The local and homegrown talent making our bodies and Instagram feeds a prettier place
The fourth Leeds International Tattoo Expo is only a few weeks away, bringing an unprecedented amount of cling film, kitchen roll, and worldwide-renowned artists to its new venue, Leeds First Direct Arena.
Even outside of convention weekend, Leeds is home to plenty of international-level talent regardless of what you’re after. Want a portrait that that looks more like the person than the actual person does? Go to Gibbo. After a super-bright, sassy sticker? Sam Whitehead will sort you out. Or if you just want to look harder than an unripe avocado, let Joe Ellis loose on your back.
That’s just scratching the surface of Leeds artists though: here are ten local tattooists that you might not follow, but definitely should.
Danny Potter, Cobra Club
A youngin in the game, Danny’s lines are about as bold and clean as they come - challenge this cat to a game of Operation, and his steady hand will slap you down. His drawing style is traditional, but utilises a wider and more varied colour palette, and smashes it together with references to other schools of tattoo art, modern pop culture, and even the occasional meme.
Tasha Wild, Ultimate Skin
Working in muted tones and combining subtle gradients with areas that pack in a lot of finer details, Tasha’s neo-traditional style treads the line somewhere between photorealism and art nouveau stylised illustration.
It’s best demonstrated on bigger pieces, so give her a full arm or even your back or stomach to work with. Your parents don’t have to find out, just invest in a couple of longsleeves to wear when you go round their house.
Dave Bewick, Black Crown
While some artists pick a style and hone in on that over the course of their career, Dave’s thing is versatility. He can turn his hand to all number of eclectic styles, from gnarly blackwork and Folk-inspired pieces to super bright mandalas, florals, pattern design, and even graphic and abstract-expressionism, all with ridiculous consistency.
Bonus: as well as serving as a comprehensive guide to all styles of tattoo art, Dave’s feed will give you major dog envy when he posts photos of walks with Amos and Maggie, his two gigantic St Bernards.
Rosie Evans, MVL
An elegant take on traditional tattoos, it’s often difficult to pinpoint Rosie’s work down to one style. Instead, any of her pieces could incorporate elements from a number of styles; block-colouring and negative space from ancient Japanese erotica; indigenous and folk imagery; even the odd reference to mid 20th-century pop art here and there.
James Butler, Easy Tiger
Even if you’ve never seen his tattoos before, you might be familiar with James’s work through his collaborations with Northern Monk Brew Co, designing the cans and bottles for several of their limited edition releases.
When he’s not scribbling on recyclables though, he’s turning peoples’ bodies into living, breathing, coffee table books; filling them with bold pieces that draw inspiration from traditional mediums and disciplines like etchings and carvings, as well as abstract art, surrealism, and ornamental design.
Chloe O’Malley, Rose & Thorn
The “looks pretty, but has the potential to fucking hurt” dichotomy of tattoos is referenced in the name of Bramley’s all-female studio Rose & Thorn (so don’t say you weren’t warned) - and especially in Chloe’s delicate, Pantone-friendly nature scenes.
All at once looking like they could be in a vintage botanical textbook, charity Christmas card, or embroidery found in a Saltaire antique shop; you’d never guess they were stabbed into your skin with a high-speed motorised needle.
Even wimps can enjoy Chloe’s work though, as she’s taken things full circle by selling embroideries of her illustrations that look like embroideries, which you can buy here.
Wren, Heartache & Heartbreak
Apprentice Wren practices the little-used method handpoke tattooing - a slower, more deliberate process where lines and shading are build up from individual dots poked by hand, rather than using a machine.
The result is a lot of super-fine detail even on smaller, delicate pieces, making them stand out whether they’re gap-fillers or one-offs taking pride of place on your limb. It also means you don’t have to put up with a machine buzzing at you like a swarm of pissed-off hornets while you’re getting it done.
One of the most distinctive artists in the city, Simon (or Dr. Inkwell - he didn’t spend five years in tattoo medical school for you to use his first name) combines influences from a number of mediums - from grayscale Steamboat Willy-esque caricatures, classic Gil Elvgren pin-ups through a Pixar lens, and all manner of subjects in a shape and perspective-warping streetart style.
Ell Torres, Blind Eye Tattoo Company
Working with a lot of familiar and popular subjects like portraits, animals, iconography and totems, Ell’s tattoos stand out through super-detailed, condensed shading, film noir-esque shading.
Combined with considered use of her unique, muted colour palate, the finished pieces have an almost three-dimensional, lithographic effect.
Chris Lambert, Snake & Tiger
Look up “tattoo” in the dictionary and this is likely what you’ll find. Chris’s work is heavily inspired by the conventions of traditional styles - think coiled snakes, Sailor Jerry pin-ups, Bert Grimm eagles, and symbolic Japanese designs.
Timeless pieces guaranteed not to go out of style, unlike that ill-advised Harambe tribute you got last year...