Something a bit different from me today, a travel blog- nothing to do with tattooing or our animal sanctuary, but a mini adventure with my dog Beany πŸ™‚

It’s summer and my customers at work are all telling me about where they are going for their holidays, or where they’ve just come back from- one of my customers is even on an epic road trip around south America, making me feel like I’m missing out a bit here.

It’s a busy time for us at work and at the sanctuary, so getting away is problematic, and usually we take our holidays in the colder months (if at all), so I only managed to sneak off for one night for this mini adventure, but better than nothing, right?

I decided to visit the Isle of Bute, it’s not far from the sanctuary- an hr to the ferry and the crossing isn’t long- so it was an easy one. I’ve not been to the island since a school trip in primary 3, so i was looking forward to seeing the castle and the esplanade again, see how the reality stacks up against the childhood memory. The other thing that attracted me to Bute was a thing I saw on tv a few years ago, a program called ‘restoration’ showed what looked like an incredible mansion house in need of rescuing, Mount Stuart. This I needed to see.

My accommodation for the night was going to be my estate car, another thing I’d been thinking about trying out to see how feasible it was to spend a comfy night in your own motor. If that worked, then you could really go anywhere your car would take you… if it didn’t work, I wasn’t too far from home πŸ™‚

I took my well behaved dog Beany with me for company and security, if anyone tried to bother me while I was sleeping in the car, she would have a hairy fit and scare them off. She is an angel of a dog, as long as you don’t come too close to the car!

The ferry from Wemyss Bay goes regularly, so you’ll never need to wait too long, and the crossing is short, half an hour or so.

You get into Rothsay, the main town of Bute, a typical seaside place of faded Victorian grandeur. It was once a massive tourist attraction, but that has changed and now it seems quite a sleepy place.

My first stop was the castle, my main memory from that school trip was doing cart wheels on the lawn of the castle, until I got yelled at by an adult, I was far too close to the edge for such high jinks. Sure enough, I stopped the cart wheels and peered over the edge of the precipice into the abyss and shuddered at what could have happened.

Having looked at the same spot again, I might have got wet if I’d fallen over the edge, maybe a couple of bruises! πŸ™‚

Our next stop was Ettrick Bay, a lovely big sandy crescent with views of the Kyles of Bute and Arran.


At the south endΒ  of the bay there is a handy little car park away from the main road, (noted for future reference) we stopped there and went for a beach walk to the north of the bay. There must have been a festival of sorts just gone, and the big tent was still up, and a few people tidying up.

There’s also a tea room, which I didn’t visit, but it made me think that maybe Ettrick Bay was a good spot to try my over night camping experiment.

We took a drive down to Scalpsie Bay in the south, it’s beautiful place with views over to the mountains of Arran. You can also see the seals sunning themselves up on the rocks, there’s a nice little walk down from the road you can take to get a closer look at them, not close enough to bother them, of course. Love seals. It’s such a privilege to see them.


Our next stop was further down the coast at Dunagoil, to see the caves and walk the rocky shore, this is a beautiful spot and the site of an ancient hill fort, well worth a visit.

I was keeping an eye out for a potential camping spot, but to be honest, I couldn’t see anything that was better then Ettrick Bay. There are a few roads on Bute, some with passing places and the odd small visitor car park, and we must have been on every one of them (Bute is very small), and the rest are private access roads leading to houses. If you are looking for somewhere scenic and fairly private to park up for the night, your options are limited, so Ettrick Bay it was.

We parked up, went another walk, and settled down for the night.

With my back seats folded down and the front seat folded back, I can easily stretch out in my car, and it was surprisingly comfortable.

I made half an attempt to hang some fabric in front of the windows for privacy, but it seemed a lot of effort for no reason, as there wasn’t anyone round to be looking in. This is something I’ll try and sort better for next time, as it should be quite easy to rig something up that can be hung quickly and do the job. As it was, i wanted to windows open a bit for air, as it got really hot fast, so the fabric got folded away. Next time I’ll have a think about a sort of privacy screen, and some kind of midgie net that allows for the windows to be open without getting eaten alive. I was lucky I didn’t get bitten.

Overall, a good night, I was surprised to see another car parked a bit away when I woke up, someone walking their dog early, I was sure me or Beany would have heard something, but no.

The plan for the morning was to visit Mount Stuart, before getting the ferry around lunch time. We went to Rothsay to see about getting some vegan breakfast -apparently you can, but not before 10am…so we ate our supplies and headed south a bit to Mount Stuart.

We walked around the amazing gardens,

down to the shoreline,



around the beautiful kitchen gardens, admired the champion trees- what a place!- but there are no dogs allowed in the house. Fair enough, I’ll have to come back another time, without a dog, and do my nosey int the crazy looking mansion, good excuse to come back.

To my amazement, the little cafe had two choices of vegan cake on offer, it would have been rude not to try one, of course. Purely for research purposes!

That was our mini adventure, Beany had a great time and so did I, I recommend camping in your car AND visiting Bute!





march+ april 2019

Posted: 23/05/2019 in Uncategorized

I’ve been working on Harley a lot over the past few months, when he first came to me a few years ago, we did two japanese sleeves in black and grey, and after a break from getting tattooed, he came back with a bang and with plans to go full out with a full torso tattoo.

He loves his comics, so he wanted to dedicate his back to the series ‘Saga’, and his front to the comic ‘Monstress’. Both are illustrated by phenomenal artists (Fiona Staples and Sana Takeda respectively), so it was a joy to work with their amazing illustrations.

Harley and me worked together to bring the pieces into some sort of framework, based on the japanese work he already had, and we kept it all in black and grey for continuity. (That’s a fancy way of saying that we winged it)

Still some gaps to be filled, and some shading to adjust here and there, but you get the idea πŸ™‚

Another epic piece in the making is after a print by Alasdair Gray called ‘Faust in his study’ from 1958. The print is bonkers, but getting it on your whole front is arguably even more bonkers- my customers are the best!

By now I’m dying to show you something where i can actually take credit for the artwork, so here’s a hollyhock in a sleeve of flowers I’m working on. These kind of pieces i usually do freehand, I feel that gives them a bold and illustrative quality that I like.

Billy got two sleeves by me a number of years ago, following the fire and water theme very loosely, and now he wanted them to join up to the newer pieces on his hands. he felt the hand pieces looked too separate, so we extended the colours and shapes from the sleeves down.

Chantelle booked the first session of her sleeve to happen on her 18th birthday, here we have a young lady who knows what she wants!

(Ignore the purple smudge at the bottom of this piece, we were playing around with a transfer, but didn’t like it, and the stuff is bloody hard to wipe off again, so I decided to let Chantelle deal with it in her own time rather than cause her any more pain than I already had)

It’s going to come down on to her hand and fill the whole arm when we’re done.

another animal themed black and grey sleeve is in the making, Sarah is a vegan and loves animals of all kind, so these are mostly portraits of pets she has lived with or animals she has befriended. Including some of the ones at our Tribe sanctuary! Our Skip the donkey, Rudy the cockerel and Francisco the pig all make an appearance, it was a real privilege to be able to tattoo them as part of this lovely sleeve!




and then there was the flying pig with the jet pack and the goggles, accelerate, take off and mid flight all captured in a children’s book sort of style, so much fun!


January+ February 2019

Posted: 12/03/2019 in Uncategorized

Plenty of pretty colours for you in this blog as usual, it’s what i get asked for most, and I love colour as much as the next person, so it’s perfect!

nealle is working on a sleeve of two birds, the forearm and hand is of a peacock in cool colours, blues, greens and the odd splash of contrasting colours. The upper arm and onto the chest will be a phoenix, in warm and fiery colours to compliment the peacock, can’t wait to see the two pieces come together! Here’s the peacock, or as far as we got, some detailling still to go. Nealle says he gets a lot of attention from girls with this colourful piece, so if that’s your thing, you know what to do haha! I can help you with this cunning ploy πŸ˜‰

A much more subdued bird is this magpie, part of an on going botanical drawings style sleeve. We kept the colours in the Victorian palette, to look like hand tinted plates in a book.

Speaking of a muted colour palette, this cute little cover up is reminiscent of designs from yesteryear, incorporating brambles, rosehips and dog roses.

Another botanical piece, including butterflies and acorns πŸ™‚

A couple of scar cover ups next. This koi piece in chunky modern colours and shapes is japanese in influence, but more manga style than traditional. The peony flower is where we hid the worst of the scars, the irregular, organic shapes of the petals allowed us to hide any bumps and lumps in the skin.


More scar cover ups, and here I’ve got to say I did a piece over the scars that I would normally advise against. The intricate shapes of the mandala really don’t do a good job hiding any irregularities, but I’d warned the customer and she was cool with it. You can see where the lines blew out a bit on the scar tissue, but on the whole we pretty much got away with it- it helps that there are soft, organic flower shapes right next to it, they help draw the eye away from any inconsistencies.

A roses and lace piece in progress

And a cute little story capsule, this is an illustration for the poem ‘Tamsons Bairns’, with a fox and a red squirrel.

And here is a big and bonkers story capsule, if you can call it a capsule- it goes over both of Derek’s upper arms and onto the chest. The work in progress design weaves around the four elements, water and fire on one side, and earth and air on this side. The mad vortex represents air, with butterflies coming out of it and flying onto the chest. The earthy side starts with celtic roots, going into the tree of life, which incorporates the green man (and woman, next sesh) and little cute caterpillars climbing up into the vortex, to be reborn as the butterflies. This all came out of Derek’s brain, I just helped him put it all together on his arms- it’s been a fabulously organic process, just the way I like it! Some planning is important, of course, but my favourite way of working is for the ideas to grow with the piece and for it to be a collaboration with the customer.

Dean’s tiger and snake sleeve grew like that, too

This phoenix work in progress is based on a painting by Hokusai, (Hokusai the one with the famous wave painting), muted colours and repetitive shapes give this a classic japanese look. It’s also a cover up, Laura one of our laser techs, had zapped the old piece a few times so that it was light enough to be covered with colour.

Harley is mixing japanese imagery with comic book art, a combination that works well, specially as he has kept it all in black and grey (pretty much). Today we worked on his belly piece, which is of the comic ‘Monstress’


The Seashepherd thing was an interesting trip. For those who aren’t familiar with the Seashepherd, they are a marine conservation group who are not adverse to some pretty confrontational direct action against poachers and illegal fishing. Recently they opened a small tattoo area in their main base/ office / shop in Amsterdam, and were inviting tattooists to come and do some work there, with all proceeds going to theΒ SeashepherdΒ .

Image result for seashpherd logo


I like the concept of tattooing for a good cause, as you probably know, all the profit made at Tribe goes to fund our animals sanctuary here in Scotland. The Seashepherd are a massive organisation, and I was curious to see how they made the tattooing work for them, so I packed my bags, flew over and did some work for them (and my nosey *cough*). It was a good experience, although they are still at the beginning of their venture and there aren’t many customers yet, I fell that I helped contribute a bit to their mission.

the Seashepherd shop is right at the end of this very dutch looking street πŸ™‚

Image may contain: bicycle and outdoor

Back at home I’ve had some interesting projects to get stuck into. I’ve been trying to cut down on posting ‘Work in Progress’ pictures on this blog here, but here’s one anyway! Derek is working on a colourful, bold and imaginative four elements theme, with fire and water on one side

and air and earth on the other arm. We’ve not tackled the earthy bit yet, but the air one is fun!

There are also some old, lasered pieces under the new work, but our laser tech did such a great job with getting rid of the old pieces, that we were able to blast over them with warm colours. Hurray for laser!

another cover up was done without much laser. The design over it had to incorporate plenty of black to hide the old tribal piece, but we did let one corner of the tribal peek out from the dress, so that warranted a small bit of laser to help lighten it and let it disappear in the grey flowers.

Not involving a cover up was Aileen’s phoenix. Aileen loves colours and patterns, so we incorporated some of the patterns found in a geisha sleeve on her arm that we did a while ago. The placement of this phoenix allows for it to stretch it’s wings when Aileen bends her knee πŸ™‚


An unusual trip for me into photo realism, although my usual style is illustrative, I do enjoy this kind of work occasionally. John’s hanya mask

back to japanese work I finished this 3/4 sleeve with a green dragon

and another dragon sleeve (black and grey dragon) with a flash of blue

Scar cover ups are something I enjoy doing, here are some wild flowers and berries, not quite finished yet, but finished for now until the customer decides what flowers she wants next.

I added a few inches on to other artists work with a sleeve about the Hong Kong island of Lantau, there is a massive statue of a buddha at the top of this island ( that and a dragon and some flowers take up 3/4 of the sleeve, by other artists), with hundreds of steps going up and some goddess statues and pillar type structures on the way. we used stylised representations of these to give a kind of dreamscape feel to her sleeve.

now here’s something batshit crazy: a front torso piece after a piece by scottish artist Alasdair Grey. This is what we are working towards:

and here’s what we’ve done so far. We did a section a few years ago, but this is a deliberately long process, the customer likes the slow journey and isn’t in a rush.

another black and grey sleeve, with a fun old world/ pirate map kind of feel

and here are a few smaller pieces and works in progress (..I know…)

I’ve been a bit late to the instagram party, it’s a must for visual artists these days, and I have jumped on the band wagon. Although i much prefer the blog, a bit of a blether and back story, what the kids want these days are smaller snippets of information and images. I’m still going to write this blog, but I have been pilfering it for content and reposting images on instagram- I apologise if you follow me on social media and see the same images and blurbs again; I’m just ‘playin the game’ πŸ™‚

august + september 2018

Posted: 08/10/2018 in Uncategorized

I finished two big pieces recently, one of them the extensive scar cover up. Apologies for the number of pictures, I just couldn’t decide, she rocks her tattoo so well in each one!


and George’s octopus/necktopus is done. He really suits it, the blue of the tattoo brings out the blue of his eyes.

Gerald got a cool upside down moth on his sternum

another scar cover up, this is in a water colour style, works great to disguise scars. The quote is a song reference, and the water colour background is based on the artwork of the record. It seems a nice way to close the chapter on the self harming.

some flowers, california poppies- the start of a flower sleeve,

and blue orchids, a bit of a cover up going on there.

the start of a celtic themed piece with thistles and roses, colour to follow

and a traditional rose on the hand for Billy. The bee was already there. Next time we’ll join it up to the sleeve

work in progress with this badger and wild flowers piece (‘mon the badgers!)

and then two Alfonse Mucha inspired pieces, (one of my favourite artists and an inspiration of mine my whole career)

the first one is Beth’s mermaid and octopus sleeve, we’ve been chipping away at this piece slowly, but it’s starting to come together and look like a sleeve. There are little personal and film references scattered in the background, we will be adding blues and greens to complete the watery background

and this cover up is also inspired by Mucha, the distinctive ‘halo’ is still to come

this looks like I was trying to saw Dean’s arm off haha! I shouldn’t really be posting this, should I….

what was really going on

and Aileen’s phoenix is getting there. We are introducing patterns into the tail feathers that are a reference to the fabrics in her geisha tattoo, a bit different πŸ™‚



this blog is a lot about scar cover ups. I do a fair few of them, and have done for many years, so I’ve seen plenty scars, caused by accidents, self harm or operations. We need to wait a couple of years for the skin to heal as much as it will, and then we can go over them. I’ve not seen scarring that couldn’t be made to look more attractive with a tattoo, although you might need to be flexible as to what kind of tattoo you get- not all designs are suitable.

these two pieces are over self harm scars, as usual, the scars look worse, more raised, just after the tattooing process. This is due to the needles aggravating them, but they calm down again and are much more camouflaged when the tattoo settles.

same for these two

and for this piece. Often these small pieces are the start of a sleeve or so, we have an idea for the bigger picture, but wanted to concentrate on getting the scars covered first.

I’ve started an exciting project- two wings to cover some extensive scarring due to an accident. Her first tattoo!

She has already noticed a difference this tattoo is making to her daily life. With scarring so visible, she finds herself explaining the situation all the time, so the conversation takes a dark turn as she goes over the details of the accident and people’s shock and sympathies…when all she wants is to be her happy self. Now the focus is on her cool tattoo πŸ™‚ Result!

another big badass piece, without scarring, is george’s neck octopus, one more session to tidy little things up here and there, but very happy with this crazy piece, very unique idea, thanks george!


and while on the subject of badassery, I’ll chuck in a picture of Bill and his progress, he is slowly covering himself in black. No, not a cover up πŸ™‚

Johnny’s sleeves are getting there, or should I say getting there again. We did some of these pieces 15 years ago, and have since been adding to, covering and changing and blasting over, so that now we have a wonderfully layered look, colourful, dense and dark, completely unique. The ideas are all Johnny’s, I helped him on his journey πŸ™‚

Joanne’s sleeve is nearly done, and we are creeping onto the chest with this botanical illustration style design in muted colours. That’s the thing with plants, they keep on growing……

a couple of cute ones

a tibetan eternity knot, behind an existing tattoo marking his wedding, part of a tibetan prayer flag half sleeve

and this wonderful customer, getting dragons on her leg. The first session the Tshirt she had on said ‘I knit so no one has to die’ and the second was ‘mother of dragons’, awesome!

I don’t really have the time to do conventions abroad these days, but the one in Cognac in France is a fun one, and me, Nik and Didi worked at it last year and had a blast.

This year was ridiculously hot, which was a distraction, but we still had a great time, met new and old acquaintances, partied and worked hard.

The organisers had put massive posters up of me and Didi among others, so I felt like a celebrity in Cognac!

I was too hot to remember to take much in the way of photos during the convention, just took a picture of this lady’s leg, as she had a tattoo done by me last year, too, a wonderful lady and fellow animal lover.

This piece was meant to be in colour and with background shading, but the poor lady struggled from the start, so I stripped the brief back a bit, we did go all the way around, but we settled for light grey shading instead. She can always add some colour and background at a later date if she feels brave. This is one of the challenges of working at a convention, you’re only in town for a short time, so can’t really stop and continue another time once it’s healed. It’s all or nothing.

(check out Didi’s orange crocks in the background, pure style, that man πŸ™‚ )

everyone is always giving you cognac in Cognac, not complaining of course. This was after the convention


The after show party was in Cognac castle, an old cluster of buildings where cognac, a type of brandy, is still made. Very atmospheric and beautiful, I took a little wander around

why does this kind of thing always seem like a good idea after a few beers? πŸ™‚

april +may 2018

Posted: 28/05/2018 in Uncategorized

plenty of colour in this post, starting off with Derek’s epic dragon and lion 3/4 sleeve. it’s going to be one of two sleeves exploring the 4 elements, this one being fire and water. Chunky shapes and bright colours, what’s not to like about that brief? Very satisfying indeed! One more sesh on this to bring it all together

A nice bright orangy peony on neil’s neck. We had already done a bright crown on the front of his neck, which is very striking, however any tattoo that sits under the chin will usually be in a shadow- cast by your chin- and that doesn’t alow it to glow as much as Neil likes it. So we went for a bright one at the side of the neck, a more visible placement than the front of the neck- you wouldn’t think so, but it’s true. I’ll get some pictures of the crown next time to show you.

we are still working on Luc’s leg snake, some more colour here and there, it’s starting to come together. With a project this size it seems like ages until you start to feel like you are getting somewhere, but this is shaping up.

Matthew got a black and grey sleeve by me a wee while ago, and was feeling that it needed to come down onto his hand. The stigma of having tattooed hands is much less these days, so why the hell not .

Kiaran got this cute little bird, I wish I could remember the name of it, but it’s just adorable. we added some red outline blossoms to help it work with some existing pieces by another artist, and it sits in there just so.

Kiaran is a very talented lady, and is currently in the process of designing us a new website for the studios. We are super excited, should be up soon, woo!

Laurenne and her mon mon cat, which is a work in progress, have a funny story. We did most of the cat, which has Laurenne’s own tattoos on it’s back but didn’t get round to finishing it before Laurenne was booked to go on holiday. When Laurenne was trying on some nice new shorts for said holiday, she noticed that the only visible thing of her mon mon cat tattoo were the outlines of the bottom of the legs, and it looked very strange indeed…

so an emergency appointment was needed to add a nice blue lotus for the cat to stand in, now it looks fabulous with a pair of shorts! The lotus isn’t finished yet, either, but it’ll have to wait until after the holiday. I hope the good people of Greece appreciate the time and effort we went to to prevent any confusion πŸ™‚

Another work in Progress is a colourful scar cover up. With scars you are well advised to let the new tattoo settle and see how the skin takes the ink, then come back to it to add more colour and detail, etc. Sometimes the scars are hard and can reject the ink, sometimes the opposite, so we will let it heal and see where we are with it. Good start was made, though.

and now a black and grey piece, Harley’s back is dedicated to a comic called Saga. I’ve now read the first book and can confirm that it is excellent, with superb artwork. This has been fun, we pick the characters we think will work well in the composition, and fit them all together using the artwork from the comic. the backgrounds will be more our own-

saga fans will like this, and there appear to be many out there!