He’s only been tattooing for a few years, but he stood out right away because of the lettering that defines his work. He calls it Hollow Victorian lettering. He started out in the Melbourne graffiti scene, had an illuminating experience in Thailand, and then went to Sydney, where he’s currently working.
The full interview by M.B. is published on Tattoo Life March/April 2019 issue.
How did you “run into” tattooing?
I was involved in Melbourne’s graffiti scene growing up, so I saw a lot of the older writers covered in tattoos. They were all pretty bad tattoos, come to think of it, but as a young artist they still grabbed my eye. I decided to get a tattoo in memory of my best mate who’d passed away, but I didn’t want some piece of crap. So that’s when I started to do some research on Melbourne tattoo artists, and in the end I chose Matty C, from Dynamic Tattoo in Richmond. He did the lettering on my arm. I guess all the research showed me that I could actually make a career out of this art form, which is all I ever really wanted to do.
Did you start practicing with a tattoo artist as a mentor, or are you self-taught?
I spoke to a lot of artists and read up on the net about the best way to become a tattooist. The artists who I respected said not to tattoo from home, so I decided to go about it the right way. Then I had a car accident and couldn’t work for over a year, so I had some time to build a nice folio. I practiced calligraphy every day and taught myself how to draw portraits. When you have a car accident in Australia, the Transport Accident Commission gives you money to cover your wages, so I thought I’d just blow it all on tattoos. I called Diego Mickey from South Side Custom Ink for a tattoo, and he told me to come to the shop after a week, for a consultation.
That evening, he put up a post saying he was looking for an apprentice, so I sent him the drawings I’d been doing and he told me to come in the next day, instead. We got along really well and he gave me a shot.
I was blown away, because I’d heard it was mad hard to get an apprenticeship and it was the first shop I tried to get one at.
I guess it was just the right place at the right time. Diego was very supportive and super patient. He pushed me to do more lettering, so I’m real appreciative of that. I still have a lot of love for the crew over there and try to hang out when I can. And a big shout out to my bro James Caffyn from South Side. He put a lot of his time into teaching me when he didn’t have to, so I’ve got a lot of love for that bloke.
Hollow Victorian lettering is how you define your style. What does that mean?
My friend Mystiks took me to Skin Deep in Newtown, Sydney, for my first ever guest spot. We were doing a full leg collaboration and while we were talking about the piece he asked me if I was going to hollow out my part. That’s how I decided that it would be called Hollow Victorian.
It almost seems that the procedure you follow for lettering is reversed: black isn’t what shapes the letters, but rather the color of the skin that’s surrounded by the black. Why do you do it this way?
Yeah, the black 3d helps my negative letters pop for sure, and graffiti definitely helped me with this way of working. But once I went on holiday with my girlfriend, to Japan and Thailand. I remember how I couldn’t draw the whole time we were in Japan, it was so infuriating. They had earthquakes while we were over there, and I had vertigo and just couldn’t relax. But when we got to Thailand I chilled out a bit more. I remember the exact moment when I was paying a bar tab at the resort, and this hand-carved, timber door caught my eye. I spent the next few days locked in my room trying to figure out how I could do something similar with my lettering, but with more contrast, so it would last over time as a tattoo. Developing my own style has always been my main focus.
What do you like about these kind of tattoos?
The composition, I guess. I put a lot of time and effort into the initial layout and the arrangement of certain elements, which is what I think makes my work what it is.
How are you able to make each lettering piece unique?
Every tattoo should be unique, as no two people are the same. As a general rule, I don’t want to give a client a tattoo I wouldn’t rock myself. Also, as a way to keep pushing myself, I try to do something new in each design. I’m constantly on the hunt for new references, that’s what keeps it exciting for me.