Artists: Robert Ekman
What year did you start tattooing?
The first time I picked up a tattoo machine I guess was around 2006.
How did you get into tattooing?
I was currently working at a warehouse where I was packing orders of animal products such as dog food, collars and stuff like that. In my free time I was trying to figure out how to airbrush and I got quite good at it. A colleague of mine saw what I could draw and then said that if I would get some tattoo equipment I could tattoo him. I had always been curious of the tattoo industry and had a few tattoos of my own already. I think I was around 19 at this point in time. I got a hold of some old crappy machines and some ink and needles, they were really bad machines and the ink was old as fuck but I didn’t know better so I tried it out and I got hooked.
What is the tattoo scene like in Sweden?
The tattoo scene in Sweden is big. We have several tattoo conventions each year and the demand of tattoos is really hard to meet. I only see an increase of people wanting work and it’s fun to see that it’s growing to be more accepted and people are being more picky about who they want to do work on them.
What led you to open Mr. Oakman’s Tattoo Parlor?
I had been working in a lot of shops around Sweden as both a permanent artist and a guest artist. So I got to see a lot of different ways of handling a studio and the way things worked. I came into a place in life where I needed to move forward in my career and opening my own studio seemed to be the right thing to do; and I have not regret it once.
How do you describe your style?
Realism, with a lot of contrast! I use a lot of black in my tattoos and no lines whatsoever. I want to see what it’s supposed to be from across the room.
What led you to work in realism?
I tried doing old school, Neo-Traditional and New School, but I didn’t do it justice. Something about realism appealed to me, and it’s easier for me to look at a photo and picture it as a tattoo than it is for me to look at a turtle and make it New School. I like to make tattoos as real looking as I can possibly do.
Do you prefer color or black and grey?
I prefer black and grey because color is messy and time consuming. But don’t get me wrong; I love to do color realism as well. But if I had to choose I would choose the black!
What subject matters do you prefer?
I love to do animal portraits and wildlife. Also I like to do portraits from movies or famous people just because the photo references are usually really good and plenty. I also love to do skulls; I can never do enough skulls! I also like textures, making it look like you can touch the tattoo and it will feel like the subject looks, like a gnarly looking skull or a soft rose.
Do you approach portraits in the same way you approach other subjects?
I often approach portraits with caution. It takes me an hour or two to get warmed up when it comes to family portraits. I would hate to mess it up! Other subjects I can use my artistic eye to make it look different, but when it comes to portraits I have to stick to the reference that is given to me.