Artist Spotlight #2
Hi Rich! So, when did you first pick up a tattoo machine?
I had a fairly late start to tattooing, I didn’t pick up a machine until I was 29 (I’m 35 now). I was working as a school teacher and thoroughly miserable. I started drawing portraits in my spare time and asking around for an apprenticeship. I was met mostly with indifference, possibly due to my age and the fact my drawings were not as good as I thought they were! Eventually I persuaded a local studio to let me hang out on the weekends and school holidays. I went on supply and did less and less teaching and more and more studio time. I was tattooing pork belly, grapefruits and melons, always unsupervised. Eventually the studio boss said I could tattoo volunteers but again left me to it. After over a year of this I was struggling massively and decided to leave to work for Rob Bates in Sheffield. He helped me unlearn my bad habits and showed me the right way to do things.
What got you interested in the tattoo business?
I was always interested in tattooing, I was getting tattooed a lot but never really considered that I could do it too. My mum and dad had fairly traditional views on work and I grew up believing the only way was to pass my GCSEs, go to college then get a ‘job’. Tattooing just seemed too bohemian and too fun to be a real way of life. Despite the hard work it takes, it still seems like that now. I feel very lucky.
I think it’s fair to say you specialise in Black and Grey realism. Some of your portfolio leans towards iconic celebrities/films, what got you interested in this style? Or is it something that has just progressed naturally?
I’m a huge cinema fan so when I’m drawing for my own pleasure I tend to draw characters from movies, especially horror. I also like the photography of the 40’s and 50’s, the silver screen glamour. It’s great to tattoo. I’m drawn to portraiture so my tattooing has followed suit. I do realise I need a new challenge now, I’m very keen to start concentrating on larger concept pieces instead of recreating existing images. I’m experimenting a bit more with colour in my drawing so hopefully I’ll begin to create a more individual style in time that will be recognisably mine.
We believe getting a tattoo takes thought, research and a licensed, professional tattoo artist. What would be your advice to someone looking to get their first tattoo?
Be prepared to wait for the right artist. Try not to base your decision entirely on waiting time and cost. I’ve had customers try to play me off against cheaper artists and then still go elsewhere to save £20. I’ve even had these same customers come back asking me to cover up or fix their new tattoo. I know everyone doesn’t have huge amounts of disposable income but save up for the right artist if need be. Base your decision on the quality of work and the studio itself. Don’t be afraid to ask questions regarding hygiene practise if you have any doubts or niggles.
What is your favourite part about the industry?
I’m very excited seeing what is possible these days. Tattooing is becoming a more legitimate career option so kids with degrees in graphic design, illustration and fine art are going into the industry. This is raising the bar and indeed clients expectations. I only have to look at Instagram for 5 minutes to be inspired.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
I’d like to see less conventions. There’s several a month now and I think the quality has thinned out as a result. There are shows that are purely money makers with awards for the boys and overpriced tickets for punters. I’d like to see 4 or 5 big shows a year where artists can all hang out and catch up without it costing an arm and a leg.
What’s the craziest thing anyone has ever asked you to tattoo?
A pensioner asked me to tattoo his wife’s lips on his arse. I’ve also done a bottle of Henderson’s Relish on a dude’s head. He sure liked relish.
You’re currently working at Electric Kicks Tattoo Studio in Pontefract, do you have any plans to open your own studio in the future?
Yes, that is my ultimate ambition. I have lots of ideas. I’m very happy where I am for the meantime though!
In your biography on your Tattoo Book profile, you talk about artists such as Rob Richardson, Carlos Rojas and Andrew Mirfin who you have been influenced by. What advice would you give to any aspiring artists who may be influenced by you and your work?
I’d be incredibly flattered! Firstly I’d say drop me a message or pop in and say hello. I love helping people out and will always endeavour to give advice if I can.
At The Tattoo Book, we strive to provide the public with the tools to locate, research and contact licensed, professional tattoo artists and studios. What are your thoughts on the services we offer on the website?
I think it’s got to be a good thing. Online presence is always good for studios that are off the beaten track and I think if it introduces new clients to us then that’s great! It’s also a nice way of potential clients comparing local studios work all in one place without having to visit 10 different Instagram profiles. I hope the tattoo book takes off.
To view Richards portfolio and to contact him directly, head over to his Tattoo Book profile.
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