Q – Can you start with telling us a bit about yourself and what you do?
I’m a 32 year old tattoo artist and illustrator, originally from Devon but now living and working in Edinburgh.
I’m a massive geek for comic books, Disney, video games
and generally pop culture as a whole, so whenever I get a chance to take inspiration from this and include it into my work, I jump at the chance.
Q – What’s your creative process?
I suppose it stems from personal experience; both things that happen to me directly and also things that I might see others experience and then empathise with them.
I try to use my response to these situations to express whatever emotions and feelings I have through my work
so that without explicitly saying something with words I process my own emotions through a different method.
Q – Do you think it’s important to weave queerness into your work? If so why?
If the subject that I’m dealing with calls for it, then
I think it’s extremely important to include queerness within my work
even if the traditional medium and audience might not expect to see it in that context.
Pop culture is defined by the society and the point in time that it exists in. We are starting to see a massive progressive shift toward acceptance of queer culture in the mainstream media.
Q – We love your pieces that you submitted to us, can you tell us a bit about each of them and the story behind them?
The illustration of the woman is a piece I drew after listening to the Edinburgh based Riot Grrrl band, Fistymuffs.
Their music takes inspiration from their personal experiences of abusive relationships, sexual assault, and toxic societal pressure on body image and gender norms.
Their music was a rejection of these experiences and a fight back against them. It made me want to create an image of someone who
wasn’t the victim of her experiences but rather was a survivor.
I wanted to make something to represent the strength and resilience of the people who have been forced to live through these kinds of experiences but are able to break free and move forward with their lives on their own terms.
The Deadpool illustration was inspired by my girlfriend.
She identifies as Pansexual and loves that in the comics, Deadpool has been portrayed as being so overtly pansexual without their being any kind of ulterior motive within the story etc.
It’s simply who he is as a person and there doesn’t need to be any more explanation than that.
I think that simplicity was something that spoke to me as well given how long I had spent during my life coming to terms with my sexuality.
Having the notion of sexuality just simply being a part of you, no different to any other element of your being, was something I think I personally took a long time to accept.
The Moomin tattoo is based around the concept of the “Spoon Theory” relating to chronic illness.
It’s a metaphor to explain the reduced mental and physical energy that many people suffering from a range of chronic illnesses experience. The idea being that the spoons represent a finite amount of activities available to a person on any given day.
This then provides an easy way of indicating to friends and family that on a bad day they might wake up with only a single spoon, as opposed to a good day when they might have several.
This piece is a good example of how I have to go about a lot of my work, as the inspiration and concept came from my client rather than my own experience.
Through having a conversation with my client they explained the idea behind the tattoo and then it was my role to take their concept and create a design that captured both the meaning and the desired look.
Finally the Batman and Superman piece is something that is very close to me as it was something I drew while I was coming to terms with my own identity as a bisexual man.
This was something I’d struggled with accepting about myself since I was a teenager and although I had come to realise for some time I had an attraction to men and women, I never fully accepted this about myself nor told anyone in my life.
Looking back now I realise that emotionally I was causing myself a great deal of
pain and distress in trying to hide an important part of who I was
from both myself and those close to me.
When Vaneet Mehta wrote on his blog the words “#bisexualmenexist” it started a movement online of bisexual men posting messages of positivity and support which really spoke to me.
Having spent so long feeling like I was hiding part of myself it was inspiring and overwhelming to see these men being proud of who they were and celebrating this about themselves.
To me, the courage I felt it would take to stand up and make such a statement was nothing short of heroic and so
I just tried to put those emotions into this piece of artwork.
When I posted it online I was surprised at the feedback I received; both positive and negative. There were a lot of homophobic comments directed toward both me personally and the content of the design.
However, the support I got from people was overwhelming and it was that support and acceptance that really gave me the confidence to come out to my friends soon afterwards.
Q – So wellness and mental wellbeing is important to you, especially with your artwork reflecting current situations and your own experiences. How do you keep yourself both physically and mentally healthy?
It’s a struggle haha. Working in such a creative field you really put a lot of yourself into your work and so if it isn’t received well, it’s hard not to let that affect you.
There’s also the balancing act between working hard enough to stop yourself feeling guilty for slacking off, and then not working too hard that you burnout and crash!
I think it’s just really important to acknowledge that we’re only human and we all have to just cut ourselves some slack.
Life can be overwhelming, and I think we really need to
learn to acknowledge our feelings and talk about them more.
I have a creative outlet for my emotions with my artwork but sometimes I just can’t process what I’m feeling and I just need to talk about it openly to someone.
Q – We heard the tattoo industry can be very competitive, how do you keep your cool when there are a lot of haters out there?
To be honest I’ve chosen to remove myself from that environment.
The kind of people that would try and focus on competing with other artists are only going to bring toxicity and negativity to my life.
I’ve spent my career
surrounding myself with a network of the most amazing tattooists and artists,
and they are all the most wonderful humans too.
If you’re focused on trying to be better than someone else then you’re not focusing on yourself and your client. At the end of the day it’s your client that matters most.
You just have to do the absolute best work you can for every person who gives you the privilege of choosing you as their artist.
Q – Any top tips for our fellow UNICORNs who want to venture into the drawing and tattoo artistry world?
Working in a creative field like this is the hardest but most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life.
It takes years and years of practise and If you want to really be good you’ll never stop trying to learn new things, so you’re going to have to
commit to it for the long haul.
The best advice I could give would be to concentrate on the fundamentals first and use the wealth of tutorials out there online.
You can spend a year practicing drawing something but If you learnt it wrong the first time then you’re still going to be doing it wrong the 1000th time.
Drawing is not that different to music; you’re always going to set yourself up better in the long run mastering your scales first before moving on to learning any songs.
Q – If you had to pick 3 things to take with you on a self isolation desert island what would they be and why?
Well having been in isolation for around 10 days now I can say with some certainty that I would definitely be bringing a couple of cats with me; I definitely should have adopted some furry companions before going into lockdown.
Aside from that I’d need my drawing materials, and a bottle of Prosecco; because
you never know when you might just really need to feel that little bit fancy.
He / Him | Edinburgh | Tattoo Artist
Comic book, Disney and video games geek turned tattoo artist originally from Devon but now gracing the scottish lands of Edinburgh.
Chris was interviewed by Lucy Everett