Less thinking, more inking: interview with Paula Castle

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Paula Castle is an exceptional tattoo artist whose journey into the tattoo industry is proof that everything happens for a reason. If you don’t take your life and dreams into your own hands and take action, you’ll never get to where you want to be.

I was looking forward to chatting to Paula about her experiences so far and plans for the future. So, where did it all begin?

‘I was always very creative in my teens and school years, with a keen artistic design, and especially liked graphic design and textiles. Even though I studied History at University I still loved the tattoo scene and became a serious collector. My artists were Lee Withey and Justin Burnout and I’m really lucky to have work by these guys as my first tattoos.’

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After graduating and then spending some years working for a large corporate firm, Paula was sadly made redundant. Something she wasn’t expecting but actually in turn took her down a completely different life path.

‘After being made redundant, I started a tattoo-inspired clothing and jewellery firm, because I had always been passionate about and loved tattoo art. Starting the business was actually how I met my now fiancé (because we met at a tattoo convention). After being together for a while, he saw my jewellery drawings and fashion sketches and suggested I consider tattooing. The rest is history!’

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Paula style is so individual, striking and timeless. ‘I would describe my style as bold and neon, bubblegum neo-traditional tattooing. I value the fundamentals of tattooing – strong clean line work, strong shading and good colour saturation. I am open to trying any style out and have done some realism, pattern work and dotwork, I want to continue to learn every single day and would never want to pigeon hole myself. I want to be someone who can take on any challenge really.’

‘In the future, I would really like to gain more male clients, I love drawing masculine things and I’m a bit of a geek so would love to get to do more tattoos on guys. My main focus for the next few years will be to convention more, guest spot as much as I can, continue to work on increasing the awareness of Nevermore Tattoo Parlour and to travel with my work!’

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Paula has got to where she is because of her strong determination and the way she lives her life each day. ‘There are two things I live by…. ‘every day is a school day’ and ‘less thinking, more inking’. Also, I love my customers and always remember every tattoo they get is a big deal, it can be easy to forget that I think.’

So how did a history graduate who’d just lost her job turn her life around so quickly to become an artist with one of the strongest, most original styles on the UK tattoo scene today?

‘Sheer hard work. Determination. Not being afraid to ask the stupid questions or the big ones. Keeping a level head. Respecting your peers’ opinions and constructive criticism to help you to grow as an artist.’

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You can’t chat to a tattoo artist and not have a bit of a nosy at their own ink. I wanted to hear all about Paula’s own tattoos and her inspirations.

‘I myself have got some amazing pieces by some people I admire and respect. My sleeve is by Justin Burnout – it’s a nautical traditional sleeve with 2 big mermaids. I love mermaids! I’m lucky enough to have tattoos by Danielle Rose, Amy Savage, Keely Rutherford, Sam Whitehead, Jody Dawber and of course my lovely colleague Kevin Brodie and fiancé Dan Barren. Each time I get a new piece it feels like I’ve added another layer to my life, my tattoos don’t necessarily mean anything profound but they further document my life and things I love. I have 4 cat tattoos so far and a portrait of Stephen Fry! I have upcoming work booked in with Lucy O’Connell, Rizza Boo and Tiny Miss Becca.’

‘I’m inspired daily by the beautiful Jody Dawber, she is the most technically profound tattoo artist and I admire her sheer dedication to her work. I also love the work of Tiny Miss Becca, Guen Douglas, Clare Hampshire (Clarity Tattoo), Tilly Dee, Dawnii Fantana, Heath Clifford and Cody Eichs. David Corden continues to absolutely blow my mind with his realism work.’

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So what about the real Paula? What does she love doing when she gets a tiny free second away from tattooing?

‘I’m totally a crazy cat lady. I love nothing more than curling up with a cat on my lap and an episode of RuPauls drag race. I love to cook to relax, try and travel at least twice a year and spend time with my friends and family. I think most people would describe me as funny, kind, generous and one I hear a lot is “if you want a straight answer, good or bad, ask Paula”.’

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After starting a completely new career in the last few years, I wonder if Paula could see her life being any other way.

‘I’ve worked hard, really hard, and no matter what I do… I have to be good at it. I can’t fail and this mindset has really contributed to my fast progression. I’m incredibly lucky to be doing this job and not a day goes by that I’m not thankful.’