Working as a tattoo writer, I encounter two different types of tattoo artists – those who are aware and vocal of how exceptional their work is, and those who don’t think too deeply about their accomplishments and remain down to earth, with their feet on the ground. William Jones is the latter.
For the last few years I’ve been watching William walk up on stage and take away lots of lovely, shiny trophies. As one of the most skilled artists working in the UK tattoo scene today, I was delighted that he agreed to chat to Inkluded. Let’s meet the man behind the medals…
Let’s kick off by starting at the beginning. When did you know you’d become a tattoo artist?
I’ve always been drawn to tattooing from a young age. I remember being blown away by my Grandad’s tattoos – it intrigued me how images could be permanently drawn into the skin. When I was young I loved all aspects of comic books and paintings which I would try and replicate for myself, but with my own creative twist.
I have quite a broad taste in what I like, which is why I choose not to specialise in a specific area of tattooing. I enjoy realism just as much as Japanese, just as much as bio-mech. Right now I’m trying to push my own creative boundaries, that means spending more time during the consultation process and exploring new ideas and areas with the client’s perspectives and tastes.
I like new challenges, such as colour realism, and I would love to do a few more solid pieces for my portfolio. I’m learning a lot about visual language such as lighting – I study how lighting works, how it reflects and shadows the object, so that I can extract this and implement it into my tattooing for a more realistic finish. I have found that since studying visual language, I have been able to transfer the principles into other genres such as bio-mech with its organic forms and flow.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have a handful of clients who have been open-minded and flexible with designs, this allows me to have free creative reign which is an exciting challenge for me. I love trying out new designs and concepts, and seeing them evolve on the skin and taking on a whole life of its own.
I’d like to do more large scale pieces where I can manipulate and exploit the form of the body with my ideas. So body suits, full legs and arms are all welcome!
Difficult question… favourite tattoo you have ever done?
It’s hard for me to choose a favourite tattoo piece as I’m always trying to push myself, so every new piece is a new favourite of mine. If I had to choose, I would say that one of my favourites is a black and grey Japanese style leg piece I’m working on. It’s got a mixture of styles that I have really enjoyed working on such as realism, dot-work and Japanese waves. I can’t wait to do more with it and add it to my portfolio.
As well as this, I have a space-themed mechanical sleeve which is in its early stages of tattooing, but it’s a piece I’m itching to do more with as it’s something that really appeals to my tastes.
Tell us about your own ink, and who is responsible for it?
I have a collection of pieces from some of my favourite artists from all over the world. My right leg is a collection of work by Jason Butcher, Mick Squires, Stefano Alcantara and Mr Dist. However the biggest impact on me and my tattooing career has been my bio-mech sleeve by Markus Lenhard in Berlin.
I’ve learnt some much from this talented artist and his understanding of visual language and creating design concepts. I feel that his influence on me has helped developed my tattooing more than any other.
Tell us about the vibe at Nebula Tattoo.
I love my shop! It’s cosy and calm and it’s a great environment to work in, it’s everything I wanted for a shop really. I have a high standard of professionalism which I make sure is carried out through the whole tattooing process.
The shop is designed to be warm and welcoming, the kettle is always on as my primary concern is for the comfort and confidence of my clients. We all work really hard in the shop, and although it’s a quiet town, the shop is always busy tattooing, designing, and replying to enquiries.
A large majority of my clients return for more work which is an overwhelming feeling, especially when they travel far afield for me. I’m honoured to have such great clients who trust me to have some free reign over their designs.
What are your plans for the next year?
2014 was a busy year for Nebula, we did 8 conventions to buy viagra in canada over the UK which was a great experience and awesome opportunity to meet some amazing artists. This year I’m taking a bit more of a backseat with conventions only doing three, Tattoo Tea Party which just went by, Tattoo Jam in August and Halloween Tattoo Bash in November.
We’ve already been in talks with some friends over in the US about doing some shows and guests spots for 2016, so watch this space! I’ve always wanted to travel, and to be able to tattoo at the same time is the perfect combination. I’m really excited to see where it takes me.
In 2013 I won Best Realism at the Manchester International Tattoo Show for a black and grey tiger portrait. This was a great motivational boost for me and felt that I had received some recognition for all my years of hard work. At Cariad Ink Convention 2014 I picked up another award for a Alphonse Mucha inspired mermaid which I’m really pleased with, this is amongst other smaller awards from previous years.
How do you get your inspiration if someone has an idea for a tattoo, where do you go for reference?
I try not to Google image my references if I can help it, instead I like to try and compile my own reference folder with images taken on my DSLR. I have collections of flowers, sculptures and textures which I reference from a lot and I’m always adding to my index of images.
I draw inspiration from day-to-day observations in nature and in life really. I do follow a lot of tattooists on social media, as well as photographers, digital artists and special effects teams so I can see the standard being set, and using that as a benchmark for my own work.
What makes a good tattoo artist?
For me, a good tattoo artist is able to stay humble, we’re only human! Of course being creative helps and having tattoo technique goes a long way, but personality has a lot to do with it. Being able to critique your own work is essential to learn from, knowing your weaknesses and areas for development.
The greatest difficulty that I have had to overcome is life balance. In the past I have found myself snowed under with so much homework and pressure that it’s difficult to maintain social lives, down time and sanity! So in order to try and allocate my time to friends, family and myself, I have incorporated a schedule (of sorts) which helps me stay focused and gives attention to the areas of my life which are important for my well-being.
What makes a good client?
For me, a good client is someone who comes to me with an idea, but who is also open to suggestion where we can both develop an original concept. Regardless of a small or large scale tattoo, I like to chat with my clients and build a good relationship with them.
I find that a relaxed client is better to tattoo, and I try and ensure this with my poor attempt at humour and my million dollar ideas of inventions! Of course, a high pain threshold also helps! It doesn’t hurt if they can tolerate the occasional 80s power ballad, Taylor Swift jam or Shaun’s singing as well!
What else do you love that’s not tatts?!
Outside of work, I’m usually found out on my bike and hitting up some muddy trails around Wales. I just love being outside in nature and the fresh air, it’s a great place for me to clear my head and let new inspirations come to me. I always make sure to keep my camera on me so that I can snap some interesting features and scenes that I come across which may come in handy for a tattoo reference in the future.
I think it’s really important to have hobbies which allow you to utilise other creative channels such as woodworking and crafting. I’m quite keen on crafting things by hand which stems from my degree in product design and my love of wood and metals. So if the weather is a little too hairy for biking, I retreat to my man cave and work on little projects there.
I’m consider myself very fortunate to have a great support network of family, friends and clients who have encouraged my art and tattooing over the years. My biggest supporter (and my biggest critic) is my beautiful girlfriend, Jessica who’s helped me the most. I can’t not mention our two awesome cats, who are the best homework buddies and who I upload photos of online… a lot!
Photos: Nebula Tattoo Facebook Page
And thanks to William and Jessica for my lovely print – it’s up already!
Find out more: