At Hyperspace Studios, a private atelier in southern Illinois, Guy Aitchison and Michele Wortman receive collectors from around the world who want to be tattooed by two of the industry’s pioneers of contemporary tattoo styles. After more than two decades of work, Aitchison continues to innovate and expand the artistic vocabulary of the biomechanical and bioorganic tattoo genre, while Wortman takes a feminine approach with painterly floral-form body sets. The husband and wife team are also renowned for promoting fine art and education in the tattoo community. In this interview, they share how their distinctive artist styles developed, some of the controversy behind their approaches, and how one can be a better artist through attitude adjustment.
INKED: You’re both renowned for your distinctive styles. How would you describe them?
GUY AITCHISON: I work in abstract style—a lot of different abstract styles—but generally it’s earned the definition of biomechanical. This can take many forms as long as it’s a nonrepresentational kind of tattooing that flows with the human form. it could be something that is either kind of robotic—imagine a Transformers style—or it could be something a bit more organic, like an alien exoskeleton with all kinds of crazy textures. or sometimes you get a mix. People who get tattoos from me generally just want to get tattooed. a lot of people feel like they need to have a pretext for their tattoo that symbolizes something, but people who have collected enough often will arrive at a place where they are getting tattooed because they’re getting tattooed. They like tattoos. They are looking to be decorated. That’s the number one rule of this style. Make it attractive, make it flow well with the body, make it sort of exaggerate the musculature a bit. it’s meant to be flattering but also meant to instill a sense of, “Wow, I’ve never seen anything like that before.” When people come across it, they should be stopped in their tracks a bit.
When you first started tattooing and developing this style in 1988, it was really new and innovative.
AITCHISON: Well, I wasn’t the first person to do this stuff. I was attracted to H.r. Giger’s paintings. That was part of what got me interested in tattooing initially. I wanted to tattoo stuff like that. For those not familiar, Giger designed the sets and monsters for Ridley Scott’s Alien movie. It has this look that just has a natural flow, great depth, and a sense of realism to it. I thought it would look great on skin. in my first year of tattooing, I came across a few people who were actually doing Giger paintings as tattoos, and a few had done a really nice job of it. It definitely proved the point that it was a viable style. I then started hanging around a few of these tattooers: Eddie Deutsche, Greg Kulz, aaron cain, and Marcus Pacheco. These are the ones who were really exploring the abstract style at the time. We started working on each other and collaborating in various different mediums, and then diverged away from being Giger clones, and each of us looked to redefine what we were seeing. In particular, I was looking for ways to make it look stronger as a tattoo. I was working with bigger shapes that flowed with the body as the structure for the whole thing. and then you have basically this infinite variety of textures and effects, lighting, things that you can apply to it. So it was definitely influenced by H.R. Giger and by these other tattooers I worked with, but at this particular juncture, 23 years later, it’s certainly taken on its own look.