RHYS GORDON // www.rhysgordon.com
1. How long have you been tattooing?
I started taking tattooing seriously in 1990; I was 17. I got my first tattoo at 15, then began hanging around the tattoo shop from then. I did my first tattoo 16.
2. Where did you start tattooing?
I’m originally from Melbourne and began tattooing with Tattoo Charlie in Reservoir.
3. What was your initial interest from?
This came from seeing Sharpies and knockabout types in my area. Then upon my first visit to a tattoo shop, the smell, sound, design covered walls and clientele; I was in love and clearly remember thinking what a cool job this would be.
4. What are your favourite styles to tattoo?
Obviously Traditional Japanese, but being from a street shop background, anything that is done well i.e. traditional Americana, lettering, black and grey, tribal and dot work. Anything well laid out with a thought for the future, I can appreciate even if there is no interest in actually tattooing it or owning it but Japanese is where my heart is at. This comes down to a certain power, clarity and longevity it possesses.
1970-1980 is my favourite period of tattooing coming out of Japan. I’m not Japanese, don’t try to be, but I do wear a body suit and do my interpretation of this classic style. I have the freedom of a Westerner to mix it up a little, not being bound by cultural traditions, so I try to refine my backgrounds, that they are a different size and will be clean and clear 20/30/40 years down the track. I’ve seen 30/40 year old bodysuits in Japan still looking good; this is my goal.
I have the best customers who are wanting large work and a few bodysuits on the go; a huge honour in a time with so many great tattooers around.
I’m more excited now, after 25 years, than before and I havea long way to go and am so grateful to tattooing for this life.
5. Who/what are your influences (tattoo, art, music… anything)
Everyone and everything, good or bad, but these days I’ve limited my referencing to 1970/1980 Japanese tattoo books and past masters of Ukiyo-e and use this as a springboard for my style.
From a tattoo artist/shop point of view, I’ve worked in 30+ shops, both here and internationally. Most have taught me what not to do.
The influential ones for me are: Kenny Mac, Trevor McStay, Cliffe Clayton and Tatudharma.
Trevor McStay has done a lot of tattooing on me since 1995 and has been a great mentor, friend and general ambassador for tattooing; an inspiration.
6. What are your interests outside of tattooing
I love travelling, friends and horsepower, both 4 + 2 wheels. The usual suspects.
7. What are your future goals (career/art)
To simplify further both work and life.
For Little Tokyo to continue to grow organically as it has.
More long haul motorcycle rides and travel.
Art wise, just to do more and more.
Never is the time to take it easy.
8. Do you do any other art than tattooing
I try to build old muscle cars and motorcycles into works of art.
A little bit of watercolour but nothing major as most of my art is on the street walking around.
I study water a lot and am trying for a really readable flow on the body, so lots of rough sketching and scribbles.