tattoo | interview with Charlie Tomlinson by iva kancheska 04/08/2014

Hello Charlie Tomlinson! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions for our web magazine. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you, let's start with the beginnings...

Q: How old were you when you first got interested in art?
A: It's always been a major focus of my life, back as far as I can remember. My mum is also an artist who created bespoke Celtic artwork. I remember one time when I was about 4 or 5 years old she had been working on a very detailed Celtic knot painting on commission for the better part of a week. She stopped to take a break and go downstairs to get a drink and while she was gone I improved the painting by turning the knot into a big smiling face with sun rays coming out of it. When she saw my improvements to her work she saw how satisfied I was with my amendments and she couldn't help but congratulate me on my work. I think my true love of art was solidified then.

Q: What kind of art would you say that inspired you the most?
A: All art inspires me, as well as life, emotions, there's inspiration everywhere. Art is definitely my means of discovering the world and myself.

Q: Drawing... some people, would say that you have to be enough talented to do amazing art... Is it true? How long does it takes to get on a pro level as an artist?
A: It depends, art is subjective, it's dependent on the beholder. What is art to one person is rubbish to the next. What matters most is passion, without passion there is no art. On the technical side, there are skills that can be learned, you can be working at a professional level relatively quickly with dedication and commitment. It's a continuous journey accumulating knowledge and new skills through practice and a experimentation. Most importantly, have fun!

Q: Did you attend an art school? What's you background?
A: I studied Fine Art at Bedford College and then went on to my degree course at the University of Arts London (UK).

Q: What made you to become a tattoo artist?
A: I've always loved tattoos, my uncle and his friends had many and I was fascinated with them as a kid. As an artist, it was an unexplored medium. As I began considering potential artwork I'd want on my own skin it peaked my curiosity to try my hand working with skin and ink, it was a natural transition.

Q: I can't really say that there is only one particular style you do, in a matter of fact seems like you love to work on any style, do you have any favorite?
A: With tattoos, I most love working in a more painted style. I like to approach all of my work in the same way as painting, I try not to over-think it. I like loose edges, smooth color blends, and free reign to experiment. I do enjoy realism as well, it's nice to go in deep on detail to bring an image to life. Any style where I'm allowed room to experiment is always enjoyable.

Q: I love your paintings. Skulls are probably the most remarkable designs in your portfolio. Is there any special reason you feel most comfortable working on those motives?
A: It's a powerful and timeless image. Skulls are universal, subjective to interpretation and personalities, and they have longevity. From a structural aspect, they're just cool. :) They can be a challenge to re-create, so many facets, depth, texture, they're fun to paint and draw. Bone itself is an interesting substance, it's even made its way into my sculptures; notably in one of my monsters I created made solely from various animal bones.

- What skulls represent in your art world?
It depends on the piece; there is the obvious death and macabre, but sometimes they can mean anything from spirituality, consciousness, humanity, humility... The meanings can be vast which allows me infinite directions to experiment.

Q: How usually the making process goes? What kind of supplies you most use?
A: With my art, I don't always rely on traditional supplies, I'll use anything I can get my hands on: cardboard, sticks, feathers, fingers - anything. I get very physical in the process, building up to destroy, making the biggest marks and boldest moves I can, there are no rules. Once I have an idea or a concept I find a way to create it in any way I can. With my tattoo designs, I do a lot of work digitally (photo manipulation as well as digital painting in Photoshop using the Wacom tablet); as well as traditional pencil to paper, but some designs I do paint to get the desired effect.

Q: Do you also work on custom for sale? If so, share some of the coolest experiences with the customers and info where viewers can buy your artworks.
A: One of the most fun commissioned works I've done was an illustration project for a series of children's books which are still in print today. I am currently designing for t-shirts and other merchandise which will be available for purchase following the launch of my website, however prints and limited edition items will be available sooner to my friends and followers on my facebook page ( and instagram (@youkaycharlie)

Q: Artists are constantly looking for ways to improve their art skills etc. As a tattoo artist, what would you say that is the biggest mistake when it comes to progress?
A: The biggest hindrance in progress in tattooing is being put into a box. With art, the freedom to express is endless, there are no rules, expectations or boundaries. With tattooing, artists often get labeled as the portrait artist, the traditional artist, etc, and it's very easy and comfortable to settle into that label and not push yourself to experiment outside those expectations.

- Would you change something in your style, and start working on something completely different? If so, what would that be?
I would like to do more carvings and sculpture, I'm always searching for new mediums to work with. I'm currently starting a project designing bespoke, hand-carved jewelry which will be available early next year.

Q: You're originally from London, England, now residing in Southern California. What made you to make that move?
A: I met my beautiful wife, Wendy, who is dual-nationality and lived in the UK for many years but is originally from the Los Angeles area. She always wanted to return to her homeland and we made that journey together with our son, Austin (3), and while my wife was pregnant with our daughter, Jesslin (1).

- Would you say that tattoos are more accepted in California?
Honestly, in my experience, no. I think it depends on which circles you mix in and on a whole, socially, they can be accepted in both places; but in a professional and office landscape, they do seem to be more accepted in the UK. I have met numerous people who have had to cover up their tattoos and piercings to comply with employment dress codes stateside, but it's not uncommon in even the most posh of offices in the UK to find employees with tattoos, piercings and funky hair on full display and nobody ever is asked to cover up or hide. But that is just what I have encountered and California and America as a whole are very large places so it could be very different in other areas. I'm really looking forward to exploring and finding out for myself!

Q: You've been doing some exhibitions in multiple galleries around the UK, how do you feel after that experience?
A: I feel extremely grateful and fortunate to have had the opportunities I've had so early in my career, it's given me the confidence and motivation needed to branch out into new territory and explore my art.

- Are there are some new art project coming up?
There's a lot in the works for the end of this year and early 2015; we will have prints available soon, some of which are limited edition, t-shirts are on the horizon as well as jewelry and other merchandise. There's quite a few things coming up, 2015 is going to be a busy year!

Q: After all those years of experience, what are you most grateful of?
A: My eyes and my back, they haven't failed me yet! :)
My beautiful family. The clients, employers, professors and all who have given me opportunity to show my work; without their part in my journey I would not be on the path I'm on today.

Q: In three word, what you've learned in your art journey?
A: Freedom, self, & motivation.

Q: Any motivational tips for the beginners?
A: Study it, love it, know it inside and out, experiment, discover, be free... Ultimately if you have the passion you have what it takes, stay focused and determined and practice, practice, practice. Most importantly, if you truly want to succeed don't let anyone or anything stand in your way. I am completely colorblind, yet some have said color work is my specialty. I've found my own way to see what others take for granted through knowledge and study, and I've learned to see my disability as an asset not a handicap. If you want anything badly enough, you can achieve it. Put yourself out there, don't get discouraged and don't give up.

Please share your work info/website.