No doubt skateboarding goes into your skin. Over the years, you’ll collect numerous recurring wounds that feel like tattoos at some point. And since skateboarders are already used to pain (or maybe started skateboarding because of their masochistic nature, who knows) and interested in art, there is already a close connection to tattooing. Although even the administrator of your health insurance company might be tattooed nowadays, it’s still a good look for a rebellious subculture if there are tattoos around. And skateboarding has a lot of them: a board, a broken board shaped like a heart, Skate and Destroy, the Indy logo, all kinds of other company logos or weird crew tattoos, tramp stamps and own name tattoos, black sleeves, fake Monster back tattoos, lip tattoos, (bat) face tattoos, Die Trying and colts looking like they’re holstered in your pants, religious awakening tattoos, tattooed autographs, Tony Hawk’s face, covered mum tattoos, mandalas on butt cheeks, or just tattoos all over like Antwuan. The list is endless. And since there is such a close connection, there are also a lot of skaters that got into tattooing themselves. We would like to introduce you to the work of some of them.
I feel like there are two ways of counting it: the first tattoo I’ve done on myself was four years ago and first tattoo that people paid for was kind of when COVID hit.
When I was a kid, my godfather was an anthropologist in Papua New Guinea and he showed me some tribal tattoos and I was really stoked about them. Then I got my first one at 17, but I never thought that random people could tattoo. One night during a Carhartt trip in Paris, my friend Tolya [Titaev], who’s a sick tattoo artist himself, told me that I could actually do it and taught me the basics of tattooing. Ever since then, I couldn’t stop. He actually changed my life.
At first, I was doing it at my place, then my friend [Lilian] Fev opened a thrift shop with his girlfriend and lent me a place in his basement. It was pretty hectic. Then I got into a proper studio and now I’m working at 21x27.9 studio in the suburbs of Paris.
Fine line, black and grey.
I have a background in graphic design and I’ve always been drawing since I was a kid. I’m doing some boards for Rave skateboards and did some for Rassvet as well.
At the beginning, skaters were 95% of my clientele and I can never thank them enough for giving me bits of their skins! Val Bauer, Rémy Taveira, Ryan Townley, Cambryan Sedlick, Kevin Rodrigues, Daniel Lutheran, Alex Richard, Lilian Fev, Tolya Titaev, Noah Mahieu…
Someone asked me for a knight riding a unicorn/Pegasus holding AK-47s. I declined the project.
There’s been quite a few now, but it’s not actually the session itself, it’s more what people are telling you. Since they spend four or five hours on a mattress, they start talking like you’re a psychologist…
I did at first to get some experience before tattooing people but now not so often anymore. It hurts too much.
It’s the dome on my stomach. It’s from my good friend Sophie Kenko.
Nowadays, I might do 10 a week.
I would say Kev. He did a lot of his tattoos with an insane artist that used to work in Paris called Smbousille or Fev with Tttristesse… When you start building a composition with one artist, there is so much more sense and beauty in your tattoos.
To me, they’re actually exactly the same, maybe that’s why I got into it so easily. There are crews, different styles, people who do it for the art, people who do it for the Gram, history, and it’s always evolving. Can’t really think of any differences!
I did my first tattoo when I was 17, so for almost ten years now.
My good old friend and tattoo artist Giorgio Dazzi, who was skating with me, introduced me to tattoos. He gave me my first one, and after that, I did my first one on him. Since then, I kept on tattooing friends to this day.
My tattoos are mostly homemade. I guess I’m not professional enough for a studio.
I don’t have a clue if what I do has a name. [laughing]
I think what really happened to me was that I stopped trying to separate drawings made specifically for tattoos and my own personal drawings. For a couple of years, I’ve just been tattooing what I draw for my own pleasure. No compromise. That’s why I’m broke. [laughing]
I don’t consider myself a tattoo artist, so yes, I draw and paint.
Many skaters! But I’m not bringing my tattoo stuff on tour enough.
A friend of mine has three of my first ones on his leg: a Fiat Panda, a pack of Marlboros smoking a lung-shaped bong, and an alien in a Michael Jordan pose dunking the planet Earth into a black hole.
Once, I tattooed Clément Le Gall, pants off, sitting on a couple skateboards in the middle of 2er DIY while getting pretty drunk. That was fun. I think it was his first tattoo, too.
I basically finished all the spots on my body that I can tattoo by myself. I gave myself more than a couple, even on my chest and belly.
I regret them all. [laughing] Nah, I don’t know, I have too many and I always forget that I have half of them.
Unfortunately, I don’t see too many naked skaters. [laughing] I like my brother Quentin Boillon’s tattoos.
I honestly like any kind of tattoos, even Nyjah’s. Since you like it on your body, why not! Let’s bring back the Monster logo!
Like art (and so tattoos), skateboarding is a personal way to express yourself. I don’t believe in any common sense of judging any kind of art and I reject any affection for traditionalism. As I draw and as I skate, I feel free to be whatever I want to be. Fortunately, everybody has their own taste and I like to respect them and learn from them all. Talking about the scene, I guess sometimes you don’t always bump into people thinking like this, who are extremely competitive (even more in the tattoo scene in my opinion).
About five years ago, but I’ve been doing it more since two years.
I always liked it, the subculture, the aesthetic of it. I always liked cartoons, comics, and graphics. It used to be more underground than now, with its own rules. Same as skateboarding! I learned by myself cause I was busy skating and doing art stuff. But lots of my good friends were already tattoo artists. So I was able to learn the basics from them and could ask anytime I had questions. I think a big part of learning is watching others tattoo. I also learn watching my friends when I get tattoos from them, like from my good friend Julien Benoliel from Marseille. Now he’s a great tattoo artist that used to skate as well.
I work at Peggy Sue’s tattoo shop, La Frida Loca in Marseille.
I’m on the traditional path with solid lines, strong shadows and lights. Made to age well!
I think it’s the natural way, following what’s strong and made to age fine. Traditional style tattoos are proven to still look readable after many years. Also the aesthetic of them reminds me a lot of old cartoons.
I do acrylic painting – on canvas, clothes, and murals. Sometimes I even have the chance to paint skateparks. These days, I’m into painting the backs of worker jackets, the blue ones.
A lot cause I used to travel for skating with my tattoo gear. So that happened a lot in the craziest places.
There are many, for many different reasons. But it’s personal. Medical secret. [laughing]
I did it a lot. That’s actually how I learned. My legs got all my first ones. I don’t anymore though. Apart from if I want to try out a new machine or something special.
David Martelleur has some good ones!
For sure it’s to get a tattoo in the middle of a party from your dirty, drunk friend who doesn’t know how to tattoo, but just bought a “pen” on Amazon because he can. Sounds familiar. [laughing]
I sometimes do it because it fits some places of the body. Like fragile places or also places that heal badly, like ears, hands…
Dedication, control, focus, pushing your limits, subculture, music, community, energy, infinity, evolving... One really similar thing is that you can travel doing them both and meet so many good people.
I was the staff photographer for Volcom, but year after year, my budget went down, which made me realize it could all end one day. I got the opportunity to do a tattoo apprenticeship at one of Belgium’s best shops back then, Glorybound. So I learned it the right way, not as a kitchen wizard like so many others.
For now, I still work at the shop in Antwerp that gave me the opportunity to be a tattooer, but I realized, at one point I’m going to have to move on. Once a month, I work in the shop of a good friend in Ghent, called Prikkelbaar. I do a few conventions a year and try to squeeze in a few guest spots.
I can pretty much tattoo in any style. Since I work in a street shop, you have to be able to handle pretty much anything that walks in. But my own style, I would say American traditional and Americana with Japanese influences. I prefer color, but unfortunately, most of my clients just want black and grey.
I think I’ve lost track… Pretty much the whole Volcom team.
My first-ever client they let me do at the shop fainted six times in one session…
The first few tattoos were on myself and if I make a new machine once in a while, I usually test them on myself.
I got a few. My front piece by Simon Erl, my back piece by Chris Yvon, and I have a reaper from Steven Burlton (RIP) on my shoulder.
Most skaters just have shitty tattoos. [laughing] Probably because they don’t have the budget for it. Harry Lintell has been putting in a lot of hours under the machine of his friend JT Wooten. All they’ve been doing is turning into a nice and solid thing.
Pretty much all those DIY tattoos. I hate it when I see someone getting tattooed without gloves or not respecting the order of things when it comes to keeping their work space sterile.
All I have to say is that any tattoos done with stick and poke can be done 50 times faster with a machine. So quit the bullshit and learn how to tattoo. And stop over charging your clients “because it took you so long.”
There are more similarities than differences. You are expressing your own style, you are able to travel anywhere in the world, you get to meet a lot of great people along the way, but the thing I have noticed in the tattoo world is the amount of jealousy, hate, and drama there is between people. Something I have never really witnessed in the skateboard scene. But the biggest difference is: you can’t take tattooing to the Olympics.
Three years ago and before that I apprenticed for two years.
I’ve always been hyped on tattoos and getting them, but at that time, doing them freaked me out. The fear of messing it up on a stranger was horrifying. But I was given a very tempting offer to apprentice with Manuela Gray at her private studio. While I was there with her, she definitely convinced me that tattooing was rad and it gave me the confidence to pursue it as a career!
I work at Tomb Tattoo with such a rad team of tattooers.
I would say it’s a mixture between a light-hearted quirky cartoon style and American traditional with a twist of my own interpretation.
Originally, I had my Faceooze illustrative style which was pretty scratchy and rough. I used to just draw random characters that had no specific concept behind them. Through my experience growing as a tattoo artist, I’ve learned to neaten up my work and be a bit more structured, but I’m obviously still trying to incorporate that loose original aesthetic.
I used to do custom grip jobs when I was younger, but now I’m so specific about my grip being black. I often try and do a painting or some Pantart (drawing on pants). I’ve done a bunch of wood engraving and etching. I’ve also done a bunch of clay sculptures during COVID, where I made ashtrays. This also enticed me to sculpt some characters similar to my Faceooze stuff and it grew into a skate wax company called Glob wax.
A bunch of my homies like Yann Horowitz (in the photo) and Germany’s very own legend Julien “BlackySan.”
The funniest was tattooing my name on Julien. I did a painting for his birthday of him lying on the grass at our local skatepark making a selfie video of himself, saying he just beat me at a game of skate (unfortunately this really did happen…). He was like, please tattoo this on me. A couple of days later we made it permanent. If you ever see him, ask him to show you, it’s next to his crotch…
I’ve had a couple, but the weirdest was probably this lady that came into the shop wanting to get a burning skull tattooed over a scar on her upper chest area. I later figured out that it was a medicine injection suppository type thing that was implanted in her chest for regular cancer treatment. She said she doesn’t feel pain in that area because of the nerve endings being fried from the operation, but it made it very strange to tattoo over. The skin was super thin and beneath it was a plastic-like container, with a pipe that ran towards her heart. I was super worried I would cause her some medical issues, but she assured me her doctors cleared it… After about 15mins of tattooing her, she fell asleep snoring super loud. [laughing]
I suppose in a week I can do up to five to ten tattoos… But yeah, some weeks are busy and others are slow.
I would say Harry Lintell and Tyler Bledsoe have some sick traditional tattoos. I also dig Kevin Rodrigues’ head tattoo.
Tattooing is a one-on-one experience. At the end of the day, you have to perform a craft on another person that has expectations and generally is nervous about getting the tattoo. So you also need to be really good at making people feel comfortable and confident that you can do your job.