with my new found extra time, due to the coronavirus lockdown, I have the time to chat about a few projects I competed recently in more depth.

Today’s ‘spotlight ‘ is on a black and grey sleeve of animal portraits and plants/flowers, and I’d like to chat a bit about how it came about and how we set about turning her ideas into a sleeve.

Sarah is an animal lover, a vegan and an animal rights supporter, so we had a lot in common. In fact Sarah had been to visit our animal sanctuary a couple of times and met the animals, and had made friends with some of them in particular.

The sleeve she wanted was to represent her friendships and her love for some of the animals that she had met or even lived with, and she had lots of photos of different animals for me to look at and potentially chose from.

We had to have a think about how many animals we could realistically put into one sleeve, and also how the whole thing was meant to look overall. Sarah had done her research and had a photo of a black and grey portrait of an animal with an oversized flower next to it which she liked, so that’s the direction we went in. Black and grey, softly and realistically rendered animal portraits, like a big collage with flowers and other plants in the gaps tying it all together.

The thing about tattooed portraits is that you need to do them a certain size or they don’t hold up. That dictated the amount of animals we could include in the composition, so we had to edit the photos down to a realistic amount, keeping the main animal friends and also the best pictures that I could work from. Not all photos are suitable as tattoo reference, you need good contrast, the main features need to be clear enough and I like to avoid odd foreshortening that might not translate well.

Then it was time to have some fun putting it all together, which animal went where, which background flowers we were going to use, and generally how we wanted the whole design to flow around her arm. We had a rough sketch or two, and we generally stuck to that as we went along, but if a new idea came along that we liked better, we were open. I like that kind of way of working, some artists prefer to have every detail worked out in advance, I like to leave quite a lot room for improvisation and change. The other benefit of that way of working is that the customer can start to get more involved in the way things develop, as the whole thing takes shape. I like true collaborations like that.

With Sarah’s sleeve it was time to start tattooing, we started at the top and worked our way down, one animal portrait at a time, filling in the gaps with flowers as we went along. The collage nature of this piece meant we could be free to play with the scale of all the different elements, so the guinea pig could be massive, and the donkey quite small, next to flowers that were either blown up or simplified right down- it was all up to us, our creation, our rules πŸ™‚

We also mixed up soft flowers and grasses in the background with quite illustrative, simple and striking elements, so we’ve got a good mixture of textures going on.

The overall effect of the finished sleeve is soft and illustrative, and the different images draw you in make you want to study it. Sarah gets lots of questions about it, and of course every animal has a story, and the narrative of this sleeve is about the love for them.

I’m delighted about how it all came together, and love the way it looks, but most import is that Sarah got the tattoo she wanted, and the meaning is has for her, the wearer.

*for the animals*


well, this came out of the blue- the tattoo studios closed and everyone stuck at home for weeks, if not months……

Unless some kind of regular testing clears people to go back to work, I think that businesses like tattooing will be some of the last to be allowed to trade again. Like hairdressers, barbers, beauticians, masseuses etc, we need to actually touch our customers to do our job, and we can’t claim to be providing an essential service- tattoos are one of life’s little luxuries.

Most tattoo artists are creative types, and filling their time will probably not be a problem; I expect lots of drawings and paintings will be produced, music made and interesting stuff written, and I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone comes up with!

Financially it’s a nightmare, of course, so fingers crossed we can go back to work before too long, and that we have work to go back to.

I’m going to use this enforced staycation to edit hundreds of photos and get on top of my online work, blog, social media, websites, that sort of thing.

I have been putting off dealing with the clusterfuck that is ‘photobucket’, the online hosting site that I’ve been uploading all my photos for this blog to. A while ago they decided that their previously free hosting (I’m cheap, ok, I went for a free one, see where that got me…) was now not going to be free anymore, and if you wanted to use their services it was now going to be 400dollars a year. Otherwise, instead of a picture of a tattoo appearing in my blog, you’d be looking at an embarrassing image telling you that I’d not paid up!

Photobucket eventually relented and lowered the price a bit, and I pay that now, but it gave me a fright and a reality check- all those images, 10 years worth of blog posts, now belong to photobucket and they can do what they want with them.

Added to that uncomfortable fact, it also takes ages to upload my pictures to photobucket now that I live rural with a shonky internet connection. Something else needed to be done.

So I’m now resizing my pictures before I upload them, and they will be hosted on my wordpress page itself, until I run out of space- I’ll cross that bridge when i come to it. The blog posts might look a bit different, smaller pictures, but as long as they still do a decent job, that’s what I’ll be doing from now on. let me know if you can’t see the images well enough on any of your devices! Fuck you, photobucket!

so- BEFORE i was told to shut the studios and stay at home, these are a few of the tattoos i did πŸ™‚

This is an extension to a half sleeve I did over 10 years ago- the dragon and yellow roses have kept well, which is always good to see. I feel lucky that I stuck to tried and tested inks when the market was getting flooded with new brands all the time- promising better healing, better to work with and a cooler image/ stupid names, etc, some of which have not stood the test of time.

colourful peonie and dragon tattoo sleeve

In Japanese mythology the koi swims upstream, overcoming obstacles and struggling to get ahead, then eventually turns into a dragon, which symbolises enlightenment and wisdom.

Hunter, the customer, got his dragon and 10 years later the koi, now the story is complete!

colourful dragon and koi tattoo sleeve
orange koi tattoo sleeve

another colourful sleeve, something a bit different from me, is this tribute to Prince. ‘Paisley Park’ was his record label, and ‘The Revolution’ his band. We added the paisley pattern in light colours behind the purple writing, to enhance and support, but not smother the main elements. I’m sure Prince would have loved it!

paisley park prince tattoo the revolution
prince tattoo sleeve

and speaking of colourful patterns, Douglas got his abstract piece extended onto his hand- he said his wife will *not* be happy, does he look concerned to you? πŸ™‚

colourful geometric hand tattoo

this pretty piece was designed to follow the flow of the phoenix on her back. The flowers cascade down her arm, with two little goldfinches looking for seeds

flower shoulder tattoo
cascading flowers and goldfinch tattoo

this tiger is a tribute to her dad’s tiger tattoo, she got the same one he got years ago, and to make it a bit softer, we added the cluster of cherry blossoms.

tiger and cherry blossoms tattoo

and to keep with the family theme, this little tattoo is of a so-called ‘preemie octopus’, it was given to the customer when their premature baby way born. There is a charity that has volunteers making these crocheted octopus toys, they get put in the incubators to keep the baby company. To the customer it had special meaning, it became a symbol of the worrying times they overcame. The baby is now a naughty toddler in perfect health, so all good!

chrocheted preemie octopus tattoo

and last but not least, and update on the epic chain maille sleeve I’ve been working on- getting there!

chain maille tattoo realistic

september-november 2019

Posted: 17/12/2019 in Uncategorized

I’ve been working on a fair few sleeves, some of which have come to a sort of finish- sort of being my usual angle on things, because I could fiddle with details etc for ever, and need to be stopped πŸ™‚

japanese sleeves that I’ve been busy with

John was going to get a black and grey sleeve, until his daughter coloured in the koi we did, she took some yellow marker pens and John liked the way it looked! So we added yellows to the koi, and it really pops out

Chris wanted a sleeve with some muted colours, so we went for greys in the dragon with accents of yellow and red and soft pinks in the cherry blossoms


By contrast stuart’s sleeve was to be as bright as possible, with bold chunky shapes and incorporating some repetitive patterns. The effect is more manga than traditional japanese, and it really works on his pale scottish skin (the paler the skin, the less interference from melanin)

Something non japanese for Al, we worked around a few existing pieces to make a sleeve that included art nouveau elements and nature, keeping the colour palette muted with greys and warmer pinks for the foxgloves. (much as I love that koi wallpaper, I need to remember not to take pictures in front of it, it competes with the tattoos! )

I’ve also been busy covering Harley with images from the comic books Saga and Monstress. We took his favourite illustrations and blended them with free flowing japanese elements to create this almost textured look. I can’t take credit for the beautiful comic book illustrations, but I’m really pleased with the overall look of this tattoo.

Speaking of textures, I’ve been enjoying detailled, illustrative ways of creating different looks, like on Billy’s octopus. I’ve been asked to tattoo a few animal portraits recently, which has made me look at different ways of rendering fur, feathers, etc. I’m enjoying the departure from bold and colourful compositions, but who knows, I might be bringing more detailled textures into my japanese work πŸ™‚

here’s a mixture of japanese and texture on George’s neck, we needed a gap filler that continued on from the existing work on his arm, which wereΒ  flames. The idea was to create smoke with ash, but in a japanese sort of way, whilstΒ  retaining the curvy look of the octopus that curls around his neck

and here is neall, work in progress, sporting a new Kali


july +august

Posted: 03/09/2019 in Uncategorized

The colourful and lovely Ann is an animal lover, specially wild life, so her tattoos were always going to reflect that. One side is a badger coming out of the ferns and foxgloves, the other side has a fox coming out of the oak and ivy, all in bright colours that show up beautifully on her white skin tone.

Also showing some bright colours is this japanese sleeve in progress, a cute shishi dog underneath a phoenix and a fiery chrysanthemum on the hand.

The phoenix at the top will need some fine tuning, we did it over 10 years ago when I was going through a very bold phase, and although I still love boldness in my designs, I now also like to add more detail. It will be fun to add them , I’ll show you more when it’s done

And speaking of bold, I’ve been working on some chunky mandala designs. Chantelle’s sleeve includes a tiger and some elephants (cute)



and Claire’s sleeve is working around some tribal that goes all the way down the inside of both her arms. It’s actually a creative and unusual placement, but now she wanted full sleeves with mandalas, so we chose chunky ones to not look out of place with the original pieces.

I finished a complex japanese sleeve that incorporated a dragon, a tiger, the japanese actor Toshiro Mifune and a river. And a cover up πŸ™‚ It’s like an action packed japanese movie

Another style I’ve been doing recently is a more sketchy, illustrative and floral thingy. here are two examples, this one is to be continued

and this one is a family portrait of sorts, with all family members represented by their favourite flower, it’s a lovely idea.

and what would like be without a space mouse?? πŸ™‚



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’