and @wan_tattooer have such a cool style, I wish people in the UK got more stuff like that I’d love to do shit like that. @joefarrelltattoo is the bossman at my shop he taught me everything I know and I owe him a lot. I work with @lauralenihantattoo and she has been putting out some bigboy pieces recently. HOLD TIGHT THE KILBURN MASSIVE.

How does your music and tattooing go hand in hand? I like to try and get tattooed while I’m on tour if I can. It’s not always easy depending on routing and timing and such, but it’s a nice way to meet tattooers and visit cool shops. Playing music means I get to meet a lot of people and tattoo a lot of people that have found me through the band. Also the music world is full of people with tattoos, I’ve been lucky enough to tattoo people in my favourite bands or talk to musicians about their tattoos and where they got them. I think both those worlds are interlinked, the first tattoos I saw were on musicians in magazines and on tv.

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Good Tiger released their new album We Will All Be Gone on Feb 9th 2018 via Metal Blade Records. Can you tell us a little bit about the new album, what is your favourite track? The new album rules and it’s gonna make me bigger than Kid Rock I think. We really pulled it out of our arses with this one, managed to make a non stop, start to finish, banger after banger, perfect album. Have you guys heard Dark Side of the Moon? This shits all over it and then some. My favourite track is Blue Shift because I think it will make me the most money/chains/emerald encrusted pimp canes.

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Photo taken by Kayla Surico

Will you be touring? What can fans expect? We will be yes, our next tour is in the states, little headline run followed by a load of dates in the US/Canada with our favourite beanheads Protest the Hero. Fans can expect a lacklustre show because we are old now and don’t have the gusto or the legs to put on a show with any kind of enthusiasm. Gonna keep it tight though and play real good. I might get a rat tail haircut again so if I turn around during the show, the front row is going to get a real visual treat, a battering of the senses, even. Prepare yourselves.

Lucy Thompson: Breast Cancer Survivors & Tattoos

27-year-old tattooist Lucy Thompson based in at Skinflicted in Keighley, Yorkshire, has travelled to the US to learn how to create realistic three-dimensional tattooed nipples for women who have had a mastectomy…


Last year Lucy travelled to Texas to be the first UK artist to receive specialist training in the art of tattooing realistic areolas on breast cancer patients. It was her aim to shake up the industry and illustrate to breast cancer survivors that “they deserve better” when it comes to post op cosmetic reconstruction.

My Auntie had a mastectomy and got a tattoo done in hospital which has now faded to almost nothing so it needs re-doing – why is a surgeon even attempting to tattoo?-  the experts should stick to what they know. This just isn’t good enough for a cancer surviver.

Lucy trained with The House of A.R.T (Areola Restorative Tattooing) in Texas, who have pioneered a unique way to give the illusion of a permanent and three-dimensional nipple opposed to other methods. Having learnt this skill Lucy is now offering this restorative service to mastectomy clients locally,  the first being her auntie.

Lucy Thompson
Lucy, who’s been a tattoo artist for the last four years explains what influenced her to help cancer survivors:

After the trauma of going through cancer, I want to make the restorative period as stress free as possible and help women feel whole again. Why should they have to return for future treatment when it can be done in one process? Women are accepting second best as there has never been another option, but not many cosmetic tattooers have experience or have dealt with scarred tissue, especially tissue that has been through chemotherapy or has radiation burns or stretch marks from skin grafts – this is a huge concern. A tattoo artist understands the skin in a different way. We want to achieve painterly results  and have the techniques to work with the skin and its delicacies to get the best possible results – the quality is of utmost importance.


Lucy  is also offering tattoos to any trans/non-binary clients who have had surgery and unsuccessful  nipple grafts. Her long-term plan is to open a clinic specifically for post medical treatment. She also plans to run drop in clinics throughout the country by travelling the UK visiting other studios, to enable others further afield than Yorkshire to benefit from the skills she has learnt.

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Apprentice Love: Lauren Burrows

Having fallen in love with Lauren Burrow’s bold and spooky style on Instagram, our editor Rosalie, had to add a piece of Lauren’s girly neo-trad to her collection. Situated in Bedford UK, Seven Magpies Tattoo is home to tattoo apprentice Lauren, realism tattooist Mark Watson and traditional tattooer Sam Childs. I spent the day chatting to Lauren about her love of horror, doughnuts and knee tattoos…


What drew you to the world of tattooing? I always knew from a very young age that I wanted to do something with art, it was all I ever wanted. It was a natural progression into the realisation that tattooing was what I’d love a career in. I think neo-traditional work was probably what drew me in the most, I realised that out of all modern art I’d ever seen that the work I was seeing by neo-traditional tattooists was my favourite, and it was quite life changing really discovering all of that. When I was quite young I fell in love with Art Nouveau and the style, especially the work of Alphonse Mucha. I remember studying it and it remained to be my all time favourite style, influencing my work even more so as I got older.


There’s only three of you in the shop, and you’re pretty tight knit, did you know the guys before you started? I didn’t know the guys before I began my apprenticeship with them, but quite honestly of all things I could ever be greatful for, I’m so happy that I ended up working with them. I love my life at the shop, and I can never even begin to thank Mark and Sam enough for everything they’ve taught me, for being incredibly patient with me and for pushing me to improve every step of the way. Also our days are forever made more enjoyable by winding each other up as much as possible and giving hell with ridiculous amounts of sass which is very funny.


How did you get your apprenticeship and when did you start? What did you do before? I started my apprenticeship with Seven Magpies just over two years ago. I studied illustration and graphic design at the university of East London, but realised very strongly towards the end of my degree that tattooing was what I really wanted to do. During the time that I was putting my portfolio together and looking into it all, I heard that Seven Magpies were looking for an apprentice. It was quite literally the dream job as I’d known about them for a long time, since they are based in my hometown of Bedford, massively admired their work and couldn’t believe that the opportunity had popped up right when I was looking.

I tried my luck, asking if they’d be happy to take a look at my work, which they did. Shortly after that Mark offered me the apprenticeship and I still remember being so over the moon happy and basically in total shock for days!


Are there any artists that you admire or influence your work? I think It’s massively benefited me having the influence and guidance of both Mark and Sam because their styles also vary massively, so between them they’ve always been able to help me out and it’s been awesome to have the perspective from a realistic and neo-traditional view. The guys have always helped me to broaden my view on the industry, encouraging me to look at work from different genres, and I think it’s definitely helped me to appreciate styles like Japanese, realism and far more classic traditional looking work too. Neo-traditional work does remain to be a massive influence for me and it’s certainly where I imagine I’d completely love to end up!

As far as artists that inspire me, there are just so many incredible artists out there and even if they don’t directly influence my work, seeing the sheer talent which is around definitely pushes me forwards to try and improve within my own practice. If I were to try and narrow it down and give a few names of artists that I admire I’d say that Danielle Rose and Cassandra Frances have been two of my favourite artists for the longest time, and the work of Emily Rose Murray is completely beautiful and I love everything that she creates!


Rosalie’s scorpion that Lauren created

I asked you to create a floral scorpion design, because I wanted to match your creepy yet girly style, would you agree that this is your genre? What would you love to tattoo? Do you have any drawn up designs you would like to tattoo? I would say that creepy and girly sums up everything that I love to create entirely! I’d love to tattoo more girl heads as they are one of my favourite things ever to draw. I also love anything with a Halloween theme – all year round, insects, bat heads and cocktails are all things that I’d love to tattoo. I have a flash book of designs which are all things I’d really like to do but there is a sassy, stabby little toad holding a knife that I particularly want to tattoo at the moment and am waiting for someone to claim him!


Would you say your style is influenced by your love of horror? At the moment you’re reading IT by Stephen King, but what is your favourite book or film? Are there any characters that you are dying to tattoo? I love watching horror films, if ever it is up to me to choose a film to watch it will always be a horror! But I think in terms of inspiration for my art Guillermo del Toro’s films strike me the most as they are creepy but completely beautiful. I love Pan’s Labyrinth and Crimson Peak. I also love Tim Burton’s work and I adore his characters because they are so cute but also incredibly creepy! I love Edgar from Frankenweenie and would love to tattoo him. There are plenty of characters I’d be so happy to make into tattoos, Sally or Zero from The Nightmare Before Christmas, Lydia Deetz from Beetlejuice, Edith Cushing and Lucille sharpe from Crimson Peak, Coraline, The Addams family (especially Wednesday Addams) and of course I’d love to do my own version of Pennywise the clown from IT.


Can you tell us a bit about your own tattoos? My favourite tattoos I currently have are a couple by Will Thomson – a lady with a ship in her hair and also a ship’s wheel with flowers. I absolutely love the wolf I have on my knee which was done at our  studio by Sam Childs, it’s a massive monster of a wolf head and it’s so angry and awesome. I actually haven’t been tattooed that much, purely because of spending so many years as a student and then an apprentice and not having enough spare income to get what I really want. But I know it will be worth the wait and there are so many pieces I’m dying to get and a lot of artists that I know I really want to be tattooed by. Generally I think I’ll end up getting quite a few spooky and Halloween based tattoos, I’d love a big neo-traditional style sorceress lady. I also adore animals so I’m pretty much guaranteed to end up with a lot of those also!

Interview With Hannah Westcott

We chat to tattoo artist Hannah Westcott, who works at Hales Street Studios in Coventry, UK about her neo-traditional style, her very first tattoo and plans for 2018…

How long have you been tattooing? I have been tattooing professionally now for almost eight years. I started a couple of years prior to this just from home originally; practicing on myself and friends, before obtaining  a job as a junior artist/apprentice in Melton Mowbray. I’ve since been based in Leicester, Coventry and until recently, Redditch, Birmingham. I’m now back in Coventry!


What drew you to the world of tattoos? I remember first becoming drawn to tattoos when I started to learn about the alt scene; the alt music scene was a big part of it, seeing musicians I loved with cool tattoos. I remember designing tribal tattoos for myself when I was a kid in school, I’m a kid of the 90s and I’d only really seen tribal work at that time! I’ve drawn ever since I was a kid and would copy stuff that I was drawn to.

When did you get your first tattoo and what was it? I got my first tattoo when I was 18. It was a classic rose on my should blade and it was a little sketch I made in biro, based on a rose I’d seen whilst researching online. I’ve since had that tattoo reworked/covered up as it began to look older than me!



How would you describe your style? I guess I would describe my tattooing style as neo-traditional. I mostly enjoy neo-traditional work, along with Japanese and anything in colour. Although I do enjoy Black & Grey work too and have a few large scale dot work pieces on the go. I’d say I’m pretty varied in the types of work i do. My favourite things to tattoo are animals, birds in particular and anything based on nature. I draw a lot of inspiration from the natural world. I also really enjoy ornate work and colour will always be my favourite type of work to do. I also specialise in cover ups.


Do you have any guest spots or conventions planned? I currently don’t have any conventions confirmed for next year yet but I will be looking to travel around and do some guest spots around the country at my friend’s studios. I find it’s a lot nicer getting to hang out in their lovely studios than the stress of dealing with setting up at conventions and the hustle and bustle of it all. I need to pull my finger out and get in touch with everyone to make arrangements! I can’t wait to see what 2018 will bring!

Interview With Igor Puente

We chat to 25-year-old travelling tattoo artist Igor Puente, about his style, how he got started and his future guest spot plans…

When did you start tattooing? How did you begin? I started tattooing  six years ago  in my home, as I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to have me as apprentice in Madrid. In the beginning it was quite difficult, but I worked hard and studied art the first three years, which turned out to be the perfect combination to become a professional tattooer.


What inspired you to become a tattooist? I wanted to be creative in my work, and I thought that tattooing was the best way to do that. Sometimes my clients come to me for one piece of my art and they give me lots of creative freedom, to me this is like the paintings or sculptures in the Renaissance period. People back then had art on their walls and now people have it on their skin.


How would you describe your style of work? Has it changed over time? Right now I’m into creating mutated animals with lot of eyes and heads, and if the customer lets me do it, then I like to use red .I really love animals, so for me it’s amazing that I get to create lots of animals. When I started out I loved horror stuff and black and grey, but this changed when I saw the work of tattooer Eckel. I couldn’t shake the beautiful drawings out of my mind and that was when I decided to work in a more neo-traditional style.

You tattoo a lot of animals, do you enjoy making these? What would you love to tattoo? I really love animals! My first career choice was to become a vet, but I decided to choose something much more creative. Animals are my favourite thing to tattoo. If the animal is also red and has lots of eyes than I am in heaven!


What influences your art? Are there any artists you love? I am influenced by everything, from nature to films, TV series and books. I love a lot of other artists and they influence my everyday life. Eckel, of course is for me the master, but I also admire Alex Dörfler, Antony Flemming, Adrian Machete and many many more.


Do you have any guestspots or conventions planned? Yes lots of them and I am every excited!
23 November – 22 December  10 Thousand Foxes Tattoo, New York
5-9 December Mystic Owl in Marietta, Georgia
16-20 January Tattoo Addicts, Bilbao Spain
24-25 February Brighton Tattoo Convention

Apprentice Love: Tammy Bestwick

We spotted the work of 22-year-old tattoo apprentice Tammy Bestwick on Instagram and instantly loved her traditional style tattoos. We chatted to Tammy to find out more about her life as an apprentice at Black Rose Tattoo, Barnstaple, Devon where she works…


How long have you been tattooing? I worked at a tattoo shop in Exeter doing my apprenticeship for two years. I got to do a few small tattoos here and there but it’s only really since working at Black Rose that I’ve been able to tattoo regularly. I started working at Black Rose back in June so it’s just going into six months of tattooing now!

What did you do before? Do you have a background in art? My first job was selling tickets at a zoo. Straight after that I started my tattoo apprenticeship for two years, I did a couple temp jobs where I made some of the most wonderful friends who still come and get tattooed by me now! I studied art at GCSE and A-level but I didn’t find it overly enjoyable, it was more about looking deep into the meaning behind why a square could’ve possibly been painted green and writing essays than actually being artistically creative. It was only since leaving college that I started to draw what I enjoyed.


How did you get your apprenticeship? As soon as I finished college, I took some of my drawings into a tattoo shop that was just over an hour away from where I lived. I didn’t really know anything about tattooing at this point but I’d been interested since I was 13. This shop was just opening and my mind was blown by the work of the tattooists there, I’d never seen anything like it before and so I just knew I had to try my luck. I wasn’t expecting much to come of it as it was the first shop I’d attempted to try work at and I was fully aware I had a lot to still educate myself on and so much more I could try do with my portfolio. A week later and they got back to me and they were willing to give me a trial run! Nothing could compare to that feeling when I found out I was being given a chance at something I’d wished to do for so long.

What drew you to the tattoo world? I started off being fascinated by all kinds of body modifications which then developed into tattoos. Anything a little different or controversial always drew me in. Being creative was the only thing that ever kept me interested so I knew I had to do something with it. I’m quite a quiet person and I love to have my own head space and be free with what’s on my mind, no rules or anyone to answer to. That’s what drawing was for me.

I used to draw a lot with my gramps. He painted beautiful acrylic landscapes and was a signwriter, so that’s definitely where I get my artistic flare from! The tattooists that inspired me to begin with are very different to the tattooists that inspire me now. My tastes and opinion of tattooing has developed a lot.


How would you describe your style, what do you like to tattoo? I’m never really sure how to answer this. Before I tattooed I only ever attempted realism. Currently I do different styles according to the customer’s needs and I’d love to get to the stage where I could do anything anyone asked of me and really challenge myself. Having said that, I’d be perfectly happy if I could only ever tattoo traditional again. That’s what I enjoy tattooing the most, super bold and colourful or just a lot of black! I’d love to get to do more movie related tattoos too.


What or who inspires you? Nature and books but Instagram is a god send for being able to closely follow my favourite tattooists and their daily work. Gem Carter (this is insanely cheesy because I now work with her) has inspired me from day one, before she was even tattooing herself I followed the work she was doing. Currently, I obsess over the work of Sammy Harding, Jack Peppiette and Bradley Tompkins to name a few. But I am completely fascinated about where traditional tattooing began – Ben Corday, Percy Waters, Amund Dietzel. There is just so much inspiration and so much more to be found that it’s overwhelming.

What is a typical day like for you? I very rarely will be tattooing 11-6 at this stage so I take my time with the customers I do have in and the rest is spent providing ultimate banter, replying to emails and drawing!


Can you tell us about your own tattoos? None of my tattoos have any meaning. I get something from a tattooist because I love their style of work, so I’m happy for them to do whatever they’d like to do or choose something they already have drawn! If I get tattooed by someone I want it to be a piece that is distintive to their style. I currently have work done by Danielle Rose, Sammy Harding, a re-work by James Pool (I’m dying to get something of his own too), Sento and mega babe Gem Carter.

Shaded: Stephen William

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

Stephen William is an artist from the Clwydian Range in North Wales who’s currently living between London and Berlin – creating emotive, primal immediacy that speaks directly from the unconscious and transfers beautifully to skin. Here, Stephen speaks about his wide-view experience of the art world, the near-collapsing nature of his work and how a life-destroying flood pushed him to indulge the temporal medium of tattooing…

Can you speak to your relationship with art and creativity? I’ve been making zines and running small press for nearly 15 years. Mainly North Wales punk zines that no one read or reads, because there was and is no punk scene, but it’s where I began playing around creatively. Later, I was a printmaker for about five years – specifically etching and a little bit of lithography. At the time, I was completely dedicated and driven by the desire to be the best printmaker I could be, and along with that came a lot of patient, precision and figurative drawing. I started getting tattooed in shops around this time, before then I just had things done by hand or using homemade machines attached to car batteries behind garages – the sort of stuff you’d do as a young kid who grew up in the valleys. Both methods had their own merits. I could afford to get maybe one tattoo a year from an actual shop, and would spend most of that year deciding what I wanted to get.

I moved to London to do print at the RCA, but abandoned that after a few weeks. I don’t know why, but the idea of doing things in this technical and proper way completely left me all at once – as well as my patience. I think by trying to be as technical and “good” as possible, I would dismiss 90% of my output by focusing on the end – treating everything as a precious, archived product rather than focusing on the process.

A close friend of mine bought me a cheap machine around eight years ago. I experimented with it, and blunted a lot of needles trying to make marks and textures with wood-block prints. I didn’t want to tattoo anyone with it initially, I just wanted to see what it would do on wood and zinc plates. I was making my living as an artist for about eight years before I started my apprenticeship. I did this at the same time as I did my masters in painting and video; two years of making paintings, and videos about making paintings – scrubbing grips, cleaning, drawing. The same as everyone else. I would buy cheap machines from eBay and take them apart and put them back together again. I’d take apart my power supply and build weird frames and stick motors in them, but I left my apprenticeship and set up a private quiet studio. This felt closer to what I was trying to do.


Your tattoos are incredibly free and adventurous. Were you always able to work in such a hyper-personal way, or did you first need to cut your teeth with traditional study? I apprenticed for nearly two years, but didn’t learn very much in-terms of actually making tattoos. I left before I really started. I always felt comfortable being very loose. I’m lucky I had a lot of time to develop that without tattooing in mind, so much. It lead me to this real loose place where I felt mostly comfortable. That’s what I like, and I figured if I liked it a few other people somewhere were bound to at some point.

I love tattooing, and I believe in it unwaveringly, but I don’t feel restricted or like I have to do anything a certain way. There’s a difference between respecting a tradition, and submitting to it. If people want to build high walls, I don’t care. I’m happy sniffing around at the bottom, and I’m comfortable with my height as it is. The people who claim to be saving the industry and keeping it true are the biggest threat to tattooing’s potency. No one owns tattooing. It’s a beautiful visual culture, there’s not much left that’s genuinely doing this or bringing together fringe scenes and building culture, and this is where the power lies and always has. As soon as you call something like tattooing an industry, you take all the power out of what you’re doing and cheapen it – removing any affect that it can have. It existed largely outside of art criticism, which is a blessing and a curse, but it’s allowed itself as a medium to stay very real when it’s done right. I’m very, very lucky that people are into what I do enough to want to get tattooed by me.


I have seen nothing quite like your backpieces, or the more ambitious work you produce. What are you trying to achieve when trusted with large-scale real estate? I’m just trying to make good compositions that get me and my customers excited. I like bare skin as much as tattooed skin. Mostly with the larger work, I’m looking for the tattoo to sit at a point where it’s just about holding itself together, but close to falling apart. I’m not sure if I’d call that a balanced point or not, but when it settles into its stillness, I still want a fight there. The main thing I want is some sort of fight or energy in the piece after it settles. I run my machines fast and like to play catch-up. I love texture and mark making, and how it makes the healed piece a lot more dynamic and longer lasting, as it moves and changes with the body over time.

I believe 100% in the power and potency of tattooing. Inherently, it’s an underground and subversive structure. Tattoos aren’t meant to be liked or appreciated by 100,000 people, and especially not jumped on by any majority. They are a subversive ritual. For me, tattoos are supposed to exist in a state of polarization. The scales are constantly changing, and this is where the energy and the magic lies, so I like the bigger work to be quite jarring visually. Of course, someone has to want to get it on their body. I can paint anything, but tattooing is an exchange, and I’m very lucky that I have people that understand what I’m trying to do and mostly give me free-reign. It’s always a concession between a client and myself, and what the skin wants and machine wants and what I want. Also, it should work next to other tattoos, so I need to take a lot of things into account.

I mostly draw right onto the skin these days. The currency of tattooing is time, so you should think like that in terms of placement. It’s a collaboration with decisions that were made 10 years ago and will be made in 10 years time, but the time thing is great – to sit and experience the exact sensation as those before you, and to be able to look someone in the eye with the same understanding that has permeated history for centuries, is mad. I play with traditional reference a lot. It’s all mostly from religious paintings, porno mags and advertisements. I like to play with combinations of traditional reference and my own drawings. I like to nod towards traditional, but mess around with it. I’m talking like I’m at a point where I’m in some sort of “creative bliss”, but it’s not like that at all; I kind of agonize over a lot of what I do, and stress out a lot. I draw designs over and over and over again to get the right level of rough, but held together, and on the skin it changes again! It’s important for us not to look backwards but forwards. A lot of the classics looked great on sailors because it was of its time, but seeing people trying to look like sailors and criminals now is just sort of a shitty and kitsch dress-up, and a quietening echo of something that was powerful in the past.


Where did you draw inspiration from when starting out in tattooing, and where are you currently sourcing influence? My first experiences with machines were to see what they could add to what I was already doing, like I mentioned before. What I was doing wasn’t on the skin at all! Right now, I guess I’m mostly excited by the same things as everyone else: painting, videos, art-theory, browsing eBay for all kinds of things, and a lot of outsider art as well as traditional reference. I love Welsh history, and draw from this a lot, but mostly I just like to draw and see what happens. I feel like every day someone is coming up in the world and doing exciting new work, and I love that! I don’t know what to say about tattooing in terms of whether or not I think it’s art – I’m not sure if it really even needs to enter that dialogue. It’s too available and too cheap, comparatively speaking, to ever be considered or work as a high-art commodity, which is why it’s great! Tattooing has permeated culture completely, and it’s not like a painting or a sculpture where you need to carry it into a gallery. With tattoos, you can enter any establishment and move and exist freely within it – you can infiltrate any demographic or space. I like that people don’t have so much choice over how they interact with tattooed skin, and I draw a lot of inspiration from that. Tattoos are much harder to avoid than art.


Prior to tattooing, you spent eight years as a student of fine art. What is it you felt you could achieve with tattoos that you couldn’t with any other medium? 
Everything changed for me over the course of a few days. I had both a group and solo show happening at the same time and I was right in the middle of moving apartments. Over one weekend, I had almost all my output and everything I owned stored at my parent’s place before moving it on. The river burst its banks by nearly nine feet that evening and destroyed everything I ever made – as well as everything I owned. At the same time, I was reading a book that was pushing the argument forward that there’s no way anyone could judge the merit of art in their own lifetime. Museums are almost always great because they have filtered down the best of the best over years and years and years, and exhibitions are often bad because there’s no filter. Tattoos don’t care or need any of it. I took some wry comfort in the idea that there was too much art now. Humanity has made enough. I had been thinking about tattooing, and getting tattooed, for a long time. It fell in place when I got into the temporality of it all. Give it 30 years, and no tattoos I make will be around anymore. That put this fire in me to commit to a new medium. Basically, I wanted to make temporary art that didn’t need a podium.

What’s your relationship to free-hand and free-machine tattooing, and how do these ways of working inform what you do? I guess I see mechanically copying a stencil and trying to reproduce something like a painting onto skin as ignoring the potential of the medium. I still sometimes use stencils because they’re incredibly useful, and I like to use everything I can to get the best results, but more and more often I’m moving away from them. Things change, though. Sometimes I like to get super loose, and other times tighten up. I’m not overly keen on trying to pin anything down and figure anything out 100%. I like to exploit the accidents and the unexpected things that can happen. I really like to see the marks of the needle and the hand of the person that’s done it. Also, it’s early days for me. I’ve not been tattooing for a huge amount of time – it’s been three years, and things change all the time. Since you live with a tattoo, and they exist in time, I think they should represent that. I really want the medium to be the message in a way, I guess. By drawing everything on, it works really well with the body every time – it makes it more of a process for me, and almost always unpredictable things happen that you need to respond to. I’m always wanting to feel excited by what I’m doing, so drawing tattoos straight on always keeps me at a point of being very fresh. It’s not a design I drew a few weeks ago or months with someone else in mind that I’m trying to make work elsewhere. It’s exactly where I’m at.


What’s next? Working on larger projects and travelling, always. I’m midway through a couple of backs and bodysuits, and I’m always on the look out to start large scale projects. I have a small journal centred around contemporary tattooing and visual cultures that I’m very excited about. Another issue is ready for release! I’m also working to develop some physical spaces where artists can stay and work during residencies; assisting with publishing projects and travel to help and hopefully widen the landscape a bit – involving communities and exchanges with fringe individuals and groups from other parts of the world.

I mean, a lot of the time I feel pretty confused from overthinking, or having a lot of projects mixing together at once, so my future plans are about finding a way to still be very productive when I’m still in the process of working things out. For the future, in terms of tattooing, of course I want big changes; I’d like to see tattooing move into a more positive and open realm, and the end of bullying and empire building – neo-liberal tattooers appropriating and diluting culture on the internet and TV, macho bullshit, lifestyle becoming consumption. Instead, seeing a rise in pure, potent, visually exciting and heartfelt work. Things are happening that I feel need to be talked about in a productive and positive way. It’s easy to be negative about the state of tattooing, but everyone choses where they want to be within it.

Interview With Chris Green

We chat to 24-year-old Chris Green, who tattoos out of Redwood Tattoo Studio in Manchester about his love for anything out of the ordinary, his guest spot plans and his own impressive tattoo collection…

When did you begin tattooing? I’ve been tattooing full time for three years since finishing my apprenticeship, so I still feel very new to everything!

What inspired you and what drew you to the tattoo world? I grew up playing in bands, drawing and writing music. I came to realise that there wasn’t much chance of  me making a living in the music industry and what little money I did have I spent on getting tattooed. I think I needed a career that was still creative, but one where I could be my own boss and work for myself. Tattooing was perfect, I just wish I had thought of it sooner.


How would you describe your style, has it changed? My favourite style of tattooing is traditional and that’s what I started with. I love tattoos that actually look like tattoos so I try to keep the traditional structures of tattooing in my work whilst showing my love for classical art in my designs.

What would you love to tattoo? What do you particularly love doing? I feel as though I’m quite lucky, as people ask me to do some amazing pieces already, but my favourite things to draw are probably ladies, animals and anything out of the ordinary or a bit weird. I’ve also been enjoying working on big projects like backs and fronts recently, I’d love to start more!


What inspires your work, do any other artist influence you? I’ve always been mostly inspired by classic art – the Renaissance and baroque periods in particular. I spent some time in Italy and Greece last year and I was fascinated by the architecture and sculptures. I came back to England with tons of amazing references and spent the rest of that year trying to include stories and mythologies into my work. I’m always looking for new inspiration and often find it in the most basic everyday things. Of course, a bunch of tattoo artists also inspire me too!


Do you have any conventions or guest spots planned? Conventions and guest spots aren’t my strongest points (and by that I mean I don’t really do them), but I would love to start travelling more. I did my first guest spot a couple of months ago at Jayne Doe in Essex to see how much I’d freak out, and I did majorly (mouth full of ulcers, ate half a slice of toast over three days). Everybody was nice there and I became good friends with Becca who owns the shop so I think that helped. I’ll be making regular(ish) trips back there, next being in October. I’ll be at Salon Serpent in Amsterdam in September and hopefully working the next Brighton convention. Also I’m in the middle of figuring some dates out for a few spots in America next year.


Can you tell us a little bit about your own tattoo collection? I’ve been lucky enough to get tattooed by some great artists (probably forgot a few) such as Eckel, Mitch Allenden, Dan Molloy, Cassandra Frances, Ashley Love, Alex Bage, Lars Uwe and Lauren Sutton and Dale Sarok who I work with. I’ve pretty much always given each artist complete freedom so I have all kinds of subject matter. Lars has tattooed probably the majority of my body and I imagine he’ll probably tattoo what’s left, which scarily isn’t as much space as I thought.