We spoke with Dale Sarok who recently finished his apprenticeship. His work speaks for itself. We caught up with him to find out about his journey into tattooing and give you a look at some of his painting.
Interview – Annie Griffin
Images – Dale Sarok
What made you want to become a tattoo artist?
My dad was a tattooist in the late 80s and early 90s so I was introduced to it at a very young age. He had folders full of horrible 90s flash sheets and I used to trace them and stick them on the walls in my room thinking that they were the coolest thing I’d ever seen. I grew up watching my Dad and I always knew that I wanted to get tattooed myself. But it wasn’t until I got older and my dad had left the industry that I decided I’d like to follow in his footsteps and do it for a living.
How long have you been an apprentice?
I’ve been an apprentice for just over 2 years but I didn’t start tattooing until about 18 months in. I had to do all the ground work first.
Who inspires you the most? Do you get a lot of inspiration from other tattoo artists?
I’m a huge illustration fan, medical and scientific primarily. I love looking at the old masters’ work: Durer, Goya, Vesalius, Albinus and Haeckel are some of my favourites. I’m not a huge fan of realism or abstract. I love illustrative work because you can see the artist’s stamp on it straight away. It’s like a part of them has gone into it.
There are a large number of tattoo artists whose work I follow and enjoy looking at, but as far as my own work is concerned I would say the artists I’ve been most influenced by are Thomas Hooper, Guy Le Tatooer, Alexander Grim, Maxime Buchi, Jondix, Iain Mullen and El Monga.
Do you work with any other artists?
I’ve started taking on a lot more commission work since I graduated from Uni to help me get through my apprenticeship. Some of that has involved other artists and designers. I’ve done t-shirt designs, album covers and made installation work for a couple of shops. I have no idea how to use Photoshop so I usually just create the image the old fashioned way then pass it on to a graphic designer who takes care of any alterations.
I used to live with two tattoo artists when I was at Uni, Myles and Jonas, and we used to paint together almost every day. Those guys gave me the confidence to give finding an apprenticeship another go because I had almost given up by that point. And I spent a lot of time painting with some extremely talented art students around that time, which was a very humbling experience. I’ve never painted with anyone at the studio, but Adam and I have been planning out a big 6ft canvas painting that we are both going to work on. And my boss Danny has just started to experiment with oil painting so I might take a look at that.
Although I haven’t done much painting with the guys at the studio I’ve definitely improved as an artist since starting my apprenticeship. Luckily for me Vida Loca is quite a well balanced studio so there is always someone to speak to if I need help with something in particular.
Do you experiment with different styles?
I studied fine art at college then University for a total of six years and the work I produced was quite varied during that time. I had a lot of trouble trying to find a good apprenticeship and had become disheartened with it so during university I was just trying to make a strong fine art portfolio rather than draw tattoo flash.
As far as tattoo flash is concerned, I’ve done just about everything at one point or another. When I started my apprenticeship I had to make 3 flash sheets a week or I’d get sacked. I started off with tribal and moved on to script, religious, Japanese and so on. I remember at first I had no idea how to approach tribal or small girly tattoos because things like that only exist within tattooing. It’s not the sort of thing you would normally make the decision to draw or paint. From an art perspective I think I have a certain way of doing things that I tend stick to simply because I enjoy it. I really enjoy patternwork and geometry. I’ve noticed that most of the work I do in other styles is symmetrical. I just like everything to be neat and considered.
What is your favourite medium?
Two years ago I would have said acrylic paint on canvas, but since I started drawing more tattoo flash and doing illustration work I’ve moved over to pen and ink.
How often do you paint?
I try to paint every day. I normally have a couple of pieces ongoing so I can just pick one up and start working.
Vida Loca Tattoo – Bolton, U.K.