If you’re anything like us, you’ve likely whiled countless hours away, poring over Instagram, magazines and websites looking at tattoo designs – you’ve probably even got a few favourites in mind.
But what about the lads and lasses who spend their days holding the needle rather than going under it? What sticks out in their minds and what sort of pieces do they enjoying tattooing the most? It’s not an easy thing to pin down, especially when you spend all day every day practising your craft, honing your skills and constantly developing your technique.
“It is incredibly difficult to choose one tattoo,” explains Antony Fleming of World of Tattoos, London. “We try to improve every time we draw and tattoo. So, every time I look at a tattoo I’ve made, I see things I could improve or something I perhaps could have done differently.”
To get a better idea of the creative process, we tapped some top artists from both the UK and across the pond, to hear about the tattoos they’ve most enjoyed working on and the reasons behind them.
Rose Hardy – Kings Avenue Tattoo, New York
Tattooing for 17 years
“One of my favourite tattoos I have done recently is a back piece I completed last year. It took around 50-60 hours, over the course of 12 months.
“My client Savannah was great to work with. It was really fun (and challenging) to design because she didn’t have any limit to the amount of space it took up over her entire back and butt. She was also a clean slate – there were no other pieces to incorporate or work around.
“I took tracings and sketched on photos of her back to get the design to fit right.
“Having a client that sits well and is consistent with getting large pieces like this completed is key- and we were both super happy with the outcome.”
Kieran Williams – Sixtysixtattoo, Kent
Tattooing for 6 years
“I recently completed Tyler’s chest-piece, which has been a really fun project to work on. I like the way the tattoo sits on her chest and neck and I think she wears it very well.
“The tattoo took 4 sessions to complete; we added the last piece under her chin and along her jawline at the Brighton Tattoo Convention in May. I learnt a lot during the entire process of this tattoo, both design-wise and technically, which is why it is definitely one of my recent favourites.
“We went through a few different design options, mainly on the neck and throat, but together I think we decided on the right layout and are both happy with the end result.”
Antony Flemming – World of Tattoos, London
Tattooing for 8 years
“It is incredibly difficult to choose one tattoo and say it’s the one I’m most proud of. In my experience, artists don’t think like that. We try to improve every time we draw and tattoo. So, every time I look at a tattoo I’ve made, I see things I could improve or something I perhaps could have done differently.
“I have chosen this piece simply because I enjoyed tattooing it. It was on a really nice client that had travelled to get tattooed and it humbles me to think people travel so far to get tattooed. A lot of customers come to me for these fancy bugs so I thought it would be perfect piece to showcase.
“The design took around 1-2 hours to draw and 3-4 to tattoo. I really like the contrast of nature with the bug and his creepy legs against the polished shiny gem. I always try to incorporate two contrasting elements in my work to make the piece as interesting as possible even if it is a small piece like this.”
Matt Adamson – Kings Avenue Tattoo, New York
Tattooing for 8 years
“For a long time one of my favourite subjects to tattoo has been birds, I love trying to create a balance between how the bird looks naturally whilst also having an illustrative style to it. I did this piece for Seana shortly after I moved to Kings Avenue from Newcastle.
“One of the reasons I enjoyed this piece so much was because it was really easy to communicate with Seana, both of us collaborating on ideas such as the diamond shape behind to frame the piece, or the type of bird we were going to do. I like to work in a way where I’m guided slightly by the client but also with some free reign to explore the layout and composition of the piece and be trusted as the artist to create the best tattoo I can.”
Lewis Parkin – Northside Tattooz Private Rooms, Newcastle
Tattooing for 11 years
“Less than six months ago Eve came in for her first tattoo of a wolf and dagger on the top of her arm. Within four more larger day sittings we had completed her full sleeve.
“Eve was such an easy customer to work with, picking the best designs and leaving the rest down to me. From placement to colour I had almost free reign constructing her sleeve. The final result is a tattoo my customer loves and I’m proud of. If only every customer was more like Eve.”
Toby Gowler, London
Tattooing for 8 years in December
“The reason this piece is one of my favourites is mainly because it’s rare that a tattoo fully comes together better than you expected it to. The client gave me the brief of wanting a fox dressed as a game keeper and let me do my thing with it.
“I really enjoyed being able to learn about what a game keeper was (as I’m not originally from England so they don’t exist in Australia… as far as I know?), and decking the fox out in traditional English countryside clothing which I hadn’t done on a piece before. All in all was just a really fun piece to work on and it took roughly 3/3.5hours from what I remember. I really enjoy doing these traditional British themed pieces as it enables me to learn a little more about the culture I now surround myself with.”
Zac Scheinbaum – New York
Tattooing for 10 years
This piece was one of the most challenging yet rewarding tattoos I have had the honour of doing. When approaching a subject matter that is so rich in history and background, the research must be perfect. So many details are important to keep the meaning of the image true.
The amount of research and leg work behind the drawing and layout alone was a humbling experience. Doing large scale work in any style of tattooing is something to be proud of; from the client’s perspective and the artists.
This piece took about 1 year and 3 months.
Justin Weatherholtz – King’s Avenue Tattoo, New York
Tattooing for 17 years
Though it’s hard to pick any one tattoo as a favourite, I’d have to choose the “Reaper King” back piece as a top choice.
The piece is worn by Lawrence Mascia and is his concept. I’ve done a lot of work on him prior to this, so the trust was established. Plus, there’s no shortage of laughs while working on him. He’s the kind of client every tattooer wants.
The subject matter is a personal favourite (reapers) and this also incorporates water and night sky as background which is also some of my top elements to incorporate. We had been talking about this piece for quite some time and reviewed reference for months before, while working on his previous pieces. So, when the time came to draw up the initial sketch I had a solid concept how I wanted it and we hit the ground running.
It was completed inside of a year.