PAUL TALBOT • TATTOO ARTIST
This interview with Paul Talbot has been made by Tattoo Artist & WTE Art Director Antonio Proietti.
For the readers which are not familiar with you, can you give us a brief of introduction of yourself?
I’m an award-winning, midlands based tattoo artist and graphic designer, producing urban contemporary tattoo art both public and private, in print, on screen and on skin.
I’m a good old fashioned rebel challenging the notion that tattoo iconography is relevant to a 21st Century working-class, 80’s analogue, comic book reading suburban Rock’n’Roll Kid from the middle of England.
‘Andy Warhol art dragged thru 20yrs of dirty rehearsal rooms & beer soaked punk gigs’
I’ve won a few of design awards here and there, including an industry award for ‘most innovative style’. He has also been nominated for a Grammy twice, I’m a published animal rights poet, journalist, filmmaker and producer of a number 1 hit single – all facts that I like to drop into conversation whenever he can! I’ve never written a best-selling book or hosted my own TV show. But I intend to…
How & when did you start tattooing?
I’m a graphic designer, that’s my art background and the discipline I studied. So, when a tattooer friend showed me some early examples of Trash Polka about 13 years ago, you know, stuff by artists like Noon, Jeff Palumbo and Yann Black I was instantly attracted to the idea of creating Trash Polka tattoos in my own way.
In fact it was so early on that the term Trash Polka wasn’t actually being used at the time and ‘Graphic Tattoos’ (a term I prefer) had many different names; Art Brut, Avant Garde and the photoshop style were all terms that were used to describe Graphic tattoos early on. The Trash Polka term came later but it was the one that stuck with clients and the wider world of tattooing so it’s the one everyone uses today.
I’m a white, comic book reading, suburban heavy metal kid from the middle of England. My church is a shopping mall, my idols aren’t covered in ink – they are made of them and my icons are the neon corporate logos seen from the highway at night. So, is it any wonder that, I (like a lot of my clients) am drawn to 20th century pulp culture rather than to 19th century folk art?
So I try to create images that resonate in the here and now by using digital illustration, collage and cutup techniques to ‘remix’ images from all kinds of sources and eras into something new that excites me and (hopefully) my clients.
What’s your definition of art?
Communication by any means necessary.
How would you define your tattoo style?
I describe my work as Karma.Punk™ Collages – stills from a postmodern, science-fiction movie set ten minutes in the future and his process as Re-examining Bits and Pieces of What’s Been Discarded in the Haste of the Late 20th Century and Sticking Them Together. Beg to differ. Swim against the Stream.
It’s a positive rebellion for Spiritual Revolutionaries.
What’s the main source of inspiration for your tattoos?
I was a professional musician from my teens to my late twenties so music is a hugely important part of my life. Songs inspire designs all the time. From the imagery and album cover designs to the lyrics and styles of the music, I listen to music constantly and still occasional play with friends bands at conventions from time to time.
My background in music has also helped me in my tattoo career too. I’m used to a lot of travelling and late nights and having to do only my best work even when the surrounding aren’t always condusive to making great artwork!
Do you think you make better tattoos at the studio or at a tattoo convention?
I’ve always loved studios. They become little ‘gang huts’ for funny, dysfunctional ‘families’ of artists, staff and hangers-on . A good studio has a gravitational pull all of it’s own where people stop by for coffee and end up hanging out all day. That’s my favourite part of being a studio owner, that and the fact that I get to sit with cool people all day thinking and doing. Just making art that challenges me, that is personal to – and resonants with – my clients. So my studio would be my favourite place to make art.
Do you remember the first tattoo convention you have been working at?
Actually the first convention I ever tattooed at was The Guitar Show in Birmingham England about 9 years ago!
Is there any particular country or region of the world which you fancy the most when you go to conventions?
Italy has always been really good to me and it feels like home these days so I’m always happy to be travelling to Italy whenever I do. I’d really like to visit the Scandinavian countries though, I’ve never been invited though!
What’s your favorite tattoo convention so far? And why?
Tobacco Dock. London, England. Hands down the best show in the world. I am very biased though!
What’s your number one reason to attend a tattoo convention?
As a visitor to see the greatest artists in the world do their ‘thing’. As an artist to get a chance to talk to clients, have a beer with friends and get into a bit of trouble!
What’s your most memorable experience you ever had at a tattoo convention?
Oh wow! There are so many I wouldn’t know where to start! But what I’ve learnt from all the experiences (good and bad) is this; A tattoo artists life means that you’re always ‘in view’ and being as visible as I am in the world of tattooing always means that there’s always a chance of embarrassing myself at every turn. It’s taken me a while, but I’ve learnt to just accept it for what it is.
It’s rare that any situation is perfect 100% but what I have learnt is that if you surround yourself with good, honest people that really do have your back because you – in turn – have theirs, from great friends and artists to great suppliers and sponsors etc. etc. you’ll be ok. Just like any other business how you DO business is the most important thing if you want to be around in 10 years still doing it. So I guess that’s how I deal with it, good people, plain and simple.
What do you think about the contests?
In my opinion, one of the things that makes tattooing the most powerful art form around (after rock and roll of course!) is that the iconography is constantly evolving. Tattooists throughout the ages have, traditionally, drawn art that – almost always – involved some form of social comment based on the era or culture they were living in – whether they were aware of it or not and I believe that that is still happening.
The current ‘zeitgeist’ – a fascination with taking movie, TV, music or comic book icons and having them tattooed (rather than the more traditional family, religion, achievement ideas of previous centuries) could be seen as symptomatic of how 21st life is affecting the monkey brain. Our faith in our gods and religions is fading in the glare modern world scrutiny, the family unit is a thing of the past, parents are so busy trying to achieve something, anything to buy the things no-one needs to fill the void that our disconnected digital culture offers us in place of what it replaced that they don’t even notice their children growing up – let alone have time to really get involved.
We are lost in the HD, LCD, USB, broadband static and searching for anything that connects us to some sense of self. So we’re getting our new shiny plastic gods, icons and achievements as tattoos. Something – that I’m not nearly intelligent enough to explain – connects us to tattoos and it has been that way since man created fire. In the decades to come art galleries won’t tell us anything about 21st century man. But their tattoos and album covers will.
So, I try to create images that resonate in the here and now by using digital illustration, collage and cutup techniques to ‘remix’ images from all kinds of sources and eras into something new that excites me and (hopefully) my clients. I really want concentrate on developing the modern graphic style because I think it has a lot to offer the world of tattooing and hope – one day – to see it accepted in the same was that black and grey or realism are now. That motivates me to create and also the idea that one day, if I’m very lucky and try really hard I might just make the perfect tattoo.
With all that going on I don’t have time to worry about whether or not someone thinks I colour in better than someone else and wants to give me a ‘prize’ to celebrate that fact. It’s simply fucking irrelevant!
In terms of convention organization what’s for you the most important aspect?
Artist lounge. Good coffee, great food, clean toilets and decent size booth that you can – at least – swing a cat in!
Do you usually prefer to set an appointment before the convention or are you open to work on the spot?
Actually I’m doing walk-up at all conventions from now on. I’ve got bored with scheduling stuff in advance so I’m going back to the oldschool way. Walk up, take you pick, get tattooed. Simple.
Who are the people you admire the most in this industry?
Hands down the clients, They are legends and I love them. They are the reason this industry is so cool not us!
To come out every weekend and support the art is amazing and they should all get prizes for just being awesome.
How do you see the tattoo world today and what do you think will be in the future?
I had a conversation years ago in a hotel bar one thanks-giving in Detroit with an old school tattooist whose name I – sadly – cannot remember. I was there with the band just passing through and we got talking. I mentioned that I had learned to tattoo but hadn’t taken it any further and that’s how we started on the subject. He waxed lyrical for a couple of hours about the life of a tattoo artist but because I was an 20 year old guitarist at the time I really didn’t pay too much attention to what he was saying.
Oh, I listened – I’m always listening – but it just didn’t seem to be that relevant to me at the time, so I politely nodded and drifted my way through the conversation. But, you know what? Even single word that old guy said was 100% on the money! I find myself agreeing more and more with his words every single year. I wish I could remember him so I could find him and buy him a beer or two. So rather than relate his advice, let me pass on what I have learnt from that incident – always pay attention.
Studio: The Modern Electric Tattoo Co,