Also known as Garth Neale, Perth based tattoo artist Shrume has developed his unique style together with his cult following after 12 years of professional tattooing. Here is what he had to say about his style, influences and the politics of the Perth tattoo industry.
How did you first get into tattooing?
As a youth I was heavily involved in writing graffiti and through this I built a reputation that helped me get a foot in the door to tattooing. My first introduction to tattooing was through a good friend of mine who offered me an apprenticeship after seeing walls that I had painted throughout the city. This apprenticeship was quite short lived due to the clandestine operation that he was running at the time. It was a professional studio but was kept very secretive due to certain underlying politics that exist in the industry. The shop had no signage and was strictly word of mouth. The ever growing popularity led to the point where we had to shut shop or else run the risk of being shut down by due force and lose everything. I had enough equipment and had gained enough knowledge to do simple little tattoos which I did on friends until I could find a suitable studio to continue with my apprenticeship. Back in these days mostly every shop was owned and operated by outlaw bike clubs who were mainly all white supremacists at the time. So it wasn’t an easy industry for a young dark skinned youth to break into. After a short period of time and a couple of close encounters I was introduced to Mike E the owner of Unique Tattoos, he took me on as his apprentice and I continued my journey into the world of tattoo.
What is the process you go through when creating a new tattoo design?
Every new piece of work always begins with an initial consultation where I sit down with the client and go through their design ideas with them. This gives me an opportunity to try and get a feel for the person and what it is that they actually have in their head. This is a very important part of the process as each piece is custom designed for the individual and should somewhat reflect their personality. During this consultation I can also discuss what may and may not translate well into a tattoo. Working with skin and ink is very different to any other medium as skin is constantly stretching and contorting with the body growing and moving constantly and the ink is destined to spread to a degree dependent on the elasticity of the skin. So given these uncontrollable factors a client may have a really fantastic idea but that idea may not necessarily interpret so well as a tattoo. Therefore in some circumstances I need to work with them to create a suitable concept that still reflects their original ideas.
From here I can get a general idea of the time frame required and we can proceed to book appointments. Once the appointments are booked I usually get the client to return a week or two prior to their first appointment where I can then re-familiarize myself with them and go over their design ideas again. I then take a rough tracing of the area where the tattoo is to be worn. On this tracing I make note of where muscle lines form and where directional lines of the body flow also any bends or bones that may protrude, all of these factors are highly instrumental in designing a good tattoo. Once the tracing is taken I start sketching over the top to work out the overall composition. Once the composition is tailored to the body I then work back into the design refining it and adding in detail.
Tattoos like everything go through style changes. What are you seeing that is popular at the moment and where do you think the styles are headed in the future?
To tell you the truth I don’t really pay too much attention to syles/fads or what’s “so right now.” I believe every artist should have they’re own style, or at least be developing their body of work in a particular direction of originality which they can call their own. I think as far as tattooing goes there are styles that are tried and trued as exceptional tattoo imagery and have proved to hold the test of time in the skin. I think it is of crucial importance that every tattooer have some degree of knowledge and understanding of why these styles work in order for them to create good works.
Ever had any disasters?
No. There’s no room for error….
Do you have a favourite artist, or artists?
Yes I have many but just to mention a few and in no particular order; some tattooers would be Filip Leu, Horiyoshi III, Grime, Marcus Pacheco, Mick from Zurich, Henning Jorgenson, Chris O’Donnell, Mike Rubendall, Shige, Guy Aitchison, Aaron Cain, Adam Barton, Klem, Grez the list goes on…… I also dig a lot of the Japanese ukiyo-e artists as well, some such as Hokusai, Kuniyoshi, Hiroshige, Yoshitoshi but there are so many other artists from so many other genre’s/ movements that I love and find awe inspiring……
What are you reading/watching/listening to/browsing at the moment?
Right at this very moment I am listening to Fat Freddys Drop but as of late I have been listening to a bit of The Black Keys, Jimi Hendrix, Freeland, Pharoahe Monch, The Glitch Mob and Nightmares On Wax to name but a few. I usually just put my music player on shuffle and listen to a broad selection of artists ranging from the likes of Frank Sinatra to Black Sabbath.
Where do you find inspiration?
I look for and try and find Inspiration in everything I see, hear and experience on a daily basis. My girlfriend is of monumental inspiration to me, as are a lot of my close friends and family. Travel and music also play massive roles in inspiring me…