The classics never go out of style, which is a helpful attribute to have when you're talking about a piece of art you'll be carrying with you for the rest of your life. Black-and-grey may not be as flashy and exciting as some of the newer tattoo trends, but you can be assured that you won't be regretting the decision a couple decades down the road. Becky Salter understands this and specializes in black-and-grey, producing some incredibly sick portraiture. Learn more about the talented Aussie in our interview below.
Tell us a little about who you are.
My name is Becky Salter, from Melbourne, Australia. I'm the owner of Reverence Tattoo, we have/own two locations, Oakleigh (which I work out of) and Richmond (just a few minutes out of the CBD) I have been a tattoo artist for 12 years, and I specialize in black and grey tattoos.
When did you first discover a love of art?
My love of art started very very young, maybe around the age of 4. I would draw art for my friends in school, I would host little art galleries in my bedroom for my family to see. I knew it was my passion, and that somehow one day I would make art for a living.
How did you begin your tattoo career? Did you have an apprenticeship or learn on your own?
I started my apprenticeship in 2010, and fell in love with tattooing. I found other mediums did not spark the same passion like creating a tattoo did. I became fully qualified within a year and started tattooing full time from there.
What is the tattoo scene like in Melbourne?
Melbourne as a city in general is very Cosmopolitan. The demand for good quality tattoo art is very high. I think its great, because I find myself always raising the bar, to challenge myself a little more, to seek perfection in every single piece I make.
How did you find your way to black-and-grey?
Before the idea of tattooing even sparked in my mind, I used to be a portrait artist, creating commissioned graphite portraits of pets, family members etc. So I've always preferred to work in black-and-grey.
What is it about black-and-grey that continues to inspire you? What do you find most challenging about the style?
I find it timeless, classic, and easy on the eye. It captures a moment in time, especially a tattoo portrait of a loved one, it takes you back to when that photograph was taken—like a memory you can wear forever! I think that's what I love the most about it.
It can be challenging at times when a client is wanting a portrait of a perhaps a grandparent, and the only image they have is a wallet size photo that was taken of them when they were young. The photo needs to be enhanced through Photoshop first to be able to be used for the tattoo.
Do you ever find yourself working in color?
Not usually. I am too in love with black-and-grey, and love learning more every day how to improve my techniques in that department.
What are some of your favorite subject matter to tattoo?
I like mythology from any culture. In particular, I love stylized female portraiture. Roman, Greek, Nordic are a few to mention. Perhaps a female Valkyrie, or a Goddess with an ornate mystical headpiece etc.
What is the key to capturing somebody's essence in a portrait?
Oh I love portraiture. The key to capturing the essence in a portrait is the very reason I love to create it so much—it's all in the eyes, the window to the soul!
How would you describe your signature style?
I think my signature style would be beautiful females with soft angelic faces. I like attention to detail. I think my tattoos have a very feminine touch to them. Having said that, my male clientele is just as high as my female clientele, so I think my style works for everyone.
What are some of the most valuable life lessons you've learned from tattooing?
Being able to create a portrait of a loved one for a client is such an honor. To be able to gift something so precious, and to literally have them in tears from how much they love it, to me, that is the biggest blessing. I am very humbled by what I do.
What other mediums of art have you worked in?
I've done large scale paintings on walls in local businesses community centers and gyms. I also paint and gold foil on canvas for commissions in my spare time.
Can you walk us through your design process?
I do an initial consult with my client to get a feel for the direction they want to go in. I research some ideas, and start to build a design using Photoshop. Once the design has been created and stencilled onto the skin, I spend some time drawing some movement and additional elements to the piece, working with the contours of the body to create a flowing mural, where everything has a place and purpose.
What is a tattoo you've been dying to do that you haven't had a chance to work on yet?
I have done portraits of celebrities, but I would absolutely love to do a full sleeve of ‘50s Hollywood stars (something like the “Blvd of Broken Dreams” artwork by Gottfried Helnwein).