“I had lost faith in art as a career so I left to find something new. I didn’t expect to find it in tattooing; that came along as an accident… a very happy accident” – Interview with Alex Rattray

“I had lost faith in art as a career so I left to find something new. I didn’t expect to find it in tattooing; that came along as an accident… a very happy accident” – Interview with Alex Rattray

Hey Alex, cheers for taking the time out to talk to us! It’s strange as you’re the first person I’ve interviewed from my city haha.

Growing up, have you always had an artistic background?

Yes, for as long as I can remember. I was always drawing when I was a kid. At Primary School I was always let out of class to paint banners for school plays and the likes. In High School I would skip English and Maths and just go help out in the Art class.

I remember reading a newspaper a good while back that was actually about you and it said you attended Edinburgh College of Art but dropped out. What led you to giving it all up and decide to pursue a career in tattooing?

I never felt like I fit in at school. I had hoped that Art College would be different but it turned out to be just more of the same. Edinburgh Art College was always where I wanted to attend but after about a year there it felt too much like a factory churning out the same artistic styles.  It also felt like there would be very few job prospects by the end of it all. I had lost faith in art as a career so I left to find something new.
I didn’t expect to find it in tattooing; that came along as an accident… a very happy accident.

Congratulations on the new studio! It looks incredible. How does it feel to finally have that after all your hard work?

Thanks! It feels pretty good. I’m sure it’ll feel even better when I’ve forgotten all the stress involved in getting it there. It’s definitely one of the hardest things I’ve done so far. I’m now looking forward to watching it grow and evolve.

Do you have any favourite tattoo artists?

There’s so many that it would be difficult to list them all. There’s phenomenal artists the world over that keep raising the bar for tattooing; it’s hard to keep up, let alone pick the best.

I find myself gravitating towards the artwork of a lot of Eastern European realism artists at the moment. They have such a painterly style that is incredible to look at. The way Val composes her large projects is amazing and the way that O’Kharin works on giant multiple day projects is something I’m particularly interested in at the moment.

Who are your biggest inspirations?

I get inspired by different people every day. Social media makes inspiration easy to come by. I’m always finding artists I’ve never heard of that are producing incredible work.

Besides tattooists, I also follow a lot of other forms of artists; sculptors and photographers are great sources of inspiration. Looking at the way they deal with lighting and composition helps understand things in three dimensional spaces which relates back to all forms of art.

Being ‘a bit of a geek’, do you get more excitement on projects that have the geeky element?

I wouldn’t say I get more excited for one tattoo over another. I get just as excited on days that I have a cool project based around skulls, tigers, or any other commonly used tattoo imagery. As long as the project is fun, I’m happy. I am fortunate that I get to pick and choose projects these days so every day is a fun day.

That said, I do love days that I’m working on something geeky; the client and I always have so much to talk about. We also play the films relating to the tattoos being done that day on the screens in the studio.

Is there anything that you would love to tattoo but haven’t yet?

I think there will always be new stuff I wanna tattoo. I’m always coming up with ideas of tattoos I’d like to create for the rare “Do whatever you want” clients. In this age of the ever increasing

of comicbook/sci-fi films, there are always new geeky portraits that would make amazing tattoos.

Do you have any hobbies outside of work?

At the moment I don’t seem to have a lot in the way of free time outside of work with the new studio. When I do get some down time I try and chill out as much as possible. Video games and films have always been a large part of my life so I play games and watch films whenever I get the chance.

What has been the hardest moment in your career thus far, and what has been your favourite?

Building the studio has definitely been the hardest. The stress and the setbacks took their toll.

My favourite moment would have to be winning a 1st place award at the London Tattoo Convention; it happened on the day of the 10 year anniversary of the day I started tattooing. The London Tattoo Convention has always been the pinnacle of tattooing to me. It was always a huge goal of mine to work it. To win a prize at it exactly 10 years to the day I started tattooing was an incredible feeling.

What would you say is the hardest part of being a tattoo artist?

Switching off. It’s a job born of passion so it’s easy to forget that it’s a job. I never take holidays and I’ve given up my days off to work on fun projects more times than I can remember.

You’ve been to your fair share of conventions, do you have a favourite?

London is my favourite but Paris is incredible too. These shows are massive though. Sometimes it’s the smaller ones that are more memorable. Randy Englehard’s show in Zwikow, Germany is always a tonne of fun; it always has an amazing list of talented artists but is still small and friendly

So new studio down, what’s next in the life for Alex Rattray?

I have a few conventions left this year: Montreux, London, and Venice. After that, I really just want to try and keep my head down at home. Keep the shop running smoothly and try and enjoy the place for a while.

Finally, what would be the best way to get a kickass portrait from yourself?

I’m pushing all my bookings towards the studio’s website contact form at www.empire-ink.co.uk to keep it all in one place. Fill out the form and Baz, our studio manager, will sort it out from there.

Thanks a bunch for your time Alex, we need to get a chair appointment at some point!

Cheers, I look forward to it.

About Tim

I'm a UK based staff writer for Tattoo-Map and an avid tattoo enthusiast with a penchant for realism...and skulls, because everyone loves skulls.