tattoo interview with ben kaye | Shape Tattoo, New Zealand 06/03/2017

Q: How long have you been tattooing? What was the most challenging part when you started your career?
A: I've been tattooing almost 9 years now, it's been a roller coaster of a time. I’ve traveled a lot and met some insane, lovable people. The most challenging part was just getting an apprenticeship. In the end, I had to move to Malaysia to start my apprenticeship. Which came with a few unique challenges of its own.

Q: Having a talent definitely helps a lot when it comes to creative jobs, such as tattooing, but is there any other concern that people should be aware when they are on their path of becoming a tattoo artist?
A: It's hard work, late nights, dealing with people's shit and a lot of self-critic but it's amazing. Best job in the world, doesn't get easier but it's allowed me to travel the world, meet fantastic people and live the dream.

The best advice is to fully commit yourself and roll with the punches.

Q: You have an impressive portfolio! Seriously, every tattoo you did, looks brilliant! The realistic tattoos seem to be the most eye-catching designs. Would you consider this style as your favorite?
A: Color realism would have to be the style I most enjoy. Realism has no limits as to where it can go. A simple idea can be taken in so many directions, so as a style it really gets the imagination going. It's an exciting style to work. I only do realism tattoos now but I didn’t really choose to specialize in realism, I think my work developed that way and I went with it.

Q: Colorful portraits are my favorite! You have a special ability to make even dead alive! :) just as they are in front of me! :) Many artists say that portrait tattoos are one of the trickiest designs to work on, what are your thoughts?
A: I still find portraits of loved ones the hardest pieces by far. The fact that the client has such a set image of that person in their mind, seeing them every day or at least often. It's a lot of pressure. They are definitely one of the most stressful tattoos to do, I have a sweat on just typing about them. I prefer portraits with a good amount of freedom like fictional characters or my own designs.

Q: Which details you find as more challenging to capture on skin, while doing a portrait tattoo?
A: Every piece has its own challenges, that's part of the fun of realistic tattooing. I find some skin textures hard to do. If the portrait is of a person with pitted or old worn skin it's so hard to keep a consistent texture but the end result is always a great feeling.

Q: How many sessions usually take to finish big projects, such as sleeve etc?
A: A sleeve can take me 6-8 days normally depending on how complex it is, normal day is at least 6-7 hours of tattooing so it adds up.

- The longest session?
The longest sessions I do are roughly 9-10 hours. I've done a lot full side calf pieces over two days (back to back) in the last few months, each day for those is about 9 - 10 hours.


Q: People... We are unique individuals, with different characteristics... some good, some bad... Are humans (enough) inspiring to be eternally marked on the skin? :)
A: People make the biggest impact on who we are. Whether it's family, friends, people we admire, obsess over, fantasize about. They are the people that shape us, real or not. So yes I think so, it's not always easy to see why, but that's down to the person that gets the tattoo.

- Do you have any specific person you want to put on someone's skin?
I have a few portraits all ready on me :) I have a Lana del Rey and Javier Bardem from No Country for Old Men. I was looking at getting a portrait of my mom from when she’s was younger but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Q: Having the talent you have, ever thought to try some different styles, techniques?
A: I think my brain just works in a realistic way, I have worked in other styles in years gone by but there are always elements of realism that sneak in. Now I stick to the rule that if I think someone else can do that style better I won’t take it on, instead pointing the client in the right direction. I hugely admire anyone that can work in multiple styles to a high level, artists like Yogi Barrett blow my mind!!!

Q: Many kids nowadays watch videos of tattoo artists and go to eBay to buy some equipment, thinking that learning tattooing is easy... as well funny all the time! :) As a professional tattoo artist, please point out some quality over quantity words.
A: That's what I did, It didn’t help me get an apprenticeship. Actually, looking back I think it held me back a lot from getting into a studio especially a good one. If you're serious about getting into the trade going about it in the right way is really important. No one wants to see shit home job tattoos on your legs or mates ass.

Q: Where are you located now?
A: I’m based at Matt Jordan’s Ship Shape Tattoo in Orewa, New Zealand.