interview with Owen Paulls | Tattoo cartoon style | uk 22/07/2018

Q: How long have you been tattooing? What inspired you to start learning about this beautiful art form?
A: I’ve been tattooing a little over four years now. When I started my apprenticeship, I had been playing music and designing artwork for various bands, with allot of those being influenced from the tattoo world. I think it really was just a matter of time before I made the transition to tattooing as a career.

Q: Was it hard to learn? What is your opinion on tattoo apprenticeship?
A: Apprenticeships are great, as long as your mentor has your best interests at heart! There’s far too many shop owners now who are looking for free labor. Finding an artist who agrees to teach you is one thing, but finding an artist who has the ability to be able to teach is much more valuable. A little more searching perhaps but in the long run, it will pay off.

Q: You have a very remarkable style. These days, seems like every single day there is a new style, many artists are coming up with new cool ideas, it is hard to create a unique "signature" style. But here you are, every tattoo you did is something special with so much depth in the design itself. At least, that is how I see it. Very nice composition, brilliant balance of black and white ink, that makes the final result impressive.
A: Thank you so much! I’m just happy to be tattooing the style and subject that I love most, it’s a bonus for me that is appreciated! I feel like this is the most important time in tattooing to have an identity. I’m very lucky that one of my biggest passions, aside from tattooing, is Disney and is full of reference waiting to be tattooed!

How would you describe your style? Would you give it a name?
I’ve always just called myself a realism artist, as I’m mostly using realism techniques to put my pieces together. I love doing both the Disney pieces and realism work, I’d hate to have to choose one or the other. Disney realistic black and grey? I guess that would be too much of a mouthful, so Let’s just say Disneyism?!

Q: Tattooing itself is not an easy skill to learn. How much does the knowledge for tattoo ink and skin play a big role? Are there any specific rules of applying a specific ink to a different skin type etc? Give me a bit of guidance here.
A: Having a good knowledge of what is achievable on each type of skin tone definitely helps me in my preparation for a tattoo. I know that the darker the skin tone, the higher the contrast has to be. Any flat grey tones I want to use may not last the test of time, so I try to use skin gaps in these areas for darker skin. Being English, I tend to tattoo a lot more lighter skin tone, but I believe everybody has the right to get a tattoo, as long as I feel I can execute it well.

Q: Realistic tattoos definitely took a big presence in the "new era" of professional tattooing. It's something that the last decade artists can take pride in being able to create a new way of doing tattoos and therefore stunning results. Taking the tattooing itself into a whole new level, I honestly see it as a big progress.
Talking about your style... Despite the nice balance between the black & white ink, are there any other ways like applying some 3D effects or a nice background to compliment the whole design and bring the "realistic note' even more, what's the secret?

A: Tattooing is defiantly in its romantic period right now. So many artists experimenting and creating beautiful pieces. I like to design my pieces straight onto a photo of the arm so that it fits the space as best I can. I also adjust for the wrap of the arm slightly. This helps the design to stay level on a curved surface. It’s not a new technique but one I think overlooked at the moment. The only other thing I think helps my pieces is the details. Using both a hard and soft edge for foreground and background.

Q: How much experimenting is important for artistic progress? Have you ever tried something different than the style you're known for?
A: I did experiment a little in for first couple of years. It took a while for me to feel comfortable in realistic tattooing, so in the beginning I’d take what I could from traditional styles and painters that I liked, to try to recreate my digital work on skin. I wanted to have a good knowledge of all tattooing, no matter how basic before I pushed into the realistic Disney world. I’m so glad I took my time.

Q: Big tattoos like sleeves and backpieces can take 4-5 sessions to complete or maybe even more, depending of the complexly of the design, but when it's all done, I bet it's a pleasure for both, you and your client. Are this types of tattoos a big challenge (not just time & energy consuming) but at the same time a great way to really show off your skills even more?
A: Honestly, smaller tattoos for me are where my heart is. I do love working on big projects with people but they usually become the type of thing that involves a lot of dedication from the customer. Especially over the last year of being on the road full time. Doing one day tattoos allows me a lot more freedom to create the look I want. I also love seeing works from other artists as the customer starts building more one hit pieces!

Q: Tattooing is a job that requires love and complete dedication. The journey of self development as an artist and maybe as a person outside tattooing can lead you to many interesting experiences and teach you some valuable lessons. There are ups and downs, lots of competition and pressure to become better on daily basis. Anything you can say that you cherish about being a tattoo artist?
A: You're right to say there are a lot of ups and downs. I think what I cherish most is having a job where artistic license is the name of the game! I try to focus purely on the positives when they happen and not to dwell too much on the negative. It can be easy to forget to enjoy life, because otherwise, why are we here?!

Q: While doing a tattoo, customers usually reveal the story behind the design and the whole experience changes for both. Suddenly you learn about life struggles, coping strategies, love, compassion, victories of veterans etc etc. So many emotions that we humans have and express so differently. How much the good connection with the clients is important for one artist? Do you help your clients with some ideas for their design?
A: Being primarily a Disney or cartoon artist, I get to know a lot more happy stories behind the tattoos than unhappy. They mostly involve customers commemorating a happy time in their childhood or a moment shared with their families. Of course there is the occasional story of commemorating a lost loved one, but I feel like the time has passed for just a name and a date tattoo. I want to try and discuss imagery that provokes a positive emotion with my customer and help to turn a sad memory into a celebration of life. No matter the reason, every customer is treated with the same level of respect and patience. I think this is an important element of our industry to uphold.

Q: Winter is probably the best time to get a tattoo, but seems like people are in a rush to get tattooed this time of the year. What are some of your best recommendations for getting a tattoo during summer and its aftercare treatment?

I alter my prep list this time of year for upcoming appointments to really hammer home the importance of looking your skin. There are times when a customer will have just got back from or are just about to go on holiday somewhere hot and I'll have to reschedule their appointment. Unfortunately sun damaged skin can look normal on the surface, or a little darker than usual, but I like to make my customers aware that is is still damaged under the surface. This means that when the tan fades, usually this can mean a faded tattoo. Look after your skin people!!!

Q: After so many years in this job, what would you say to someone who plans to start tattooing? What's the best approach?
A: I'm a goal oriented person. It’s how I work best. My advice would be make a 5, 10 and 15 year goal list and stick to it! It’s not impossible to get exactly where you need to get to. As long as you are willing to take the rough with the smooth and really study your craft. I feel like I still have a long way to go before I’m happy with my goal list but I’m on track to make my 5 year and I can’t wait for the 10 year mark!

Please write your contact info such as email, website and don't hesitate to tell us if you're attending some tattoo convention soon, we would like to say hi : )

I will be working the London tattoo convention later this year. I’m hugely excited!
It would be great to meet you guys.