interview with Ross Irvine | empire ink | edinburgh | 11/09/2019


Hello Ross Irvine! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions for our magazine. Please start by telling us something about yourself and how your journey in the world of tattoo art started?

I’ve always been interested in art, since a very young age. Kids my age would go out and play football or ride bikes but I preferred to stay in and draw. I’d typically draw things from movies coming out at that time like Godzilla (the crappy Broderick one), Jurassic Parks and James Bond flicks. My mum dated all of my drawings so it was good to check them out years later.
My journey started in 2015 when I was given the opportunity to learn how to do tattoos. It was something I had thought about in the past regarding my drawing and future career, but also something I didn’t think would actually happen. I’d tried my hand at multiple jobs, milkman, bartending, stacking shelves. Those were good jobs and taught me loads of valuable things, but I always felt like something was missing. So when I got offered the apprenticeship, I jumped at it.

Q: How long have you been tattooing? Did anyone help you along the way?
A: I’ve been tattooing since 2016, the studio I had my apprenticeship in had 5 artists so I had 5 different artists each teaching me their own way on how they tattoo. Some had similar styles, others not so much, so it was good to able to sponge off as much information to fuel my own learning. Since then I’ve worked alongside so many amazing artists who all bring something new to the table and I’m grateful for their teachings and guidance. Everyday is a school day, in regards to learning new techniques and progressing as an artist. It’s good to be open to trying different things that help become better at what I do.

Q: What was the most challenging part in the beginning? What was the one thing that kept you motivated?
A: The most challenging part in the beginning was probably finding time to juggle my paying job, with my apprenticeship. I was lucky enough to be in a job where I started at 6am and finished at 3pm. I’d then rush home, get myself sorted, and then straight to the studio to learn. I’d stay until late to learn as much as I could then head back home. Rinse and repeat. I wouldn’t say it was a hard apprenticeship as I’ve heard horror stories from other artists about their own. I’d say I had it pretty easy. My motivation was seeing myself doing something I loved as a job. That was enough for me.

Q: What type of art outside tattooing you like the most? Are there any favourite artists that you look up to?
A: I’ve always had a taken a liking for classic movie posters, particularly by Al Kallis , Richard Amsel & Drew Struzan. Something about just the way they encapsulate the vibe and feel of that movie, and the poster itself, instantly iconic.

Q: You have a really nice black and grey style. I like the detailed work and your use of the white ink, it really gives the outcome a nice contrast and the whole tattoo looks more vibrant, especially in portrait tattoos. Would you classify your work somehow?
A: I’m not sure how I would classify my own work, to me contrast plays a big role, and balancing that contrast with details really matter. I hate seeing something look very flat unless it’s intentional. As I’ve progressed, I’ve learned to go a little darker on pieces that I might have been wary to do so in the past. If I had to label it something, I’d probably call it Dark Realism.

Q: I mostly see a nice play with black and white ink but there are some tattoos that have some color in them even some full color. How much you like or think is important to be willing to explore different techniques of work?
A: A lot of my work is mainly black and grey so any opportunity to delve into color is exciting and invigorating. I think it’s necessary for all artists to have that strive to learn and to grow to improve in all aspects, and not pigeon hole themselves into one style. As I was heading forward into my career, I felt like I had found my feet with black and grey (just because I was getting asked a lot for it). That said, I’m always keen to try different areas of tattooing. For the times that I do colour, it feels refreshing and something new, which is exciting, and I thanks to my clients for that.

Q: Many will say that color tattooing is a bit more difficult and it requires very precise work, unlike black and grey style gives a bit more freedom, like shading etc. What are some of the most difficult part to work on when it comes to portrait tattoos?
A: I never thought that one day I’d be asked to do any portrait tattoos. When I was starting out, it was something that a lot of artists I admired done day in and out, but I never really felt like I was aiming for that particular direction with my work. I am really happy that more and more clients are asking me to do portraits of their famous heroes and such.

I’d say the most difficult part to the portrait is making sure it 100% resembles like the person you’re trying to achieve. If a client has trusted YOU in creating that person (who means so much to them that they’re wanting his/her face on them) you want it to be bang on. That goes for any tattoo though, not just faces.

- Any favourite person you would like to put on someone's skin? : )
I’d say I’ve been pretty lucky so far with portraits that I’ve had the chance to do. If I had to pick any that I’ve not had the chance to do yet, I’d probably pick Slash, Walt Disney & Quint from Jaws. Someone get!

Q: What is your connection with your clients, do you help them with their design and friendly enough to support their crazy ideas for a tattoo?
A: We offer consultations to clients who are unsure of ideas or design. I sit down with them discuss ideas to come up with something that the client is happy with. It’s always important to make sure the client is 100% happy with the design before moving forward. I’m easy listening and take on board what the client wants with the tattoo and I throw in some of my ideas or thoughts I have and together we make the perfect tattoo design for that particular client. I do have some other clients who are plain crazy and either let me decide on what we’re doing, which is always fun/terrifying, or some clients who come in with the hilarious maddest conceived ideas for a fun tattoo that I just can’t say no to!

Q: We live in a world full with many new technologies and so much media coverage even in this industry. So many new artists out there that are bringing so many different styles and talent. What would you try in the feature regarding your work?
A: I think social media, things like Instagram and Facebook, have so many pros when it comes to being an artist. It’s the new way to showcase your work to the world like never before. It’s also helps as a way for the artist to study other artists and their way of working that you couldn’t do 10 years ago without physically stalking them. Going back to the whole learning thing and progressing idea: seeing those kinds of artists doing amazing works of art, it fuels you to push harder like never before and try different things that you might not have thought about doing before.

Q: How often do you travel for work like doing guest spots or just working on tattoo conventions? Do you think those type of experiences can help a lot in self development as a professional artist?
A: I’ve only really started doing the convention circuit a couple of years ago. It was terrifying stepping into it but I absolutely love it. I plan to do more conventions in the future as they are a good way to meet new artists and widen communications between artists and the general public. My latest experience with a convention was a real fond memory, as I walked away with the Best Small Black and Grey award at The Big North Tattoo Show which was amazing! So that gave me a bit of self esteem boost and makes me more confident that I’m going in the right direction with my work.

Q: What would you do if you were starting today again in this business?
A: I don’t think I’d do things too differently to be honest. Hindsight is a great thing but I don’t think I would change too much. I’d still strive to be the best I can. 

Mr.Ross Irvine Thank you so much for the interview.
Kind regards,
The team