Paul Talbot grew up in a small market town in the Midlands (United Kingdom). When his best mate wanted a tattoo, Paul not only drew the design but tagged along to watch his buddy get tattooed. Like many shops of this era, it was run by bikers, and there was A4 flash all over the walls. Paul recalls the smell of Dettol and stale cigarette smoke lingering in the air. As they approached the artist with the drawing, he asked, “who did this?”
While Paul doesn’t recall this piece of art being his one of his best, the discussion that followed led to Paul getting lessons about the fundamental principles of tattooing in exchange for some custom designs. And this wasn’t the first time someone turned to Paul for his artistic abilities. Amongst his friends, he was known as the one that could draw. He painted everyone’s leather jackets, motorbike helmets, and so on. He loved drawing.
At that point in his life, Paul wasn’t ready to start tattooing. While he was getting lessons in exchange for art, he was picked up by a British Indie label for his music. He jumped at the opportunity and hit the road. When the music business was finished chewing on him, it spit him out. He headed home to the UK for good and began working as a graphic designer after returning to college. Paul recalls, “I realized that all the cool stuff I’d seen on flyers, album covers, and advertising that really excited me over the years was called graphic design. So that was what I ended up studying. I felt like I’d finally found a place in ‘art’ for me and it was a hugely exciting time.”
Paul’s career in graphic arts had him working with some pretty big brands like Roland, Boss, PRS Guitars, Hughes and Kettner, Music Live, and Classic Rock Magazine. However, he discovered that working within corporate guidelines could inhibit his creativity. Inspired by designers like Hydro74, My Pet Skeleton, Ralph Steadman, David Carson, Neville Brody, Jamie Reid, and The Designers Republic, he started creating his own art to keep him inspired.
It was around 2007 that he realized his graphic art experience had the potential to transfer to tattoos. He pursued his desire to become a tattoo artist, applying his style and individual voice that he’d developed in his graphic arts career. With the encouragement of his friends and family, he opened up Modern Electric Tattoo Co. in 2010 in his hometown of Catshill, near Bromsgrove, in the UK. He’d always loved studios. He told us, “a good studio has a gravitational pull all of its own where people stop by for coffee and end up hanging out all day. That’s my favorite part of being a studio owner. That and the fact that I get to sit with cool people all day thinking and doing. Just making art that challenges me, that is personal to – and resonates with – my clients.”
Paul described his style as post-modern and had a lot of interesting things to tell us about it. The late 20th century, 70’s-90’s, postmodern period is perhaps arts most controversial period. He explained to us, “postmodernism articulates that the world is in a state of perpetual incompleteness and permanent unresolve. From a postmodern perspective, knowledge is articulated from perspectives, with all its uncertainties, complexity, and paradox. If modernist objects suggested utopia, progress and machine-like perfection, then the postmodern object seemed to come from a dystopian and far-from-perfect future. It is often associated with deconstruction and post-structuralism because its usage as a term gained significant popularity at the same time as twentieth-century post-structural thought.
I think you’ll always be influenced by the time period in which you enter art or design and for me, it was the 90’s and consequently there’s a lot of postmodern ideal in my work. I can’t get away from the fact that I’m a white, comic book reading, suburban, heavy metal kid from the middle of England. My church is a shopping mall, my idols aren’t covered in ink – they are made of them, and my icons are the neon corporate logos seen from the highway at night. So, is it any wonder that I (like a lot of my clients) am drawn to 20th-century pulp culture rather than to 19th-century folk art?”
The techniques Paul uses to remix images from various sources and eras are created using digital illustration, typography, and collage cutup. He’s inspired by designers and musicians such as Carson, Brody, Emigre, The Designers Republic, Kate Bush, Sonic Youth, The Supersucks, and Kiss (to name a few).
When he’s not tattooing, he enjoys creating music and relaxing. You can find his music and other projects here: http://www.thisisourstodestroy.com.
Paul’s advice for someone planning their first tattoo:
“Do your research, pick the right artist for you, find out their process, work with them in the way they need you to create an amazing piece and enjoy the journey!”
Paul’s advice for a tattoo artist who is just getting started?
“Learning to tattoo is – I think – like learning a language. You can’t learn every single thing at once at the beginning. Just learn the basics and stick to them until you have them mastered. Once you’ve got them down learn the skill you need for the next step in your journey. Everyone needs to learn the bits of the ‘language’ that they need at their specific time. There’s no right order, just decide what you want to do artistically and learn the skills you need as you go along. Eventually (if you’re lucky) you’ll become fluent in the whole language and if not you’ll still be able to get by and make your art with the little you know.
But remember as Abraham Maslow said: ‘if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail'”
For appointments: email his assistant (and wife) Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org
Shop info: The Modern Electric Tattoo Company
147 Golden Cross Ln, Catshill, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire B61 0JZ
Phone: +44 1527 759434
More tattoos by Paul
Images © Paul Talbot