RTX 2015 has been and gone but I was lucky enough to work with Griffon Ramsey in the creation of these temporary tattoos for her booth at the convention.
For those of you who don’t know what RTX is in simple terms it is a convention based in Austin Texas comprising of gaming, panels, film, animation and general internet stuff. The convention is put on by Rooster Teeth a very well known purveyor of quality programming.
If you know Rooster Teeth you undoubtedly know Griffon Ramsey but if not Griffon is a chainsaw artist residing in Austin Texas taking inspiration from “magic, fantasy, tattoos, gaming, comics, the internet, and anything weird or counterculture.” to create stunning carved wooden sculptures.
I was approached by Griffon to design some temporary tattoos to be available for RTX 2015. As an avid watcher of her youtube channel (visit & subscribe here) and big fan of the Rooster Teeth company I felt quite honored to work on this project.
After a bit of back and forth with ideas and a lot of torn up attempts these are the finished 3 designs that later went on to be made into extremely high quality transfer tattoos.
Happy new year everyone. A big thank you to all my customers I tattooed or bought prints off me in 2014 and the 20,000 views this blog has received. The new year will bring a few additions to this website most noteworthy of these being video tutorials. First up though I’l be talking through the use of Blending Medium and watercolour papers.
Paper – While I usually use Archers paper it’s expensive as hell so this is my go to paper when i’m doing the whole starving artist thing. Daler Rowney ‘The Langton’.
Lifting Preparation – Does what it says on the bottle really. Allows colour washes to be removed more easily from paper.
Pour it on. Brush it on. Let it dry.
The paper is going to look pretty beaten up once the lifting preparation dries. It creates a water soluble layer on the paper that helps the paint lift off the paper without staining leading the smoother fades.
The new weapon in the arsenal – Blending Medium
While I have used other mediums that do the same job as Blending Medium I thought I’d give this a go. The instructions say to mix it directly with the paint but for the small amount of paint I use I decided to just mix it with the water I’ll be using to fade with. One good thing about this medium for spit shaders or those that use their mouth to get excess water off the brush is that this stuff tastes pretty good.
Once everything was lined I poured some Blending Medium into one cup of hot water to be used for blending the paint. I found I could take more time on my fades as the Blending Medium slows the drying time down.
Now for those of you who prefer video tutorials here is a little tester to show you how I paint. In future I will be narrated versions so you can hear me weasel like voice.
Spend five minutes on the Internet and you’ll likely find ten pages on how to get an apprenticeship but where’s the information to help you keep it? Here lies a list of my mumblings to try and help those of you who are lucky enough to have found an apprenticeship.
1. Keep at it
You’re at the fork of a long road. One path leads to starvation, the other to starvation with a nice Sunday roast at the end.
The amount of gravy that’s on this roast will be determined by your actions on this path.
Work hard, stay humble, respect tattooing and you’ll be riding the gravy boat of your dreams.
Now things will tempt you to stray from the path like the following.
“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.” – Mark Twain
Replace ‘world’ with ‘tattoo industry’ and you’ve got a recipe for success.
Tattooing was here before you and will be here when you’re asking people ‘Do you want fries with that?’
Imagine a social event. Everyone else is talking amongst themselves, extolling the virtues of that band you haven’t heard of and generally milling around.
Enter the newcomer with a lampshade hat, a swagger like they’ve soiled themselves and screeching ‘Lets get this party started!’
It’s already started and you’re late. It’s easier to slip in quietly and earn your acceptance through chit chat.
If you ain’t learnin’ you ain’t earnin’
Draw, draw it again, draw it enough times to drown yourself in balls of paper.
Tattooing is %40 ideas %80 muscle memory and %120 piles of paintings you can’t look at a week later without wondering what you were thinking.
If anyone tells you tracing is cheating explain to them in simple terms you’re not DaVinci. Tracing is the easiest way to learn to draw a tattoo. You can throw degree after degree in fine art at a tattoo but if you don’t understand the basics you’re stuffed.
You will have to learn to draw all over again. Stick a tattoo machine in your hand and you may as well ask someone to draw a straight line in an earth quake.
You’ve made it this far and it’s time to tattoo the public. You WILL soil yourself the first few times.
It’s the 21st century and everyone is getting tattooed. If you expect to be tattooing scantily clad models and men with more beard that a lumberjack convention you’re in for a shock.
Once you’re tattooing the public you will be introduced to new sights and smells you didn’t know existed.
These people pay your bills. It doesn’t matter if they want their own name tattooed across their groin you give them the same service and respect you would any other customer.
That’s not to say there will be people who will annoy you or smell like the inside of a sweatshop but they are physically giving you money that you need to buy that thing what you like with.
Go on any Instagram page of the most popular tattooist at the time. More followers than Jesus and page upon page of great tattooing in their style.
What you rarely see is the walk ins. The tribal butterflies, the twenty infinity symbols exploding into birds. Not everyone wants an eagle and turning down those who want a star will get you right back to section 2.
7. Not having sexual relations with said customers
I don’t ask the pizza delivery guy of he’ll accept payment in sweaty back door action.
Customers are customers they pay you money so you don’t end up on the streets. The quickest way to make your customer base dry up is to show them your soggy bits.
8. Social media
If you’re just starting out in tattooing then it’s best to get your work out there on as many sites as possible. Here’s a quick list of the top places to do so.
Facebook – Good for pictures and social interactions. Bad for the sheer amount of toss in every feed.
Twitter – Useless.
Instagram – pretty much the number one destination for tattooists. Easy to show your work, find other artists, customers to find you. Get a catchy name like @chippendaleosc (Is he a stripper or a tattooist who knows?)
Do not create the most confusing mash of letters you can for a name. This is the thing people search for and use to contact you if every time they try and it boggles their brain they will give up and you lose a chance to connect.
Tumblr – Post and let the users do the work for you spending your work. WARNING Tumblr is a strange place filled with pictures of cats, genitals and the pent up rage of a million teenagers.
Personal website – you are reading this on one after all. As an artist it’s a great tool to have your own blog or site. It gives a destination that won’t change depending on the popularity of a social media. Ever go on MySpace? Of course you don’t and it’ll be the same for every network you try. Having a static place just for you will single you out from the pack and looks a bit professional innit m8?
So that’s all I can offer really as for the most part I am like many tattooists and haven’t got a clue what I’m doing.
Just keep scrubbing those tubes apprentice and one day you’ll be able to eat more than microwave noodles.
Cian Wright is the owner of Swallows & Daggers a Tattooing and lifestyle blog that features many of todays best and up and coming artists. He also runs a clothing line with which he collaborates with contemporary tattooists.
How did you start-up swallows and daggers?
Swallows&Daggers started after I dropped out of university. I setup a free blogspot blog which somehow started getting a lot of traffic then a print magazine and later a clothing line.
Trends come and go in the industry.
You have your finger on the pulse of tattooing what has been a popular theme lately.
You do start to see popular images emerge with one person doing it really well and a hundred imitators like Pietro Seddas faces with images inside. I’m seeing a tonne of frogs lately, black whip-shaded traditional pieced fronts and really stripped back rough black tattoos. I think the next thing will be rip-offs of James McKenna’s work where he uses multiple images that reveal themselves from different perspectives.
Your Flash Friday posts on S&D how a lot of variety. How do you pick out a few sheets from so many artists?
It’s a mixture of people who submit stuff and tattooers who’ve allowed us use their work. It’s great to show younger tattooers who’s paintings are great but who’s tattooing isn’t quite there yet (but soon will be). Certain stuff stands out, I’m always taken with religious imagery, painted patterns framing sheets, Pharaohs horses and rose of no mans land designs so they tend to feature a lot.
Flash seems to be getting more elaborate and artistic by the day do you think this is just a trend or are today’s tattooists just more artistic?
I think with instagram there’s more pressure to show more volume of paintings and it’s not just competing with the guy down the street but the whole online world so from that point of view people are seeing a certain standard before they even start and that’s driving what may be a higher level of artistic tattooers or perhaps just more motivated tattooers?
Do you feel there’s been a shift in the quality of tattoos and flash over the last few years? With the popularity of tattooing now many of today’s apprentices already have a substantial drawing talent under their belt.
I think the pool of people looking for apprenticeships have gotten more talented, if anything out of necessity. The demand far outweighs the supply apprenticeships wise so you have to really bring something to the table now to get in the door. The potential apprentices are doing painting trades amongst themselves, posting new stuff daily on instagram, the good ones at least seem very motivated to contribute to tattooing.
You also work with artists other than tattooists for your clothing range. What do you think say graphic designers bring to the table.
Ideally I work with tattooers who have graphic design skills, this makes life a lot easier. People like Kevin Leary would be a perfect example. He can draw tattoo designs and bring them into photoshop make them print ready etc. I think the main thing is having stuff that translates nicely to screenprinting. A lot of good drawings/paintings fall apart when screenprinted due to the limitations of the medium. Pretty much all of the artists we use are tattooed and know about the blog as well as the brand. I’d also say we work with illustrators as opposed to designers I prefer things hand drawn and then made digital, you can tell the difference.
Tattooists are starting to become multi platform artists dabbling in fashion, graphics even a few going into toy design why do you think this is happening? Is it a sign of over saturation in the industry where people want to make a niche for themselves or is it an organic product of so many great artists in one small trade?
I think may tattooers have diverse skillsets, for example if an illustrator decided to get into fashion, textiles, toys etc nobody would think anything of it so I don’t think tattooers should be treated any differently. It’s great to see tattooers embracing opportunities like all the stuff Ash Davies has been doing with Mishka and making zines. It’s great to see more products about and with more and more tattooers/shops/scratchers etc the winters are getting tougher and tougher for many so having a diverse income is sensible.
How do you choose artists for your clothing?
Distinct style, visuals and personality. With your stuff it was a really easy choice, black flag bars and boobs hard to go wrong and I’d always liked how you took traditional imagery and added a deviant edge to it haha. People like Toothtaker I just liked what he was about and that reflects in his art. I like how different each piece is and that we can put money directly into tattooers pockets whilst promoting them.
You do not personally tattoo what is the general attitude you have been shown by the industry as many people have been put off by the cold shoulder tattooing gives outsiders?
Some people think I’m the anti-christ, others have been really good to me. I don’t pre-judge anyone and am open to working with/ promoting any good tattooers who want to be involved with S&D. I think a lot of people once they meet me in person are more open to S&D or maybe find it easier to communicate with me. I understand there’s a million anonymous instagram accounts promoting tattooing and I’m as sceptical of their motives as others so I make an effort to get out to conventions and show my face as much as possible.
Do you see tattooists and companies like yours working more in future?
We’d like to keep doing monthly collabs with different tattooers, we’re working on having our main clothing line coming out seasonaly and also the monthly tattooer collabs and possibly a monthly illustrators series so there’s something for everyone.