Tagged: Watercolour

Interview with Kerste Dixon

27-year-old tattoo artist Kerste Diston creates beautifully abstract watercolour tattoos at her tattoo studio, The Drawing Room in Coventry.  We chatted to Kerste about her style, and running a fully female tattoo shop…

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How long have you been tattooing? I’ve been tattooing around seven years.

How did you start? I started as an apprentice at a studio in my home town in Rugby where I worked for about four years.

What drew you to the tattoo world? Its always something I’ve been interested in. As soon as I turned 18 I was in studios getting work done. I’ve always been more interested in creative industries. I did footwear design at uni before getting my apprenticeship and I did art at college. I can’t imagine not doing something creative as a career.

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How long have you been a studio owner? How did it all come about? I’ve had my own studio for nearly two years. It just sort of happened – I left the studio I worked at in my home town in Rugby and I started working in Coventry. I had an old school friend who has their own business at Fargo Village where my studio is based. When I saw him posting on social media photos of Fargo I was intrigued. It’s a village for creative business and I thought that it would be the perfect place for a studio. They thought a tattooist would fit in well and they had a small unit available. My mum and dad encouraged me to go for it and set off on my own! I’m not sure I would have had the confidence without them to do it. But it’s definitely the best desicion I made. I opened in May 2016, and it started as a small private studio with just me. In May 2017 we expanded into next door and now we have myself and four other full time artists.

Who works in The Drawing Room and what kinds of tattoos do they create? We have myself who specialises in abstract watercolour and black work. Hanah who does super cute girly neotrad work, Emily our apprentice who does blackwork and Haley who does minimilist blackwork

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Was it your intention to have a fully female shop? To be honest it just sort of happened and now it’s a thing. Most of us have a mostly female customer base too because of the style of work we do so it all just sort of fits. That’s not to say if the right artist came to me looking for a job and was a guy I’d turn them down! It just happens that everyone so far that’s been right for us has been female! We also have lots of guest artists – we seem to have made this reputation where ladies like to come guest too, which is lovely! So many people think a big group of girls can be bitchy but honestly the studio is the complete opposite of that – it’s such a lovely place to work and I’m so pleased to have the team I do!

How would you describe your style? Has this changed? I do mostly rainbow watercolour work, however I’ve branched off into doing darker blackwork. It’s still quite abstract but it’s just opened up some more doors for me work wise!

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Do you prefer colour or blackwork? Is there anything you would love to tattoo? I like both colour and blackwork equally – it’s nice to break things up sometimes If I’ve had a week of all colour work and a blackwork piece comes in that’s nice and vice versa! Keeps things interesting! I love to tattoo all things nerdy/ponies and animals mostly!

Do you have any conventions planned? Just one more this year – Scarborough in May. We may look into a few more towards the end of the year though.

Tattoo Portraits

Alessandro Negrini a.k.a Pepe, an Italian tattoo artist resident at Electric Tattooing Viareggio and his wife Romina have created a book titled Tattoo Portraits, in which his love and respect for the history of tattooing is displayed in beautiful watercolour.  Our Italian contributor Ilaria chatted to Pepe to find out more about the book, his love of tattoo history and why he chose the medium of watercolour… 

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When and how did you discover the art of tattoo?
It all began in Viareggio, in the early 90s. At that time it was none other than the holiday location where I spent my summer holidays with the family. This city, where I now work and live, represented anything an adolescent could ever imagine: there were sailors with tattoos, punks, metal music, skateboarding and surfing activities. Coming from a small town, all of this was very exciting to my eyes!

What do you think of modern society and its relationship with this art?
I think that this media overexposure has removed a sense of it all. You know, it’s my job and I earn some money, but in these twenty years I have seen a complete twist from what was originally the world of tattoo.
When I started professionally in 1996 (at Skin Fantasies, Bergamo) tattoo was frowned upon, it was just an act of rebellion and nonconformity. Nowadays tattoos are on football players, on television and in glossy magazines. Today people get tattooed to join the mass, to be cool or to be accepted by the group. 15 or 20 years ago you couldn’t even get into a local bar if you had tattoos in sight.
I mean, I do not want to be a rebel at any cost, but now getting a tattoo is like buying a nice shirt. What will happen when these people will want/will have to change their aesthetic tastes, as our mothers asked: “what will you do with those tattoos when you become old”?

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People you have portrayed are definitely a continuous inspiration for you, both in life and in work. Tell us more about your project!
My project came mainly from an urgency, a need that resided in my guts. My life has changed dramatically in the recent years thanks to the arrival of my son. I am sober for a year and a half and painting had a great therapeutic impact during this transformation. I portrayed the great masters of the past, who have founded the basics of our profession, those who were called “poor Rembrandts” in a world diametrically opposed to ours. After preparing a first set of watercolours, the project grew thanks to the meeting with my partner Romina, professional editor, who wrote our book Tattoo Portraits, she did amazing research regarding the biographies of these tattoo artists . The book is now published and distributed by Surith, Rome.


How did the mere fact of changing ‘means of expression’ and then to paint with watercolours make you feel?
The world of watercolour has always been present in my life. Even before tattoos, it came  with my love for comics and with them for adventure: Hugo Pratt was my favourite cartoonist and one of his peculiarities was that he decorated the first introductory pages of his books with beautiful watercolours.
Occasionally this passion came, went away and then came back again, like the water and the waves… I began to experiment with it during the years of art school and then used it only for entertainment in the evening or to rest after a day of hard work. The tattoo, as well as its exemplary drawings, what are called “tattoo flash”, are characterized by an extremely rigid and schematic technique. You trace the outline, then the shadows and finally the color. There is no room for the unexpected. Everything is precise, programmed. Watercolour is the exact opposite, the water flows unpredictable on the sheet, the brush flies fast and the result is never predictable. After twenty years as a tattoo artist I felt the need to find all of this, to dissolve the hand to the emotions, letting myself go: into the unknown, the unexpected and the adventure from which I started.


The history of the tattoo is, at least in my opinion, a part of each tattoo, be it big or small, done with great care.. The simple fact that the man is the mean by which this art continues to live and to be handed down from generation to generation is really beautiful. How important is for you the past and how it helped you to embark on your path?
The tattoo is first of all a sign, a gesture, a symbol. It marks the difference between what you were before and what you are after, like the difference between a donkey and a zebra. It may be little as the dot ​​marked between the index finger and thumb, symbol of love for Japanese geishas, or huge like the entire Polynesian bodies of people from Tahitian islands. The gesture is always the same, inserting a pigment (usually derived from coal) under the skin, through the use of different enforcement tools, from the shark tooth to the most modern rotary machines. The artist who now tattoos on television makes the same gesture that the primitive man performed in the caves during the Neolithic.
Ötzi, the man of Similaun, the oldest mummy found on the Earth, (dated from between 3300 and 3200 BC) is in fact also tattooed, and it is considered the first tattooed human being: on Ötzi body there are 61 tattoos!
I mean, you can not tattoo without knowing the history of tattooing.  Tattoo and mankind continue to intersect chronologically along the latitudes and longitudes of the whole world. The history of the electric tattoo begins in the late ‘800 with Samuel O’Reilly and reaches us, ‘Tattoo Portraits’, both in a book and with an exhibition, (currently on display at the gallery Parione9 in Rome). This project of mine aims to provide a tool to the new generations, to know and deepen the roots of the history of tattoo, as we know it today in the West. The 60 portraits that form the book, “tattooed faces” and “blue ladies”, are just the beginning of a natural evolution through my new pictorial work of watercolors. It aims to tell and preserve some kind of a family album, a collection of images from a far away world, preserving through its pages the history and memory of us men and women, tattooed and tattoo artists of the 2000s.

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His artworks are now on display in Rome, at Parione9, a solo show curated by Elettra Bottazzi and Marta Bandini.
You can email Pepe at pepetattooing@hotmail.com to purchase the book, and follow him on Facebook to here more news about his project.

Photos taken by Diana Bandini, Nicola Gnesi and Vasco Maria Livio.

Interview with Tattoo Artist: Charlotte Ross

Tattoo artist Charlotte Ross is currently travelling around the UK guesting at different studios. We chatted to her about her tattoos that resemble paintings, her love for birds and her own tattoo collection…  


How did you first start tattooing? When I was studying at university we had to do a work placement course. Having the opportunity to create our own placements, I managed to organise mine in a tattoo studio. I would help out, clean, ask questions, watch the tattooists work. By the end of it I didn’t want to leave! The owner of the studio asked to see my portfolio and then offered me an apprenticeship. I then began my apprenticeship in my final year of uni.

Do you have a background in art? What did you do before? I have six years studying art after leaving high school. Two years at college and then four years doing my BA Honours Degree in Fine art at university all before starting tattooing. I have now been tattooing over seven years.


How would you describe your style? I find it hard to describe my own work. I get put in the ‘watercolour tattoo’ bracket, but my work isn’t quite as soft as most watercolour tattoos are. When painting I don’t just use paint. All my art is done with layers of watercolour paints and pencil. So I can build strength where it is needed which gives a nice contrast between strong and soft areas. I tend to just say I do ‘painterly’ tattoos.


Have you always worked in a watercolour style? How did this develop?  I feel like I’m just at the beginning of it developing. I’m at the point where I love the subjects I am getting and I’m confident in my tattooing ability, but I can see my work evolving and I’m excited to see how it grows.
Even though my work isn’t traditional there are still fundamental rules in tattooing that I still apply, so that my customers get a nicely healed tattoo. I have spent a lot of years doing a bit of everything in tattooing, which I believe every tattooist should do. And this has taught me the importance of lines, using the skin tone and contrast between light and dark. It’s that understanding that has helped to translate my paintings into tattoos.

What inspires you? Nature inspires me. I grew up in the country with a gardening family. So I’ve always been surrounded by nice gardens filled with lovely flowers, fields and animals.


You draw and tattoo a lot of animals, are these your main inspirations? Birds are my main love/inspiration. I love everything about them and have since I was young. If there is ever a moment where I don’t have something to draw up for a tattoo and I’m feeling uninspired, I’ll turn to researching birds to paint. I look at anything from  bird books, to watching bird documentaries, or I turn to my own birds! Having domestic birds that I can closely watch and photograph is the greatest thing to keep me productively painting. My two birds are the best!

Is there anything you would love to tattoo? More birds! I would love to have some budgie tattoos to do! But birds and flower tattoos and I’m happy!

Can you tell us about the tattoos on your own body? I have quite a few pieces that I love and quite a few I’m not so bothered by! I wish I was a little more patient when I was younger, so I have a couple laser projects! Some of the ones I absolutely love are, my portrait of my dog Max, done by Marcus Maguire. My countryside rib piece including birds, rabbit and a wee mouse was done by Sarah Carter. I have a portrait of Marc Bolan on my thigh by Emma Kierzek and I love the side of my neck which is a rose with a locket in it by Steve Vinall.

Flower Tattoos

As summertime draws to a close we wanted to celebrate the glorious weather we’ve had with our pick of flower tattoos. We’d love to see yours!