I can’t think of another artist as versatile as Alex Stark. If you go through some of his recent work on the Facebook page for his studio The Tattooed Arms in Lincoln, there’s unbelievable realism, super accurate portraits, bold traditionalism, imaginative neo-trad, clean dotwork, mandalas, symmetry and some unusual abstract stuff thrown in there too.
When the artist who has mastered so many different tattoo styles, the artist behind the polka trash grandfather clock (above) which is one of my all time favourite tattoos ever, said he was up for being interviewed for Inkluded, I screamed ‘AWESOME! REALLY?!’
Alex is a strong believer in always staying inspired – he travels a lot to keep his artistic outlook fresh and recently won an award for a piece in India. An old-school respect for the industry coupled with a passion for experimental ideas makes Alex one of the first in a new breed of artists in the UK, who are encouraging their art to take new directions as much as possible.
Think that’s a sufficient enough introduction.
Hey Alex. To start off, tell us how you got to where you are now.
I started out with a keen interest in art, tattooing myself first and always practicing drawing. Practice is key! I became an apprentice (not one of these modern day apprentices let lose on the public almost immediately) but one that was pushed to work hard, build needles, draw, clean, build machines and learn about the industry so that I could give it the respect it deserves. I continued practicing on myself and friends before I got a job in a small, busy shop by the sea.
Things have changed a lot since the first tattoo I did on my ankle nearly 12 years ago! I am working on projects I enjoy within my own environment. The Tattooed Arms has been open since September 2013 and we have a large client base wanting interesting, custom work. Having my own shop also allows me to travel and work through out the year. Which is great!
I’ve had to work very hard to get to where I am artistically, I studied different styles for years and go through phases of improving and researching different techniques. I love the history behind the artwork and constantly strive to learn, you can never know enough! At the minute, although I really enjoy doing realistic pieces, I have been drawing lots of Japanese, exploring patterns and taking influence from Indian artwork and sacred geometry. These styles have so much room for progression within tattooing. I am working on mixing styles, creating new, bold designs and back pieces. I believe an artist should be able to understand what it is they are tattooing and why, as well being able to execute it well.
How has your tattoo style changed in the last 10 years?
I’ve gone from being a complete amateur wanting to tattoo myself and my mates, with no artistic direction in mind to being someone able to explore and experiment through years of learning and taking it more seriously. I still have a few mates that get tattooed for free as a thank you for lending me their skin. Tattooing and art is pretty much all I think about now, I’m lucky to have people that let me put my ideas onto their bodies. As i’ve grown up, so has my attitude towards work and improving. I have got a lot of inspiration through travelling Asia, India in particular.
Are there many other artists out there that are versatile in their styles?
Yes, loads. Anyone that has perfected a particular style and built towards creating their own has done so with hard work. You can’t achieve this without a certain amount of versatility. I met some people in Nepal whilst judging in Mumbai that are really pushing boundaries and mixing styles to create bold, long lasting work.
What are some of your plans for the next year or so?
I plan to travel as much as I can, I attended two international conventions last year and intend to do more this year. You really get inspired by the variety and passion that comes from artists at an international show. I feel this is key to self-improvement and following my own route. I want to mix the styles, I love to make my designs individual and interesting. There are so many mixed styles and new ideas out there. It is a different breed of artist that is willing to travel so far, often at their own expense just to network and learn, these people are a pleasure to meet. I’ve made good friends along the way, I plan guest spots around the world and welcome my fellow artists with open arms to come and visit The Tattooed Arms. I also plan to attend The Great British Tattoo Show and I’m open to other UK shows, it’s just finding the time!
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Most of my inspiration comes from travel, other artists, architecture, Hinduism and Japanese line weights. To be honest, i’m inspired by all sorts, I have a huge interest in sacred geometry and patterns and like to experiment with dot work. Inspiration can be found anywhere when you look for it, this comes naturally to me as I am constantly looking! Never lose interest in learning and experimenting, that is how you stay fresh.
Has tattooing changed in the time you’ve been doing it?
It has changed loads, there was a lot of simple tribal and flash designs when I started, people wanting little names and following trends. People in general have more of a genuine interest in tattooing nowadays, they are looking to get bigger, customised pieces. Customers are researching artists and seeking out the right people for the job. However, the popularity of tattooing has brought a lot of ‘scratchers’ into the industry that want to become a ‘tattooer’ because it makes them look popular or cool. With no restrictions on quality, more shops are opening and diluting the industry. I believe in traditional apprenticeships, you need to prove yourself before you should be allowed to mark peoples skin permanently. I hope that the general publics interest in culture and art filters out these type of shops and that tattooing itself isn’t spoiled by its own popularity.
This new accessibility isn’t all bad though and naturally gifted artists are given opportunities, beginning to explore new routes, which is exciting.