Interview with Tom Johnson

   Hello Tom Johnson! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. It really means a lot having you here. How are you? Do you still work in the same studio and what are you currently working on? Thank you for having me! I'm doing well, thank you. I continue to work in the same studio, which is really growing and developing creatively as we add more artists to the team. Currently I'm solely focusing on my portrait work and developing my way of working within realism.

Q: I love the fact that you kept your style but worked on your technique, so the new tattoos look even better. Is tattoo realism your ultimate style or you might surprise me with something completely different in the future?
A: Thank you for the kind words! I definitely feel like my work has improved when I look back at my early portraits. However, I always see room for improvement and areas I need to further develop. Tattoo realism has proved to be a passion of mine, and I find immense satisfaction in capturing lifelike details on skin. However, I also believe in the importance of artistic growth and experimentation and I would love to explore how I can further combine portrait realism with my love of new school and create my own signature style.

Q: Is there any favorite tattoo you did recently that was like an "upgrade" technically and creatively?
A: One recent favorite that stands out to me technically was a side-view portrait of Bob Marley. I only focused on the face in one session and really took my time to concentrate on smooth tones and texture. Usually, I want my clients to feel like they get value from their sessions, so I tend to start working on the background and include other elements. However, with this piece, I changed my approach by dedicating an entire day to just the portrait. I believe this shift in how I divided my time made a significant difference in the final result. The extra focus on the details allowed me to achieve a higher level of realism and depth, and I'm very proud of how it turned out.

Q: What would be a "dream" tattoo and who would be the client?
A: A dream client is someone who gives you a broad theme or idea, such as a movie genre, anime collection, or any other concept they're passionate about, and trusts you to design the entire sleeve or artwork around that. This client would trust your artistic vision and allow you the creative freedom to weave together elements that not only reflect their interests but also showcase your skills in composition, storytelling, and technical execution. They might have specific characters etc. they'd love to see incorporated, but they're open to your interpretation and design choices. This freedom would enable you to create a cohesive and visually stunning piece that maximizes the space and flows harmoniously across the skin.

Q: How important is to negotiate with the clients and reach an agreement that will flatter your portfolio and their look?
A: It's essential to discuss clients' design ideas and desires to ensure they align with the artist's style of working. The client must feel comfortable with the final design because they will wear it forever, and as a tattoo artist you must be confident in what you can achieve and put your name to. The best outcome comes out of a balance between meeting the client's expectations and maintaining artistic integrity. But I would prefer not to negotiate on clients' designs to avoid compromising their vision or producing work that I'm not proud of. If I feel unable to do justice to a particular request, I would rather recommend another artist who would be better suited to it.

Q: It's important to be helpful and open minded. Do you have like sketchbook with flash art etc. especially when they don't know what they want or they are indecisive?
A: I find myself designing regularly, often every night, drawing inspiration from new interests, things I'm currently watching, or just creative impulses. This means I have a diverse collection of designs, ready and waiting to be used. So I know if I am approached by clients who like my style of work, that have a subject matter in mind, but no clear design, I have a ton of stuff to present to them.

Q: You are in this business for so long, I bet you've seen a lot. What reaction from your clients do you like the most after you finish their tattoo?
A: What I appreciate most is seeing my clients' genuine satisfaction and happiness with their new tattoo, regardless of how they express it. Everyone reacts differently, some are visibly excited, can't stop looking in the mirror, and repeatedly say they can't believe it's on them. Others might simply take a look and say, "Yeah, it's cool." As long as my clients love what I've created for them, I'm happy for them to express it however they feel comfortable. Knowing that they are pleased with the work and feel confident wearing it is what truly matters to me.

Q: Do you still have the same enthusiasm? What keeps you motivated?
A: Absolutely, I still have the same enthusiasm for tattooing as when I first started, in fact I probably have more now because of how many years I have dedicated to tattooing. The art of tattooing is incredibly fulfilling and being able to do what I love every day is truly awesome. Even the worst day in tattooing still beats the best day in any other job. The industry is always evolving and you have to keep going, to ensure you are continuously learning new skills and keeping up to date with the latest developments. My passion for tattooing keeps me driven, to show up every day, do my best for my clients, and constantly develop my skills.

Q: What do you do when you lack inspiration? Do you have any interesting hobbies?
A: Sometimes, when I'm lacking inspiration, I realize it's because I'm trying too hard to force new ideas rather than letting them come naturally. When that happens, I take some time out and avoid putting pressure on myself. I spend time visiting new places, meeting up with friends, or just chilling out. Often just watching a new movie is enough to give me some design inspiration! I eat, breathe, and sleep tattooing, so most of what I do outside the studio still relates to it in some way!

Q: Being an artist will gives you the opportunity to express yourself in a unique way. I think the act of creating is a process of self discovery. What did you learn about yourself during all these years of working as a tattoo artist?
A: For me, I've learned that I am incredibly disciplined, despite what teachers might have said about me academically when I was younger. I was never great at school because the education system in the UK isn't set up for people who don't fit the traditional academic model. However, through tattooing, I've discovered that I'm a super hard worker with high standards for myself and the work I provide to my clients and this discipline is reflected in every aspect of my work. Tattooing is highly competitive now, and it's important not to get dragged into social media comparisons. Instead, I focus on my own growth and the quality of my work, and every day I try to improve on something.

Q: Nowadays artists travel for guest spots and conventions. It is really nice to see so many of them sharing the knowledge, having fun, and if lucky win an award. It's also really cool seeing live tattooing either solo or multiple artists working on one big tattoo. It's not only attention grabbing but very interesting. Do you think these types of events help young artists to learn about this industry and guide them in the right direction just in case they want to be part of it?
A: Travel, collaboration and education are essential for growth as an artist. While financial limitations might restrict the number of events you can get to, choosing to just attend one or two conventions a year and carefully selecting which ones you go to can still be massively beneficial, especially since many now include educational content. The tattoo industry has evolved hugely since I began, becoming much more collaborative. Artists and studios are friendlier and more supportive of each other, fostering a community where everyone who respects the craft has a place. This shift towards a more collaborative environment means that artists can learn from each other, share techniques and relate to each other.

Q: You were part of the UK Tattoo Fest. I bet that was an awesome experience. UK is a huge scene with many talented artists. How much the recognition from the fellow artists and the people there meant to you?
A: It’s always amazing when other artists rate your work, especially when they are willing to provide constructive feedback. Everyone works differently, and sometimes you can be so immersed in a design that you can't see how a small change might improve it significantly. Having someone you respect offer that advice is invaluable.

Q: Do you have any favorite artists you would like to work with? If so, please name a few.
A: I’m really fortunate in my day-to-day work to collaborate with some awesome artists and to have friends around the world who inspire me when it comes to tattooing. There are so many artists that I admire and would love to work with, making it difficult to name them all. Many of these artists are based in the US and cover a variety of styles, not just realism and new school.

Q: I'm glad you see progress in the UK! Your thoughts about the global tattoo scene?
A: I do like where the tattoo industry is going, both globally and locally. I love that clients are becoming more educated about what they can expect from their artists and that they are willing to travel to get work from the right person. Social media has been incredible for reaching a global audience that appreciates an artist's work. It's amazing to connect with people who live thousands of miles away and see that they want you to guest spot in their country! The globally increased awareness and appreciation for quality tattooing have elevated the industry as a whole. Clients are more discerning and knowledgeable, which pushes artists to continually improve and innovate. The global connectivity through social media also fosters a sense of community and collaboration among artists from different parts of the world. It's exciting to see the industry grow and evolve in such a positive direction, with a focus on artistry, education and mutual respect.

Q: The American tattoo scene is very diverse and continuously growing. Would you consider moving to the USA? That would be a great career highlight!
A: Absolutely! Moving to the USA to further my tattooing career would fulfill a dream of mine! The American tattoo scene is incredibly diverse and dynamic, it offers huge opportunities to collaborate with other talented artists, explore different styles and techniques and develop tattooing into other markets. It is a place where the industry is deeply rooted, and there's a strong culture of creativity and innovation.

Q: If you get the chance to work in the USA, where do you want to go and why?
A: If I have the chance to work in the USA I would love to travel to so many places to catch up with old and new friends and work on projects with them but ultimately I would like to be based in Long Island, New York. I have friends with an awesome studio there, with amazing clientele that appreciate tattoo culture and an artist's ability to put together their ideas in their own style. You are also not too far away from the city which has a rich history of tattooing and is such a hub for world class studios and world renowned artists.

Please write down your contacts, social media links, and studio location. Also let us know if you are available for bookings.
Instagram: @nomoralsjohnson
I am currently available for bookings and enquiries can be made using the information above.

Read our first interview with Mr.Tom Johnson on this link.

Mr.Tom Johnson, thank you so much for the interview, kind regards.
Fredrik Lindström
Editor at Skin Artists Tattoo Magazine