TomTom founded Sunset Tattoo in 2014 after ten years of studying tattooing in New Zealand and around the world. He is now concentrating on his own style of Japanese tattooing and Irezumi inspired custom tattooing. He loves doing both large scale Japanese work and smaller “one shot” pieces.
See more of TomTom's work: @tomtom_tattoo
A Little about TomTom...
What makes you want to tattoo? What about the art form inspires you to keep doing it?
I fell In to a tattoo apprenticeship when I was around 20, and then I just fell in love with doing it, I guess since it has been part of my life for so long now, I can't imagine doing anything else. It's a truly difficult and challenging art form, which means you never stop learning and being inspired and challenged. Because tattooing is such an old craft, and the traditional approach to tattooing really does work best, you are always looking to the past for answers to how to build a really good tattoo. At the exact same time the tattoo industry is exploding with talent and amazing work, clientele are adventurous, brave, and trusting, and everything being done around the world is beamed straight to us daily on the internet, which constantly pushes us to challenge ourselves, test the rules, and improve our skills. In short, if you stay sharp and energetic and open minded as a tattoo artist, you'll never get bored. I also love that its a completely self driven job- no one can make you get up in the morning and do this, you have to love it, and live the life of a tattooer like a vocation, but its a vocation where no one tells you what to do.
What styles do you like doing most and what are your biggest influences? And why?
My style and practice is now mostly focused on Japanese tattooing. I love irezumi, I love the intricate designs, the bold black, the darkness, the mystery. A large scale Japanese tattoo is like its own little world, hiding in the darkness. They are designed to fit the whole body, and last forever. I have started taking regular trips to Japan to study the art form, get tattooed, and show it the respect it deserves. I still love doing western traditional as well, its always a good time.
I grew up being inspired by graffiti art, pop art and comic art, but my influences now are traditional tattooing in all its forms, its all an inspiration. Traditional tattooing can be American, Polynesian, Japanese, asian, indian, whatever. Its all about the black! Even though I do a lot of work with colour, the truth is, tattooing to me is about where you put the black ink, and where you leave the skin space. Tattoos with no black is like food without flavour- don't bother with it.
Why? Traditional tattoos, be it Japanese or samoan tattoos or any of it- they work. They last. They stand the test of time. Stylistically the wearer will still love their tattoo forever, they won't regret getting a design that really works as a timeless piece. End of the day I want someone that I tattooed to be happy with their tattoo in 10-20 years time, just as they are when its fresh and new.
How would you recommend people should go about getting a tattoo from you? And what do you think makes a good tattoo?
If you have seen my work and like it, and want me to tattoo you, first of all- thank you! I really value all my clients and feel honoured and humbled that people put their trust in me. I never take it for granted.
If you want a custom tattoo, I think the best way to go is to get together pictures of work that you love the look of, and do some research on what kind of subject matter works for you. If you have an idea and some good reference images, you bring that in to a consultation. From there, in all honestly the best thing to do is to let us design something with a bit of freedom.
Its really great when people know what they want, but usually you get the very best work when you let go and allow the artist room to breathe, work and be creative. As artists we are usually on our own journeys and we work to our own skills and interests, while having your best interest at heart.
I also really love spontaneous, fun tattooing. You can walk in to Sunset any day of the week and get a sick piece of flash from the tattooers here. It's fun to get tattoos for know reason when you just feel like it, tattoos should be fun.
A good tattoo can be a huge number of things, most importantly it is something worn proudly by its owner