Last month, Ian did an interview for Tattooist Art, where he talked about the studio and his artwork. We have a few snippets of the interview for you to take a look at. The interview’s a lot longer than what’s here, so make sure you read the full thing in May’s issue of Tattooist Art!
The main emphasis in the studio is on custom work. How do you think custom tattoo studios are helping shape tattooing at the minute?
I think the term custom tattoo studio is like a blanket cover for many varied styles of tattooing. Some people think that custom means doing whatever the customer wants, and some people feel that custom means that people come in and say, "I have an idea", and the tattooist goes, "right, well this is what I do". The good thing about custom tattooing is, people feel a bit freer to express themselves when they work in a custom tattoo studio. It isn’t a case of where they’re just money making factories where people just come in and go "I want that one" and point at the wall, and they get the tattoo, go, and then someone else walks in and goes, "I want that tattoo as well", and then they get it. When it’s custom it frees you up to be as inventive as you want to be.
So who is being inventive at the minute?
It’s really, really hard to say, in England especially. So many people are imitating other really well known artists. So, you could look around, and think, "this guy’s stuff is really fresh, nice and original", but then you’d look at it and think, "well actually, hold on a moment, this guy has been doing it for longer than him, and it looks exactly the same". That’s one of the good things about internet coverage of tattooing and social networking sites, since you can actually research who people are actually influenced by, and thereby find a chain of their inspiration, from one person to the next. It’s just turning into a bit of a strange thing where, often I’ll look in magazines and see someone’s artwork, and I’ll say "wow, that’s pretty cool.” Then I’ll get talking to one of the guys I work with and they’ll go, "well that’s just, say, Uncle Allan’s", or "That’s just Sarah Schor’s or Chad Koeplinger’s piece, but it’s not done by those artists, it’s done by someone who’s seen that piece in a previous magazine”. So, it’s too difficult to say who’s dong original stuff at the moment. I think it’s just a case of having a look around you and see who’s doing quality tattoos that heal really well, and have that timeless look to them, and who are being really honest about their influences from the very beginning. So, if someone is being inspired by a particular tattooist that they’re prepared to turn around and say that.
Does it irritate you when people don’t?
When people literally just take from one artist, that really irritates me. If people take from more than one tattooist, and they have a wide range of influences, that’s not so much of a bad thing. That’s how we get better. We learn from people who’ve gone before and done good work. For example, I get tattooed by a guy called Diego Azaldegui, from MVL in Leeds. He’s amazing, known the world over for his Japanese work. I know people who’ve worked with him, I know people who’ve guested with him, I know people who have been tattooed by him, and never worked with him. Then they go on to do tattoos a week later, which literally look exactly the same as the style that he’s doing. On one hand, I can see you’re really excited and inspired by this person, but on the other hand, to build yourself up a reputation and a customer base on imitation… it’s frustrating, because it’s only people who will have seen Diego’s work beforehand will know that it’s an imitation. That’s why I say, for the people who are prepared to turn around from the off and say, they’re inspired by an artist I think is really humble, and it’s really nice to do. Even Diego himself does that. But, when you literally take from a tattooist, and slightly re-draw something that they’ve done, and allow people to believe that’s your own invention, I don’t think that’s going to do any favours for the tattooing world at all.
I have some weird things going on at the moment. I really like skulls. I don’t do a lot of them at the moment, but my sort of gypsy style women heads, and these slightly neo-traditional looking women, but with a bit more detail in. I don’t know why, but I’ve been starting to put a lot of up-turned crosses in everything I do. To be honest with you, I think I saw someone who had an upturned crucifix tattooed on their face, like a little teardrop style, and I thought that was pretty cool. I did that on one, it turned up in another, and it flows on from there. I get a lot of inspiration from my wife Hayley, because she doesn’t have as much time as I do to sit and draw and create. So it’s a little bit humbling when she’s at home all day with our baby girl, and when I go home she’s drawn up something amazing like a kingfisher sat in a rose, and she’s just done it, because she’s felt the need to draw. She’s a big inspiration as well. I think I probably take more influences from Hayley than I would like to admit.
You’ve admitted it now, you can’t take it back!
Oh yeah! (Laughs)
To read the rest, check out May’s issue. In the meantime, click here for Tattooist Art’s website.