Tattooing A to Z #19: Doc Forest
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Born Ove Skög, Doc Forest’s career as a tattoo artist began at sea. He was a sailor for seven years in the sixties, during the glory years of the Swedish merchant fleet, and he has telltale tattoos as a reminder of his journeys at sea. Traveling widely, Doc Forest found inspiration with tattoo artists in Rotterdam, Ceylon and Hawaii.

That’s when tattooing became a hobby“, he says. “The whole crew was tattooed when I signed off“. Doc Forest opened the first officially sanctioned tattoo studio in Sweden, back in 1972. He was the very first European tattooer to visit Japan (a tattoo art exhibit in Tokyo). He was the one who brought real Japanese tattoo designs and water shading to Europe.

In addition to his artistic contributions to the world tattoo scene, Doc was also an avid experimenter, producing a wide array of quirky, tattoo-themed guitars, futuristic tattoo machines. His machines look like Hot-wheels on steroids. They had fins, taillights and custom paint. It is no wonder that the 1950s’ hotrod car culture is one of the driving forces in his custom machines. He winds his own coils (six-wrap) with a bit heavier gauge wire than most use. The armature bars are also a bit beefier, fifteen millimeter.

Doc Forest, Watercolour by Pepe
Doc Forest, Watercolour by Pepe

The coil cores have a T-top, which gets more magnetic power from only six to seven volts at two to three amps. Swedish spring steel is his preference and they are all hand cut. The machines are made from either iron or brass, sometimes with plastic side mounts. You can go whole hog and get a custom power unit to match the machine style. Without overstatement, the list of worldwide tattooists who own a Doc Forest Machine is an alphabetical who’s who of the tattoo elite with a smattering of young upstarts.

A wise arbiter, Doc was keenly aware of tattooing’s past as well as its present. In fact, if body art had a Supreme Court, Doc would be the best candidate for Chief of Justice. Here’s an extract of the John Irving’s novel Until I Find You: “When Mr. Lindberg’s Rose of Jericho was nished, he took Jack and Alice to meet Doc Forest. Where Doc lived was no place special, but for the walls of flash in the small room where he’d set up his tattoo practice. Alice much admired Doc. He was a compact man with forearms like Popeye’s, a neatly trimmed mustache, and long sideburns. He was sandy-haired with bright, twinkling eyes, and he had indeed been a sailor. He’d gotten his first tattoo in Amsterdam from Tattoo Peter”.

Doc Forest keeped tattooing in his own studio located in Blommensbergsvägen 161, Hägersten, Sweden until 2018. Unfortunately, after fighting cancer for a while, he has past away on June 25, 2018.

Tattoo Life Crew wants to send the deepest condolences to his family and friends. Rest in peace, Doc. You’ll be missed.
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