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Interview. Nick Imms

24 / 11 / 2018 Alexander Ledovskih
Tattoo artist Nick Imms / Photo: @littlenicktattoo

The hero of this interview is one of the brightest tattoo artists in the UK - Nick Imms. In his amazing work, he reveals the depth of black and gray realism, striking the audience with incredible detail. Today, we will try to know as much as possible about Nick and his work.

- Hi, Nick. Glad to have opportunity to talk with you. Tell me how it all started for you? How and when did you come into the tattoo? What did you do before?

- Hello Alexander! I waited until I was 18 to get my first tattoo and it just so happened that the studio I got it from were looking for an apprentice. I'd just completed college and so was able to show them my art portfolio and they offered me the opportunity to join them. It was an unpaid apprenticeship so I continued to work behind the bar at a local pub after a day at the studio - with both jobs I was doing about 70 hours a week. I did a really typical apprenticeship where I cleaned, made stencils/tea/coffee, cleaned some more and had to earn the right to finally tattoo a year into my apprenticeship.

After working at my first studio for 4 years, I was given the opportunity to work at Painted Lady in Birmingham. With the support of the amazing owner, Dawnii Fantana, I was able to push myself and this definitely helped me to get to where I am today.

Tattoo artist Nick Imms, authors black and grey portrait tattoo realism | United Kingdom

- What possible career did you leave for tattoo?

- I had zero plans so I was very lucky that this opportunity came my way - it was partly right place right time, really!

- Do you have any special training?

- No special training, no.

Tattoo artist Nick Imms, authors black and grey portrait tattoo realism | United Kingdom

- Do you remember your the first customer and your feelings as the tattoo master, when you did the first tattoo?

- It was on my good friend Bono; we decided on the Japanese symbols for 'friends 'til death'. I was terrified at the pressure of marking somebody's skin permanently and the tattoo machine felt so alien in my hand - I don't think anybody could ever forget that feeling. It was also scary as one of the experienced tattoo artists from the studio was watching me the whole time and I didn't want to embarrass myself.

- What is the most attractive thing in the tattoo for you?

- I absolutely love putting contrast into my work - it helps the piece stand the test of time rather than becoming washed out. I want my work to last and for my customers to always have a piece that they can be proud of.

Tattoo artist Nick Imms, authors black and grey portrait tattoo realism | United Kingdom

- What or who is the source of inspiration for you?

- In terms of artists, when I first started, I looked up to Grime, Filip Leu, Mike Rubendall and Carlos Torres. Even though my work went off in another direction there was just something about their work that drew me to it. More recently, all of the people I work with at my studio, The Church, inspire me - Andy Marsh, Stephanie Melbourne, Charlie Sullivan, Matt OG and Jess Green. It's great to get to work with all these amazing artists who are all at different points in their careers and seeing them constantly grow and evolve. Outside of my studio, there's literally too many amazing artists to mention - the standard of tattooing today is just phenomenal but, to name a few, I love the work of Chris Rigoni, Ryan Evans, AD Pancho, Gibbo and Sneaky Mitch. I think with social media the way it is today, there's just so much out there to see. I always find it fascinating watching and learning from other artists. I don't ever want to become complacent with my own work.

- Tell us about the style of your work.

- At the beginning of my career I did trad, neo-trad, Japanese, geometric - everything really - until I finally seemed to settle into black and grey. I occasionally still dabble into abstract but I'm really enjoying trying out new techniques and ideas with my black and grey work at the moment.

- What’s features makes your tattoo really yours and unique?

- Recently I've started throwing a lot of light flairs into my work and I've been trying to use lots of black to make sure my tattoos are long lasting and heal well. I don't know if my work is that recognisable - I still find it weird when people tell me they can recognise my work just by looking at it!

Tattoo artist Nick Imms, authors black and grey portrait tattoo realism | United Kingdom

- What does the word «tattoo» mean for you?

- I suppose for me it's become my life - it's all day every day; I even find myself dreaming about tattoos! You end up living and breathing it but i think, in a way, you have to be obsessed with tattoos to do the job because it does end up becoming such a huge part of your life.

- Are tattoo conventions take a part of your life? Do you travel a lot around the world as a tattoo artist?

- Conventions have become more of a part of my life over the last few years - they're a great opportunity to meet people and to check out new and upcoming artists. It's always humbling to be around so much talent as well. I'm very lucky to do a job that allows me so many opportunities to travel and I try and go to as many conventions and guest spots as possible but with tattooing full time and running a studio I don't get to go half as much as I'd like.

Tattoo artist Nick Imms, authors black and grey portrait tattoo realism | United Kingdom

- Have you any special country for you, where you are always ready to return?

- There's so many amazing places that I've loved visiting or that I'd love to visit in the future. I do have a soft spot for Canada; I've only been once and that was to go snowboarding so I'm doing a guest spot there in 2019 so I can get back there again!

- How you see the future of the tattoo in the next 5-10 years?

- It's hard to say really as the standard of tattooing is just getting higher and higher all the time and it seems difficult to conceive where it can go from here. There's always new techniques to be trialled and learned and new products being produced though so I just have to keep focussed and keep pushing to improve my own work. I don't think the popularity of tattooing is going to decline though - it's here to stay (I hope!).

- What advice can you give to novice tattoo artists?

- Honestly, I think the best advice I can give is just to keep at it. It can be a frustrating job sometimes, especially at the beginning, and a bad day can make you feel like you've taken 10 steps backwards but you just have to keep pushing forward. If you really want it you have to be in it 100% - get drawing, get learning off others, keep on top of any new products and techniques - it's so competitive out there now so you need to try and stay on top of things. You need to be passionate about what you do and eventually all the hard work and patience will pay off and you get to enjoy the fun aspects, like travelling, a bit more. It really is the best job in the world after all.

- It's hard to disagree with you, Nick. Thank you very much for the interesting conversation!

- Thank you!

Tattoo artist Nick Imms, authors black and grey portrait tattoo realism | United Kingdom Tattoo artist Nick Imms, authors black and grey portrait tattoo realism | United Kingdom Tattoo artist Nick Imms, authors black and grey portrait tattoo realism | United Kingdom Tattoo artist Nick Imms, authors black and grey portrait tattoo realism | United Kingdom Tattoo artist Nick Imms, authors black and grey portrait tattoo realism | United Kingdom Tattoo artist Nick Imms, authors black and grey portrait tattoo realism | United Kingdom Tattoo artist Nick Imms, authors black and grey portrait tattoo realism | United Kingdom Tattoo artist Nick Imms, authors black and grey portrait tattoo realism | United Kingdom Tattoo artist Nick Imms, authors black and grey portrait tattoo realism | United Kingdom Tattoo artist Nick Imms, authors black and grey portrait tattoo realism | United Kingdom Tattoo artist Nick Imms, authors black and grey portrait tattoo realism | United Kingdom
Text Alexander Ledovskih