I have always had a fascination with tattoos. My dad, who had been in the Navy, sported a tattoo of a snake wrapped round a dagger which I really liked. My uncle Eric had a small heart on his wrist which he was able to cover up with his watch. But it was years later when I had moved to Norwich and had gone to a gym; while changing, a burly bloke was also getting undressed. It was only when he took his shirt off that I took much notice as he had a hunting scene covering the whole of his back. At the top were hunts men on horse back, in the middle hounds where chasing down towards his lower back. The tattoo was completed with a fox tail disappearing up his bum hole.
A couple of years later, living in Brighton I was sat round a table at my mates Davey and Rob and we got talking about getting a tattoo. In that moment we all agreed we should have a sun tattoo each. I was very excited at the idea and went off and got one. Davey and Rob never did!
What many people who get a tattoo will tell you tat once you get one, you want another. Some people want lots more; I’m in the latter category.
After the sun, I thought i’d get a moon on the other arm to match, which I really liked. A few more months passed and on impulse I walked into a tattoo studio in Brighton, saw a Buddha style tattoo and decided that is what I wanted next.
This was when I learnt the lesson not to pop into a tattoo shop and get inked ad-hoc by a tattooists you have not really spoken to before. The Buddha looked very odd, particularly as it looked like he was wearing a sock half hanging off his foot.
My next two tattoos where done from a guy in Nottingham, My mate Wayne had a Celtic tattoo on the back of his head, while I got two men, conjoined on my arm (I’m not a Gemini, I just liked the design) and later a tribal looking design on the back of my neck, again just done because I liked the tattooist’s work.
By this point I started to think back to the hunting scene. I hate blood sports but thought I should just go for it and get the whole of my back tattooed. Around this time a new tattooist shop had opened, called Angelic Hell. Back then it was a room just big enough for two people. The tattooist was a fierce, female biker called, Natasha. Together we decided a devil would be a great. The one thing I remember clearly about Natasha was her barking at me to keep still as she punched ink into my upper lefthand shoulder: the end result was great. After a couple of sessions the ink was complete and Natasha suggested I had a demonic looking Jesus bursting out of the middle of my back. I politely said no and said I’d be back when I had thought it through. When I did go back, Natasha had gone, deciding instead to go traveling on her motorbike and so I started looking around for a new tattooist and was told there where two guys, Wurze and Scrow, from Tattooing at Gunpoint in Hove who I should check out.
I chatted to Wurze, a wise cracking, skull tattoo loving, brilliant tattoo artist. Very quickly it became apparent that Wurze had an idea of what style of tattoo I wanted and over the next few years has been my go to man to get inked. First he balanced my back with an ageing angel, which he followed up with a heaven and hell scene inspired by Gustave Dore’s illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy. The theme of my tattoo’s progressed with these elements of light and dark and were followed by similar interpretations of this theme with fire (dragon) and water (Koi Carp) which covered up my earlier tattoos.
I had a break for a good number of years, but as many people with tattoos will tell you there is always a pull to get another and decide that now my back was complete, what I really wanted was a tattoo sleeve. First came my latin/Vision-On inspired tattoo, Carpe Diem, reminding me to ‘Seize the Day’, followed by a collection of flowers (life) and skulls, (death) carrying on the dark and light theme.
When I reached the milestone of 50, I had another latin/Vision-On tattoo, this time: ‘Memento Mori’, this time reminding me, “One day you will die” which prompts me to look at my Carpe Diem ‘Seize the Day’.
My most recent ink follows that theme in an abstract way with a Death Head Moth (Silence of the lambs) heading towards a screaming flower (inspired by Terry Gilligan’s art work).