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Painting Night At Immortal Ink

Painting Night at Immortal Ink

As a tattooist, it is easy to become consumed by your work and totally focused on that single form of art. It’s a common occurrence, but this kind of tunnel vision can inhibit progression and hinder development. In a bid to break free and to try new things, many tattooists will explore other forms of art, using different mediums and processes. The team at Immortal Ink, led by Jason Butcher, is doing exactly that. “Painting Night” occurs at the Immortal studio every Thursday evening. In attendance are the resident immoral artists, a small group of invited tattooists and other guests. Focusing heavily on sharing information and ideas, the feedback and session results are enormously positive.

Nine Mag sat in on one such session and you can see the resulting work on out front cover – designed by Jason Butcher. The evening gave us loads to think about. After all, if you do what you’ve always done, then you’ll get what you always got.

Interview – Ben Lakin
Photography – Rosie Batsford

Jason Butcher paintingJason Butcher Immortal Ink

Name: Jason Butcher
Studio: Immortal Ink
Location: Chelmsford, U.K.
Time served as a tattooer: Twenty years
Time served as a painter: Around five years

I’ve always been interested in art, ever since I was super young. When I was five years old I thought I was an artist. The problem starts when you realise you need to earn a living and tattooing became the ideal way for me to do that. I’ve always like tattooing. I got my first tattoo when I was eighteen and I’d always thought tattooing was something that I’d like to do, but I was twenty-five before I picked up a machine. Before that I’d worked in the building trade, driving a taxi and all kinds of other crappy jobs in order to make a living.

Paul Booth was my biggest influence back then, along with Jack Rudy, Tin Tin, Phillip Leu, and a few of the old time guys like that. There’s always a lot of talk regarding the longevity of the kind of work that Paul Booth does, but much of it has stood the test of time very well. [Ed: I saw a fourteen-year-old black and grey Paul Booth piece recently that still looked really good!]

Immortal Ink has been based here at our current location for over four years now. Before that, for around ten years, we were at another site in the next town.

I started painting around four years ago when Lianne [Lianne Moule – Immortal Ink] was studying art and using oils at university. I’d only ever painted a handful of pictures in colour and never used oils before, but it caught my attention. Then my friend did a course with a guy called Jeff Gouge and all of a sudden she was amazing! I told her, “You need to get me to meet this guy. I want him to teach me to paint. I want him to show me everything he knows.” From there, I did a three-day workshop and I was hooked. It’s a real shame because Jeff doesn’t run those courses now, I don’t know why.

I use predominantly oils but I also occasionally use pencils and charcoals with a little bit of photoshop too. I used acrylics once and I hated them. I didn’t like the feel of it; they dry really quickly. It made me realise how much I liked oil paint. I like the texture of it. I like everything about it. To begin with I didn’t think that painting with oils would affect or influence my tattooing very much, but in fact, it has affected it a lot. I shouldn’t be surprised really because every time you try a different medium it brings something back to tattooing. It’s hard to say exactly why; maybe it brings some kind of looseness to your work instead of just doing another outline and colouring it in.

I’ve set up so that I can paint at home and at the studio, which is pretty cool. Every Thursday we host a life drawing or painting session for the studio artists at Immortal and we sometimes invite a few guests. We tend to invite people that we know who might be interested; people like David Corden, Sam Ford and Ed Hunt. It’s nice to have them around. It’s good for people that mostly do tattooing. It’s humbling for them to come and do something that They’re perhaps not so good at. That’s how you learn.

Immortal Ink paint night

We’ve also hosted a few painting workshops too, with Shawn Barber, Jeff Gogue, Michael Hussar and an amazing guy called David Kassan. We went to New York last Christmas and did a painting workshop with him, he’s awesome! I would not be exaggerating to say that he’s as good as any painter who’s ever lived! He’s fucking incredible.

I approached getting good at painting the same way as I did tattooing; if there’s someone whose work you really like, contact them! Ask if they do any workshops or seminars or offer to pay for tuition, whatever. Ask them “Can I come and paint with you?” or “Could you teach me?” Just ask! They could say no, but it’s worth a shot. That’s how some painters make their money. I never could have figured out oil painting like this by myself.

Conventional artists seem to differ a little from tattooers in their willingness to share information and advice. Even the very top artists seem a lot more willing to share information but, I guess like everything, you’ve got to earn it. I’m happy to give away information but I like to make sure they’re cool first. I feel a little guilty sometimes, giving this away, because it’s stuff that I learned directly from Jeff’s. But I’ve painted with a lot of different people so you do pick up different bits here and a bit there and eventually it becomes your own. Some people don’t like to share because they say it helps people to develop by making them work harder. I think that’s bullshit. It’s best to share. Besides, it would be boring to be the only one at the top.

Sebastian Immortal Ink

Name: Sebastian Nowacki
Studio: Immortal Ink
Location: Chelmsford, U.K.
Time served as a tattooer: Six years
Time served as a painter: A long time!

I got into art from a very young age. I usually use dry pastels bet now I also like using oils. My tattooing is colour realism work, so for me working with oils is an inspiration for mixing colours and making new tones. Keep mixing colours. Keep painting; at least twice a week. It will help a lot in colour realism tattooing as it works much the same when applying the layers. Remember – skin isn’t paper y’know!

Samford Immortal Ink

Name: Sam Ford
Studio: Silver Needles
Location: Southend on Sea, U.K.
Time served as a tattooer: Five years
Time served as a painter: Two years

I’ve not painted in oils since I was in college, ten years ago. I’ve done a couple of acrylic painting over the last two years but that’s been it. I’m planning to do more painting by cutting my tattooing down to four days a week and spend two days painting, that’s the plan.

In tattooing I’m known for realism, but I don’t just want to do realism alone. That has never been my intention. I love doing it but you’re limited with how far you can go. I want to open my mind a bit more, develop my skills off of the skin that I can then transfer over to tattooing. Practice makes perfect.

I have to admit I don’t draw much. I’m the laziest tattoo artist you’ll ever meet. I’ve always had this romantic notion of me sitting with a sketch pad and drawing, but when you’ve been tattooing all day you go home and eat, sleep and then do it all again. It has taken until now before I have the luxury to make some time for myself, where I can take a step back and focus on something else.

I recommend that artists always try and find time to devote to their art. It’s difficult but the more hours you devote to it the better you’ll become. Art’s a lot of a memory game. The more you do something the more you will find that your mind pieces the bits together for you.

Matthew Huggett tattooName: Matthew Huggett
Studio: Previous Apprentice at Immortal Ink
Location: Chelmsford, U.K.
Time served as a tattooer: N/A
Time served as a painter: Two years

Right now, I haven’t painted for about a month because I’ve been busy, but I try and keep it up as much as possible. I like to work with oils. I like how you can layer them up; it’s very apply-able and nice to work with. I experimented a bit with acrylics and that but oil all the way.

I got my apprenticeship here after I used to skive off of school and hang out with the tattooers. I think Jason admired my bling enthusiasm. Being here has taught me to observe. Do not be a dickhead and think you know it all. Just sit back and watch other people. Soak up as much as you can.

Lianne Moule Immortal Ink

Name: Lianne Moule
Studio: Immortal Ink
Location: Chelmsford, U.K.
Time served as a tattooer: Five years
Time served as a painter: Since she was a young child, forever.

I’ve been painting since I was a teenager, on and off nowadays I don’t get as much as I’d like. I have phases. Sometimes I can go for months without painting. Work and life get in the way I guess.

I was painting with oils long before I was tattooing but I use a bit of everything really – graphite, charcoal and watercolours. The only thing I don’t use much is acrylics. I didn’t get on with them very well. I’m working with a lot of watercolours at the moment because my work’s kind of watercolour-esque. It all goes hand in hand. It’s all art at the end of the day and tattooing is just another medium. Just because it is on skin doesn’t make it any different.

For any artist looking to progress, I’d recommend that they just do more of whatever they can do. It doesn’t matter if it’s drawing, painting, sculpture, whatever; as long as you’re being artistic and loving it. You’ve got to have a love for what you’re doing.

Luke Edgar immortal ink

Name: Luke Edgar
Studio: Immortal Ink
Location: Chelmsford, U.K.
Time served as a tattooer: Apprentice
Time served as a painter: Two years

I’ve just finished at art college and I start my apprenticeship with Jason within the next month. I’ve always known I wanted to work in art and tattooing was a natural progression to that. I feel like I have already learnt a lot just by watching them [at Immortal Ink], almost like a head start before I start the apprenticeship proper.

I’m eager to try to use as many different media as I can and I’m particularly keen on using Indian Ink and oils. These oil painting workshops are a good extension of this. It’s and important part of wanting to be a great tattoo artist.

Nicola immortal ink

Name: Nicola Baran
Studio: Immortal Ink
Location: Chelmsford, U.K.
Time served as a tattooer: None
Time served as a painter: Poster paint since I was 2!

I work in the studio but I’m not a tattooist. I left my old job as a sign writer because I didn’t like the working environment. I saw this job and applied for it so that I could be in a nicer environment, one where I get along with everyone. Plus, it is better that working in Tesco.

I paint quite regularly, or at least I try to. I occasionally model for the life drawing sessions here at the studio but I try to paint in my spare time otherwise. I use mainly oils, although if I’m drawing I’ll use pencil. Having a background in design (from sign-writing) helps when you draw stuff in vector format. You’ll tend to use basic shapes. For instance, I used to do a lot of logo design and you end up simplifying it right down so it works in one colour. That helps when you’re drawing because you can simplify it right down.

John Edgar immortal ink

Name: John Edgar
Studio: N/A
Location: Chelmsford, U.K.
Time served as a tattooer: N/A
Time served as a painter: One Year

I’m a structural technician so a lot of the work I do is on the computer. I took the wrong path at an early age, but I’m trying to get back into doing more art and I’ve just started painting again. I’ve worked a lot with oils previously, but I’ve never done it this way; restricted to just three colours.

We’ve also been using charcoals and drawing from life. That experience alone has brought my drawing on so much. Whatever medium you work in, it’s really only about the art. In tattooing, there seems to be a lot of people chasing the rock-star status. I don’t think it’s good. You should be chasing art rather than the status.

Jim Linch painting

Name: Jim Lynch
Studio: Immortal Ink
Location: Chelmsford, U.K.
Time served as a tattooer: Six and a half years
Time served as a painter: Since he was a child

Bef0re I started tattooing I used pencils, just graphite. I didn’t start using colour paints until I started tattooing. Now I paint quite regularly and I’ve been using oils since I’ve been here at Immortal. I’ve used acrylics, pencils, watercolour pencils, oil pastels, airbrush but not much with oils until Jason showed me how. It was quite daunting at first but he showed me what to do and it’s actually easier than acrylics. Oils are now my preferred choice because they don’t dry as quickly. I get more chance to move things about. It looks a lot better when it’s done too; the lines looks nicer and you get a nice shine from them.

Using colour and paint has helped a lot with my tattooing, especially doing colour tattoos. Painting has taught me it’s all about using opposite colours to make stuff ‘pop’.

Ed Hunt painting immortal ink

Name: Ed Hunt
Studio: Ritual Art
Location: Rainham, U.K.
Time served as a tattooer: Four years
Time served as a painter: Two years

I’ve only ever done a little bit of painting with oils before. It’s not what I’d normally go for, but who wouldn’t want to have a go at oil painting? I haven’t painted anything for about three years, so when Jason asked if I wanted to come along tonight I jumped at the chance. I’d wanted to get back into painting for ages but I don’t have any time for tattooing or drawing for tattoos takes it because of all my time up.

Previously I’ve always been a little traditional with just pen and ink, but lately, I’ve been working with Photoshop. That’s why I like tattooing, going from the pen and black ink to needle and black ink into skin. My drawing is still way ahead of my tattooing. I don’t think I’ve quite caught up yet, but I will, you’ve always got to be pushing forward.

Tattooing non-stop all day long has improved my art enormously. Before I was tattooing I was doing professional freelance illustration, but only since I’ve been tattooing have I noticed that my work has got so much better.

David Corden Immortal Ink skull painting

Name: David Corden
Studio: On The Road
Location: On The Road
Time served as a tattooer: Seven Years
Time served as a painter: This was my third painting

I don’t usually paint. In fact, I have only ever done 2 and a half paintings in my whole life. I’ve always felt to be a real artist you need to be able to paint but I’ve been too scared to get started because I wanted to be brilliant straight away. I’m a pencil artist primarily. I do have a fear of paint, I know what’s possible and I know how good it is possible to be. I want to make that leap from ‘average’ to ‘amazing’, but without having to do all the steps in between. But you’ve got to do them, make mistakes and learn from them and do another painting.

At school, I occasionally picked up a paint brush but I didn’t do very well. They didn’t like the realism stuff I did and wanted me to do more abstract work; so I put down the brushes and hardly ever picked them up again until now.

My first attempt at painting and it came out pretty well. Even though I’d had no instruction at all, I felt that I had learned quite a lot from that first session and so after my third session I decided to watch an instructional DVD. It turned out that I had broken pretty much every rule and was apparently doing everything wrong. So today will perhaps be the first oil painting I’ve done properly because someone who’s good at oil painting will be showing me what to do.

My tattooing has benefitted more from painting than vice versa. All of my tattoo heroes are amazing painters too, so it’s no coincidence that it lends itself to tattooing. You can become a better tattoo artist if you become better at painting on canvas.

Painting is just one way that you can challenge yourself to progress. As long as you’re doing something artistic, whether it is with pencils or charcoal or whatever, as long as you’re applying yourself as an artist as often as you possibly can then you’ll be learning and developing. I’m surprised by just how much I’m enjoying painting. I thought it would be one of those things I might become bored of if I didn’t get to be amazing very quickly – but I love it.

Step by Step Immortal Ink Tutorial Step By Step

A quick and really fun way to paint that allows you to finish a painting in one go or at least let it dry and then do the final step.

1. Having transferred the image onto my canvas, I start by blocking in the darkest colour; black in this piece. I’m only using three primary colours and white, so I make black by mixing all three primaries together.

2. Then I start to block in my next darkest value; which in this case is a dark blue. I’m moving quickly and not worrying about blending colours together. At this stage, I’m just blocking in what I see.

3. I’m moving through the painting from dark value to light, trying to make each colour as accurate as possible from my reference and put it where I see it in the painting. You start to see colours more accurately as you spend more time looking at your reference and practising. Notice how blocky the painting looks at this stage.

4. Now I begin to put background colour in. This can be done before you paint the main image, but I chose to do it after on this occasion.

5. Once I’ve blocked in the whole piece I use a soft brush to gently blend the colours where this is required. This makes the whole painting look smoother and brings the values closer together.

6. Then I go back in and darken up my darks and lighten the light areas, bringing more contrast back into painting. I sharpen up the areas that I want to bring into focus, add a few small details and then I shall call this one finished.

Ben Lakin

Ben was the original founder and editor of Nine Mag. He is the studio owner of No Regrets Cheltenham and Cloak & Dagger London.