Tattooing is a highly respected art form and is often linked to graffiti. We speak to two artists who both paint graffiti and tattoo…
Ross runs a tattoo studio in Johannesburg and has worked in England and Hong Kong. He loves full colour neo-traditional tattoos, as well as Japanese tattoos with a western twist.
Tell us a bit about who you are…
I am co-owner and tattooer at Handstyle Tattoos Johannesburg. I also paint graffiti under the names ‘Hate’ and ‘Wise’. When I still have spare time I play in a Hardcore Punk band called Conqueror.
How long have you been tattooing?
I’ve been tattooing for five years now and I’ve been painting properly since around 1999/2000, although I did some of my first tags under some terrible toy aliases as early as 1997.
How did you get into tattooing? Was it through graffiti or did graffiti come afterwards?
I think art and my fascination with sub-cultures led me to persue both graffiti and tattooing as another art form to express myself. The first tattoo flash I drew up back in 2000 was completely graffiti orientated, it wasn’t great but it was a lot better than most cherry creek flash doing the rounds at the time. Graffiti came first and has played a major role in the development of my tattooing in regards to colour, line variation and typography. But, at the same time, they are completely different mediums and tattooing commands a lot more respect.
What do you love most about tattooing?
The fact that you are constantly learning and progressing, meeting other rad artists and hanging out with my best friends. Getting the chance to travel and do guest work locally and abroad. Being able to translate peoples ideas in to a permanent work of art. I love the work ethic and being part of an amazing community.
What do you love most about graffiti?
I loved painting panels the most, I gave it up a long time back. But seeing panels run is the best feeling ever. These days I enjoy painting pieces and taking it easy and relaxed on a wall. I’m over all the juvenile politics and crew beef. Do what you love and love what you do, it ain’t worth getting shot over.
Shout out to Tower, Skiet, Drone, Hack, 2Kil and my crew in the UK; Spar Monster Colours NRFL.
Ninjabreadboy is a multi-disciplined artist who lives and works in Cape Town. He is intrigued by local gang culture and has been doing a lot of stick ‘n poke tattoos recently.
Describe how you got into the art… Design/tattooing/street art
When I was about eleven I got my first Blunt magazine which had an article on graffiti in it. There was a flick of Wealz130 standing on a bridge in Observatory with his hands in the air and his signature chrome bubble letter outline on the bridge in front of him. I cut that pic out and stuck it on the wall next to my bed, I always loved art and drawing but that was the first time I discovered the art form that appealed to me most. I used to skate a lot as a kid and started collecting a lot of skate mags. Any graphic element associated with skateboarding appealed to me – all the graffiti, tattoos and skate graphics I saw in mags were a big inspiration.
What inspires you?
As I’ve got older I’ve drawn my inspiration from so many different fields and mediums, I went through a phase where I was pretty obsessed with latino gang culture because of their use of tattooing and graffiti to express themselves. For me it was so much more “real” than what graffiti writers and tattoo artists were doing because it was so raw and had so much meaning and symbolism about it. This got me interested in local gang culture and the forms of graffiti and tattooing that they were doing. I also realised there is so much crazy shit going on around us on a national level that we just look straight past or ignore it when it allows for so much fucking amazing content. I’m very influenced by things happening internationally but like to try create work that has a ‘local’ context to make it more personal.
What are you enjoying the most right now?
I’m all about trying to apply my style to as many mediums as possible. When I started sketching hand-poke flash I drew in a pointillism style which adapted well to a hand-poke, this style started influencing the rest of the work I was doing. At the moment I’m really enjoying working with brush and ink, but always fucking around with different mediums trying out new shit.