interview with saga anderson

   Hello Saga Anderson! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. Please start by telling us something about yourself and your beginnings. There was definitely a tough learning curve when I first started. The first few years at a shop required a lot of self-directed learning and countless drawing hours. Learning the realism technique and the specific requirements of this style versus other styles was a second learning step I decided to take, and required even more time and patience. My natural drawing style is cartoon/illustrative, so it was quite a shift for me after 3 decades of drawing with lines.

Q: Did anyone help you?
A: I didn't do an apprenticeship though, after hanging out in a shop in the late 2000s where my girlfriend at the time was tattooing, I got my first sense of how the process worked. I was lucky enough to have taught myself enough basic skills while practicing on myself and friends over the next few years while studying in university to get into a shop afterwards and really start honing my skills. I definitely don't recommend this route into the industry for anyone thinking of becoming a tattoo artist. I think I was one of the lucky few who found success in this industry without a mentor.

Q: Your tattoo style is very unique! How it changed over the years?
A: Thank you so much! I really try to incorporate elements of color. I find contrast and depth with values crucial to making a vibrant tattoo that isn't flat or washed out on the skin. You might not guess it now but color was one of the things I always struggled with, and was always fascinated by how simple color transitions can transform a tattoo from flat to visually vibrant. Over the years my style went from focusing on line weights, black and grey, geometric elements, and many small details, to no lines, the full color spectrum, and the focus on large-scale, less detailed painterly work. I tell myself over and over to reduce detail, to simplify my designs, to be more unique, to find more ways to incorporate contrasting elements clearly and to make my work look more like a piece of fine art on skin rather than a tattoo...these are the guiding principles that I use to continue to develop my style.

Q: Tell me about the 3D technique.
A: For me techniques that enhance depth and give the illusions of 3 dimensions require correct use of color value, and it's nearly impossible to achieve a 3 dimensional illusion on a 2 dimensional surface without the use of both highlights and 'lowlights'. This applies to both color and black and grey work. Without the judicious use of the lightest and darkest values everything ends up midtones and there is a lack of depth.

Q: I can see some really cool designs, like portraits and Cosmo inspired elements. Are those designs your own creations or your clients are super creative?
A: Haha yes I've definitely had some interesting cosmic mash-ups, so much fun! For me the cosmic theme can be applied to anything one can think of, so I'm super open when clients suggest adding into a pet portrait or landscape. I usually leave it to my clients to choose the style of background. They'd prefer, whether cosmic, painterly, nature, out of focus elements, heavy black, water, electricity, etc. So normally we'd have a piece booked and the client will come in and say, "I know we were going to do my dog's portrait but your space work just grabbed me, can we put a helmet on him and put him in space?" I'm always up for it! Space is infinite and there are an infinite ways to create it artistically.

Q: The cosmos and its beautiful chaotic creations. I guess no one can do better, cooler Cosmo inspired tattoos than you. Do you use refference images?
A: Too kind! Space, science and the universe are some of my main passions and inspirations, so I'm always super happy when I get to tattoo cosmic work. I create the basis for all my work digitally, combining many references into one unique composition, which I do on the day of the session using guidance from the client and the shape of their body, which is paramount. Realism works better if it fits the body as it moves, so I need my clients with me as I design to ensure a custom fit. Once I see the body part, an image comes into my head and I create the design based around my vision. I'm lucky enough to have clients that trust my approach and let me do what I want with their project, feel pretty lucky!

Q: Do you have any favorite ink brands, or the magic is in the technique?
A: Color tattoos are my passion! While I do enjoy working on monochromatic pieces occasionally my focus is definitely on color, I find there is so much more I can express using the the myriad colors. Knowledge of color is an essential requirement for doing color tattoos. There are many unique challenges that don't occur in B&G work, so any artist doing color work needs to know what makes it different and the steps needed to achieve a strong color piece. I use Fusion ink exclusively, both their muted and bright tones are perfect for my style.

Q: Where are you located?
A: I'm currently based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, at Boss Tattoos, a rad collective of independent tattoo artists. Calgary is in the Canadian West at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. I do conventions and travel much of the year so I'm on the road a lot across Canada, the US and Europe. The best way to reach to me is through my website at or by email at

Q: Your work is super recognizable. Since you have a unique style, would you try experimenting with a different style?
A: Yes I hear that a lot! Everyone says they can spot one of mine tattoos out in a crowd, definitely something I'm always happy to hear. With so many amazing artists out there these days, for people to choose from it's always a benefit for every artist to try to develop their own unique style. I started off my first few years at a busy street shop, so used to tackle every style to some degree, but after falling in love with the realism I slowly dropped other styles, focusing solely on realism now and into the future. I feel I have so much to learn in realism and color theory that it will keep me occupied for years to come.

Q: What are some of the most important things that every artist must know?
A: Keep learning and trying new techniques and products! We live in an exciting time. The tattoo industry is growing a lot. Finallyt we're getting companies to make products and equipment specifically for us instead of borrowing everything from other fields. It's easier now than ever to use the internet to find info and see the latest techniques and work from around the world, to do conventions, to visit museums, to seek out new artists that know more than us to learn from. Use these resources!