Hi Damian, thank you giving me the chance to interview you!
Not at all – thank you. Honoured to be involved in this at all, and more than a little confused as to why you’d want to talk to me, but thank you!
It’s common for artists to have a unique personality in a way, could you describe yours to me?
I suppose it’s fair to say that all creative people are somewhat unusual? I don’t know – maybe that suggests we’re a different breed somehow, which would seem somewhat arrogant or like ‘we’ have some kind of entitlement, but it’s kind of true? Most people I think have a tendency to bleach out idiosyncrasy – because they don’t know that it’s these little quirks that make them so interesting and special – they actually don’t know! Other people do, but they don’t, they have to be told. Artists tend to be more expressive, and can be seen as ‘unusual’ as a result. I think there’s some truth in that anyway. Jesus, you only have to look at most Tattooists to see the (un?)conscious desire to express themselves. We’re all odd clothes, excessive body art and silly haircuts. Or at least the best ones are.
For my part anyway I think I’m perfectly normal, whatever that is. It’s everyone else who’s odd.
Growing up, have you always had an artistic background?
Not an artistic background as such, there was no real influence or specific encouragement – certainly in no way was I brought up within a creative environment. My Dad was vaguely into drawing for a time, but for my part, it was all I ever did as a child really. I think it was escapism that turned into something of a refuge – I was a somewhat solitary child in a sense I suppose. It’s served me well though. Had I not hidden away for years drawing and drawing and drawing I suppose I wouldn’t be where I am now.
Certainly my love of all things visually creative growing up was the progenitor for my eventually becoming a Tattoo Artist though yeah, although it was never really the plan. I wanted to be a comic book artist or a commercial illustrator of some kind. I learned from an early age that such ideas are really quite naive dreams though – it only happens for the lucky few, and talent or ability aren’t even the deciding factors of success, it’s largely due to luck, right place, right time – that kind of thing. So yeah, I won’t bore you with the ins and outs, but after carrying out a degree in Illustration and then bumming around for years attempting to become the next Jimmy Page, I turned back to Art and in turn, Tattooing.
Do you have any hobbies outside of tattooing?
Umm… Yeah? Or at least I try my best to have time to indulge outside interests! As I’m sure any Tattoo Artist who works as hard as they can to be the best they can will tell you though, it’s something of an all consuming lifestyle. And I really do think that’s the case – Tattooing is a lifestyle as opposed to a job, career or even a passion. If you want to do as well as you can, you have to give yourself to it and accept that selfish indulgences may have to fall by the wayside more often than not.
Most artists I know will work through the day, and then spend most evenings prepping, researching and hustling for the next pieces in the diary. Invariably if I’m not Tattooing, I’m thinking about Tattooing, planning or panicking about something Tattoo related or trying to firm up, secure or encourage future work. And if not all that, I’m generally too tired to do fuck all else! And that’s cool – it’s what’s required, but it’s far removed from the perceived idea that Tattooists lead some kind of carefree, glamorous, Rock ‘n’ Roll lifestyle. It’s actually rather sedate, albeit worth it. I’m certainly not complaining by the way – wouldn’t change it at all.
But in terms of the things I do love when time allows – drawing, painting, (these things in particular I really need to make and find more time for), music, movies, video games. Any and all pop culture really, which is cool because it tends to feed back into the work I produce – largely due to my having an uncanny ability to get my clients to get Tattoos of MY choosing – I get to carry out a lot of pieces that are inspired or informed by Movies, TV, Sci – Fi, Horror, Video-games, Comics, Music etc – all of which are things I love. As I say, given the time that is.
Haha, it’d be fair to say you’re quite the ‘geek’ then! Do you tend to enjoy doing tattoos from something that you’re a fan of more than the ones you don’t have a connection to?
I think it would be weird were that not the case. As much as I do and always would put my all into any given piece though, it’s particularly enjoyable carrying out a Tattoo that resonates due to a personal interest or love. I imagine I don’t have to name specifics as I no doubt I bore people to death with my love of a certain movie franchise, certain comic book characters and a particular band from the 60’s, so I’ll not reiterate – but, of course, if I get to base a Tattoo on a theme that I’m into, then yeah, that’s exciting, always.
It has a vague downside though, while I’m by no means a well known artist, certainly locally it’s considered that I only want, am potentially interested in or even capable of carrying out certain things – which isn’t the case at all, in fact it really annoys me! I’m genuinely happy to try and turn my hand to most things, and often getting the chance to do something slightly removed from the norm as it were is really exciting, not to mention a challenge. Often I’ll spend days just wishing someone would book in for an Infinity symbol, some bum clouds or an exploding bird feather thing. Not much luck on those fronts lately, but I can dream.
If on some different dimension you weren’t able to tattoo portraits anymore, what would your preferred style be?
I suppose the work I post to social media would suggest I produce a fair amount of portraiture, and I’ve certainly made a specific effort to push my work in that direction, but regrettably I can’t and don’t carry out such work exclusively. I guess most of my work has a figurative element, but I don’t produce as many ‘realistic’ portraits as I once did, or would like to.
That being said, I’ve no idea what my preferred style would be, or even currently is? I’m a’Jack Of All Trades, Master Of None’ thus far really – but my career in this industry is still in its relative infancy – so I’ve still everything to learn and hopefully can develop a distinctive and more accomplished look to my work over time.
Do you have a favourite tattoo that you have done?
Nope. I just hope my clients are happy with the work I carry out for them – if so then I’ve done my job as best I can, often regardless of my own evaluation, although naturally I always do my very best. I often think it’s rather unfair and almost dangerous asking the creator of something to then judge or evaluate their own work, it’s all but impossible to be subjective.
I read an interview given by someone I regard as one of my all time heroes in which he absolutely disregarded his own work to such extent that it broke my heart. It’s awful when you admire something to then have its creator dismiss it as worthless, flawed or whatever, particularly if it holds meaning to its audience, or where Tattooing is concede, the wearer of the piece.
Have you had many trials and tribulations during your career?
Probably no more so than any other artist has , the natural stresses, worries and concerns of trying to keep a studio running and keeping everyone happy, all of the time, not to mention forever battling the creative Demons.
Such things like that are kind of unfairly weighted against me though – I’m by no means embarrassed by it, but regret to say I suffer with severe anxiety and depression, so what might be ordinary, everyday concerns to some, can often be cripplingly hard mountains to climb for me.
I know it’s also true of a lot of artistic people, but society seems to deem the admission of such things as a failing or weakness and as such it’s not talked about. I don’t give a shit though, it’s unpleasant and probably somewhat painful and frustrating for a few people who are kind of close to me, but ultimately, it’s me and a part of who I am. I’ve accepted that now.
Again though, I think it’s a bi product of a creative mind and a need to be as strong of an artist as possible, which is an impossible goal anyway, and that much harder to attain with an inner dialogue forever telling me that I’m not good enough. That isn’t to say I think I’m a bad artist – I wouldn’t be so arrogant or irresponsible as to tattoo at all if I didn’t think myself competent – but I’ll never be the artist I want to be, and maybe even capable of being, it’s almost like my mind won’t allow it.
Still, I love tattooing so all I can do is keep trying my best.
What has been the hardest moment in your career thus far, and what has been your favourite?
I wouldn’t say I’ve had any periods of my career that have been hard as such – there are external influences that make things stressful on occasion, but that just life isn’t it?
As for my favourite, I’m still very proud to say that I’m part of Marc Dravens Inkfusion team, and as such have had the honour and pleasure of working two Star Wars Celebration shows as a licensed Lucasfilm artist, in London and L.A. That was and remains a big deal for me. Basically a dream come true.
Do you have any favourite tattoo artists?
Too many to mention really, and were I to attempt to list the people whose work I particularly admire, no doubt I’d forget to mention someone, and then feel shit about it. I owe a huge debt to a few exceptional artists though, I won’t embarrass them by naming names, but they know who they are and the gratitude I have for their helping me out in one way or another.
For the most part I love all styles of Tattoos too – I might not be able to carry out the work myself, but there’s little about the art that I dislike, on an aesthetic level at least.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Everywhere, anywhere, nowhere. I suppose from other Tattoo Artists and the work they produce. Other forms of visual art are obviously an endless source of reference. It pays to keep an eye on as much and as varied a range of art as possible, even if it doesn’t seemingly or obviously feed back into the art I produce.
You’ve been to your fair share of conventions, do you have a favourite?
I love the Liverpool Tattoo Convention – there’s something about it that just trumps everything else, it’s an honour to be involved in. The Cardiff Tattoo & Toy Conventions were great too – they, like Liverpool, had a real sense of community and a lovely, positive vibe. It’s a shame it’s no longer running.
As I touched upon previously, I’m lucky enough to be part of the Inkfusion team, and have worked a couple of the Star Wars Celebration shows in recent years, L.A and London. Immensely exciting and a genuine honour – I don’t think it gets much better than that, not to my mind anyway.
Do you have any future goals or challenges?
No, just to improve I guess? I suppose if I was ‘ambitious’ to be or do anything it would be to remain in love with Tattooing, not to become too become jaded or cynical – certainly where the natural evolution of the art form and its future are concerned.
Is there anything you hate about being a tattoo artist, be it from a job or industry perspective?
Bad Tattooists and the shit work they peddle. Actually makes my blood boil. The arrogance, irresponsibility and invariable idiocy of these people baffles and sickens me. And there are countless numbers of the pricks – and seemingly their numbers are growing, everyone’s a Tattooist or Tattoo apprentice now aren’t they?
This isn’t a hypocritical stance either, given my earlier tirade about the ‘old guard’. I welcome and get excited about new talent – what guiles me are these fuckwits who have literally no idea what they’re doing, and often along with their apprentices, it’s like the blind leading the blind, which only adds to the numbers of these idiots who dilute the quality of good Tattooing. It’s detrimental to everything I love about the art, and frustrating in that it perpetuates the sadly still existent, negative perception of Tattoos held by the masses.
Seemingly for every one good artist there are fifty fucking shockingly bad ones. Really annoys me.
And as we’ve already covered, while I’m unbelievably critical of my own work, I’m almost even more so of that of others. I love the art of the Tattooists I admire but am, (quietly), incredibly critical of everything else.
Another thing that really bothers me are the ‘old guard’ of Tattooists. Those guys that think anyone new to the trade isn’t worthy of picking up a machine just because they, didn’t have to solder our own needles, or waste a million hours maintaining drill like, dodgy old Coil machines, while tattooing in the some grimy old back street shop. There’s a sense of entitlement that bothers me – don’t get me wrong, I think all artists should pay their dues, (unlike most ‘apprentices’ now, but that’s an entirely different rant), but to be dismissive of an artist just because they weren’t Tattooing in the 1950’s with no gloves and a cigarette hanging out of their mouth is ridiculous. That isn’t to say I don’t have respect or appreciation for those that came before me, but I’m infinitely more interested in the here and now, and the future of Tattooing as opposed to of this rose tinted ‘good old days’ shit. Fuck that – the industry and the art being produced has never been more exciting or more vibrant – the fact that Tattoos are now so popular and broadly accepted is fantastic, no? Change, development and evolution is natural, it should be embraced and encouraged – not resented or frowned upon.
That said, most ‘artists’ who take such a stance are shit anyway so bollocks to them.
Finally, what would be the best way to get one of your lovely tattoos?
Thank you very much again for your time Damian, was a pleasure bud!
Not at all man, again, thank you.