Artists: Artist Spotlight: Chris Jones
124 City Road
Cardiff, South Wales CF24 3DQ
What year did you start tattooing?
I’ve been tattooing for around 14 years now, so I guess I started around 2000, 2001 maybe. I’m not sure of the exact date; I dipped in and out of it in the beginning.
How did you get into tattooing?
The wrong way, I had no formal apprenticeship and am totally self taught. I only had a few tattoos when I started so I went into it totally blind. I tried my best not to be a kitchen wizard, though. I renovated the spare room of my house into a studio and got registered with the local EHO. I remember the first thing I bought was a Prestige Medical Autoclave, a steam one; it was like a glorified pressure cooker. Making my own needles and stuff was all trial and error and all of my first tattoos were done on myself.
What was your first shop experience like?
My first shop experience as a client was probably what set me off down the road of tattooing. I didn’t set foot in a studio until I was 19. I always thought you had to be an amazing artist to tattoo someone because it was permanent, you couldn’t make any mistakes, and it was there for life. Then when I was 19 and finally went for my first tattoo and they put a stencil on I was like what the fuck? He was just tracing it. [Laughs] I pretty much had to try it after that. It’s not like I just wanted to try tattooing because it was cool, I had always been into art and was already getting a degree in graphic design. After just finishing art college and trying every media there is, tattooing was just a new one, one I hadn’t tried yet. I started getting tattooed a lot and hanging around the studio whenever I could. I did ask for an apprenticeship or some nuggets of information but was always denied; it never deterred me though.
Do you have any special training?
Other than a two-year art college course in general art and design and a few months of a degree in graphic design, absolutely none.
What conventions have you done recently or are planning to do this year?
I do so many shows, probably work about 70% of the shows in the UK and a few in the States. My favorite things to work, though, are comic conventions in the U.S. with Ink-Fusion. They are awesome, just a handful of like-minded artists, no drama, no politics just nerdy artists nerding out at comic cons. It’s so much fun. Doing these kinds of shows led me to starting my own show in the UK, The Cardiff Tattoo and Toy Con. The aim was to try to mix tattoos and pop culture (comics, movies, toys, etc.) together as one and it has so far been an awesome success. I think I have three shows left this year: Tattoo Jam, the Halloween Tattoo Bash and the Sheffield Tattoo Show. Then it all starts again in January with the Brighton show.
What led you to work in realism?
Just natural progression I guess. I started doing black and grey portraits because the shop I worked in had a guy who specialized in them. He was booked out forever so I started doing them, too. Sometimes people didn’t want to wait for him and would go elsewhere so I thought if I did them it would keep those clients coming to our shop. Luckily, it worked and I just got busier.
What led you to work primarily in color?
I started off working in color. I loved graffiti and comic book art when I started out and was heavy into the New School style. Portrait work I had always done in black and grey until someone requested one in color; it was one of the scariest days of my life. I think that’s why I started doing so much of it; tattooing became scary and exciting again, like it was when I first started.
You tattoo a lot of portraiture. What are some of the major subject matters you like to tattoo?
I love doing anything from pop culture, movie stuff mostly. I do a lot of Star Wars and Marvel stuff, but I’m a fan of all kinds of movies. My life pretty much consists of tattooing and watching movies.
Do you take your own photo references?
Nah, I suck at taking photos; it’s hard enough to get good pictures of the tattoos I have done. [Laughs] I do try and get my own reference images from places other than Google, though, and Photoshop stuff together so it’s different. Custom realism I like to call it. The Frankenstein School of Design: a head from here, a hand from there, put together to make a custom piece.
What inspires you as an artist?
Pretty much everything: movies, comic books, TV, music, nature, technology, my friends, my kids, my dreams…
What other media do you work in?
On the rare occasion that I get to work in another medium, I like to paint digitally. I started drawing less and less as I did more portrait work and started working digitally with Photoshop, so I just ran with that. I got myself a fancy tablet and some drawing programs. I’m always learning with that, too, watching tutorials and reading books.
How have you branched out from tattooing?
I don’t think I’ve branched out from tattooing, but I’ve branched out with tattooing. I have a successful shop that houses six awesome artists, I run my own convention and have just broken in to TV and starred in Epic Ink on A&E. I got to spend two months with some of my best friends in America filming ten episodes of a new tattoo reality show. It was so much fun.
What tattoo artists do you admire most?
My list of inspirational artists grows all the time. There’s so much talent out there at the moment and thanks to Instagram and Facebook, you can keep so up to date with what they are doing. I guess the people who blow me away most often are Nikko Hurtado, Rich Pineda, Benjamin Laukis and David Corden.
What kind of tattoos do you look forward to doing?
Anything Star Wars or Marvel, although I usually look forward to whatever I’m doing, I’m just happy to be tattooing.
Before someone gets a tattoo what advice do you give them?
I always try to advise people on the right reference and the right placement, both things are very important. A good portrait can look wrong if it’s not placed right.
Is there a tattoo that you haven’t done yet that you are dying to do?
There are so many portraits I would like to do, but for some reason recently I keep wanting to do a Steve Buscemi portrait. Any takers?
What has been one of your favorite pieces to tattoo?
My favorite tattoo is always the last one that I did. I put my heart and soul into them and the last one is always my favorite until I finish the next one. But saying that, I did get to do a Rocket Raccoon and it was so much fun because Guardians of the Galaxy is the best film ever!