Artists: Phatt German
What year did you start tattooing?
January 2007 back in Sweden.
How did you get into tattooing?
I grew up with tattoos and art; it was constantly all around me. My mother brought me with her when she got tattooed by Henning Jorgensen at Royal Tattoo in Denmark. I was four, so that’s 26 years ago. I started to get tattooed very early on and that sparked my interest in tattooing.
Do you have any special training?
No, no formal training. I was taught how to paint and appreciate art by my grandfather, who is an amazing artist. By having a lot of tattooed people in my family and around me whilst growing up I learned how to draw tattoos when other kids drew stick men and fruit bowls.
You are originally from Sweden, but now work in the UK. How are the two tattoo scenes in those countries different from one another?
I think it’s a bit unfair to compare any other country’s tattoo scene to the British. The UK has an amazingly rich tattoo history and it’s a very progressive and creative scene over here. That’s also why my family and I chose to come here. Saying that, Sweden has a very strong traditional bond and I think some of the best traditional, old school artists in the world are Swedish. The beauty of tattooing is that it’s organic and it evolves and changes from year to year, if not even from month to month. Almost every week or so I discover a new artist that just blows my mind, so it’s constantly moving forward.
What led you to work in realism?
It’s only in the past two years or so that I’ve headed more towards realism. I think traditional styles, neo-traditional or any illustrative type of work is more difficult to do well than realism. So I guess it’s more comfortable and relaxing for me to do realism. You have your reference picture there like paint by numbers. Whereas when you tattoo something you’ve drawn yourself you need to come up with light sources, shadows, color schemes, etc. As with realism, there are so many different types of it: hyperrealism, stylized realism, minimal realism, etc. Realism only takes up about 60-70% of my time though.
What subject matters do you prefer?
If I have to choose one it would be skulls, like a million other artists. There’s just something about skulls that I love. You can do them in so many different styles, shapes and ways, and it’s always interesting. If I sit down to just draw something, I’ll draw a skull.
What inspires you as an artist?
My family, just knowing that I have to support them makes it really important for me to push myself to get better. I never struggle with inspiration though. I love tattooing so much; I’ve been doing it six to seven days a week for over seven years now and I always feel inspired. My wife and I talk a lot about tattoos and art and she’s really motivating and genuinely interested in tattoos so that makes it easier as well. I still draw most nights for at least four to five hours, too. I think that’s extremely important to keep progressing and finding new ways and ideas.
What other media do you work in?
I draw with graphite and paint with watercolors. I used to paint with oils, but I haven’t done that for a while; hopefully I will take it up one day. I’m really into Pro and Copic Markers at the moment. I like the illustrative, flat look and their color range.
What tattoo artists do you admire most?
Nikko [Hurtado] and Paul Acker with their technical perfection; Dan Sinnes, Khan, Matthew James, King Carlos, Carlos Torres, Sneaky Mitch, Benjamin Laukis…Man I could go on forever; there are so many insanely great artists around now.
Is there a tattoo that you haven’t done yet that you are dying to do?
The perfect skull, maybe. I’m still looking for the reference though. I’m also still waiting to do the portraits of my sons on my wife, no pressure there.
What has been your favorite piece to tattoo?
I honestly try to keep it to one of the latest pieces I’ve done. I did a portrait of Walter White from Breaking Bad last year which is still one of my favorites, mainly cause I loved the show so much.