Inkluded’s guest blogger Rob Davies was dying to explore black-work tattoos, and share some of his favourite artists working in the UK today.
Opinions are often divided over black-work tattoos, with some liking them and others not. Of course they’re not everyone’s cup of tea… but they’re sure as hell mine!
You simply can’t beat a crisp black-work tattoo. They’re elegant, stylish, timeless and just damn cool! Using only black ink to create a rich piece of art is a real skill.
Black-work tattoos aren’t something all artists should tackle, at least not right away. Learning how to balance the depth and shades of black is an art in itself.
Now as it happens this beautiful little island we call home happens to hold some of the finest black-work tattoo artists in the world, yes the world, and their work provides a constant stream of inspiration and tattoo porn for all us black ink fanatics to enjoy.
What better way to look at some of the best black-workers than a kick-ass list. Because everybody loves lists right?! Here we go…
1. Philip Yarnell (Skyn Yard Tattoos, Southend-on-Sea)
If you’re after a tattooer that can lay down a design that’ll look the same in ten years’ time then Philip Yarnell is your guy.
An incredibly talented artist, Yarnell boasts a bold traditional style and a ridiculous eye for the small details – a lethal combination if ever there was one.
Offering a stripped down take on traditional black-work tattooing, Yarnell is a black-work tattooer at the top of his game. It’s just a shame he’s based at the opposite end of the country to me!
2. Sway (Sacred Electric Tattoo, Leeds)
Sacred Electric Tattoo is home to a good number of amazing tattoo artists. Jemma Jones, Jimmy Wizard, Joe Ellis and Bailey Tattooer all call the shop home, and so does the incredible Sway – an artist who should be on everyone’s tattoo bucket list.
Granted, Sway tattoos some awesome colour pieces too, but after seeing his black-work, you’ll know what you need to get.
Packing his designs with bold, black shading (whether a trad dragon or pattern-work piece), Sway crushes it to say the least.
Of course it could just be my blinding love of traditional black-work talking… then again, you can take a look at his work for yourself. The dude is insanely talented!
3. Anrijs Straume (Bold As Brass Tattoo, Liverpool)
Breaking from the traditional side of things and looking further afield, Anrijs Straume stands out as a ground-breaking artist in terms of black-work and general tattooing.
Married to the ever awesome Monami Frost, Straume specialises in a dark trash realism style and his tattoos speak volumes.
Doing things others can only imagine, Straume is pushing black-work to incredible places and one of his portraits is enough to leave even the biggest black-work critic floored.
He’s also got a sick YouTube channel so be sure to hit it up and learn more about the inside workings of the tattoo industry.
4. Dom Wiley (Blue Cardinal Tattoo, Manchester)
Having only come across his Instagram page a few months ago I’m still fairly new to the work of Dom Wiley, though it only took one look to become a fan.
Blending traditional and contemporary black-work styles together Wiley has created a look unique to his tattoos… and boy is it good!
Especially his animals – he recently tattooed a wolf piece and I highly recommend you go check it out. Doing things few other black-workers are doing, Wiley is an artist thoroughly dedicated to his work and it certainly shows. This guy is all kinds of good.
5. Liv Frost (Tattoo HQ, Chesterfield)
From looking at her work it’s clear that Liv Frost doesn’t miss a beat. Each one of her tattoos is as good as the next and there’s never a weak piece to be seen.
Covering a number of fields, Frost’s work encompasses elements of traditional, contemporary and pattern-work tattooing, all awesome styles and all ones Frost’s clearly mastered.
Hands down one of the top black-work artists in the country, Frost is someone everyone should be following and is an artist who’s only getting better as she goes!
6. Jack Peppiette (Insider Tattoo, Edinburgh)
Ornamental tattooer extraordinaire Jack Peppiette is without a doubt one of the strongest pattern tattoo artists in the world! Crisp, clean lines and the tightest of dot-work come from the hands of Peppiette and each of his designs acts to top the next. He’s killing it.
Bringing new meaning to ornamental tattoos Peppiette is a black-work talent if ever there was one. Sadly I’m a gentleman and not ranking these artists in any particular order but it’s safe to say that if I was, Peppiette would be near the top.
7. Matt Craven Evans (Crooked Claw Tattoo, Sheffield)
Sheffield was built on the back of industry and hard work and the tattoos of Matt Craven Evans are certainly a testament to that. A talented traditional tattooer, Evans has built a reputation as a must see black-work artist, for both traditional and pattern-work.
Perhaps the best traditional black-work artist in the country, at least in my opinion, Evans is a tattooer who understands the beauty of black-work and simply knows how to lay a great tattoo down time and again.
8. Neil Dransfield (Oddfellows Tattoo Collective, Leeds)
Neil Dransfield’s attention to detail and incredible talents have gained him wide acclaim and popularity – rightfully so. Bringing neo-traditional black-work to the forefront of the style, Dransfield has carved out his corner and dominated it ever since.
Sharp designs, slick shading and a stylish finish all come together in the tattoos of Dransfield and you’d be a fool to not appreciate his work, so do yourself a favour and get to know this awesome artist.
9. Kelly Violet (Parliament Tattoo, London)
Perhaps the biggest name on this list, Kelly Violet is an artist who has worked hard to achieve her success and reputation and by looking at her work you know she deserves all the praise she gets.
Tattooing a dark neo-traditional, contemporary black-work style, Violet utilises intense imagery and detail to really bring her designs to life and it works wonderfully.
Offering something different with every tattoo she creates, Violet has truly pushed black-work tattooing to new heights and is continuing to do so. The dream artist for many tattoo collectors, Violet is an artist to admire.
10. Thomas Bates (5 Keys Tattoo Studio, Norwich)
Artist and illustrator Thomas Bates certainly knows how to put down a black-work tattoo and make it pop. The versatile tattooer blends clean neo-traditional with a dark contemporary style and has created a look seen nowhere else.
Clearly a man with an eye for detail, Bates is someone any tattoo fan can appreciate. The guy is an all-round tattoo genius and a black-work talent like no other, but enough of the waffle, I will let his tattoos do the talking!
So there you have it, Britain’s top black-work tattoo artists, at least in my opinion, anyway.
Be sure to follow each of the artists on Instagram and share their incredible talents with other tattoo lovers as well. Hell, why not go all the way and get tattooed by them!