Phil Kyle: Perfect Your Craft and Destroy the Circus

By Phil Kyle
It’s hard to know where to start here seeing the state of things… So just going to play it by ear and have a bit of a rant while stating proper facts on things happening to our craft… not industry. An “industry” is a factory in China making and selling shitty equipment to sell on eBay…

We [tattooers] are craftsmen/women, (A.K.A.) the little guy who hand makes each tattoo one-by-one and not on some mass level where tattoos are produced 1000 at a time.  We [Tattooers] are the carpenters of this craft.

Many factors play into the explosion of tattooing today. First, I will speak of the Internet. The Internet didn’t even exist when I started tattooing. I personally have only been using the Internet for about 10 years.

When I was tattooing starting 20 years ago people had to come to the shop to see your work in a portfolio or in a tattoo magazine, which I think there where like three then. Now you walk into a news shop and you couldn’t even afford to buy every magazine each month… no way! I’m not criticizing the magazines themselves, but damn when there are 20 each month what are you going to do? You cant even read that much in a month. I can’t anyway, not on my agenda.

Back to the Internet… I believe the Internet is to blame in a big way for some of the mass-influence on the popularity of tattooing. Websites, Myspace, Facebook… We all have this shit.

It’s a double-edged sword. It’s good in the aspect that your work can be seen and shared with other tattooers around the world etc…

It’s bad because anyone can print out your photos and bring it to the local shit-scab vendor and get bad copies of your work, which happens every single day. Or kids go on eBay and buy shitty equipment to fuck up their buddy’s arm in their mama’s kitchen.

When I did the London Ink show I was there to represent my craft. There were no scripts and cameras following you around all day. You came in, sat down, and did your work. Keep your nose down and out of drama.

It’s a show about tattooing… not a soap opera. This show was more like a documentary. It was an opportunity for us to show people tattooing is not some easy task. I had a sign hanging up in full view saying, “DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME… EVER!” And I have been saying that for years and years. Any of you who know me, know that all to well. I bitch about it all the time…

But people have been doing this shit at home since the beginning of time. We used to go take motherfuckers equipment and tell them not to start again. You can’t do that today.

Times have certainly changed. All the rock videos and sport stars covered in tattoos have pushed tattooing into popularity as well. It’s been happening for the last 20 years that I’ve been tattooing, and even before then. I used to hear the old guys talk about it. In that aspect nothing has changed, assholes think tattooing is easy and it makes them cool. Well it’s not…

I’m up most of night until 2 or 3 a.m. drawing for clients, because it’s a serious game.
Meanwhile, dickheads are posting tattoos all over the Internet they have done in a garage and getting praise from their friends how “awesome” it is.  It’s an awesome piece of shit to us.

We work hard and clients come in and tell us they ordered equipment from eBay and are having a go at it but just on friends, what the fuck is happening here? Same as it always was, just now through a few clicks on a computer any asshole can buy this shit-ass equipment

Before you had to order “starter kits” from a magazine ad. Things have been made too easy. and now assholes that have been “tattooing” two years taking apprentices. Then they have a falling out and the apprentice leaves the shop, opens his own, then starts teaching his friends. The onslaught of shitty tattoo shops is like a bad tattoo cancer that needs to be treated ASAP.

Tattoo schools are a fucking joke… two weeks to learn how to tattoo? It took me at least 10 years to start being happy with my work, because I push myself so hard, and try to make each new tattoo the best one I can do. Wake up, people who fall victim, it’s a scam! And you shouldn’t be “tattooing” anyway if you think that’s how it works. Proper training by an experienced tattooer of at least 15 years is appropriate. Fucking hell…

Tattooing is not about these assclowns who don’t give a fuck and do shitty tattoos for the sake of fashion. It’s sad when you see these tattoos, because the people who have them say,  “Well I love it anyway.”

What a fucking mess…

There are all these kids now with tattoos on their necks, hands and forearms, and nowhere else? Fucking fashion victims. When they take off their t-shirts it looks like they are still wearing one with pasty-ass skin on their entire torso, but lower arms, hands and necks covered? Sorry, too fucking cool for me. I got my neck tattooed when I was like 29. We don’t do that shit. Everyone who works or owns a shop need to start pinning things down locally in each town.

Fuck, we found some kids tattooing NEXT DOOR to my shop a couple of months ago. You can imagine how that went down, not good for them. They are not “tattooing” anymore…

But this is just it, these people have NO RESPECT for tattooing. The people they are “tattooing” and no fucking morals at all. Back in the day these people would have gotten a lot worse. Today everyone thinks it’s okay to fuck-off any tattooers they want. Well, thats not the fact.

Time to step up and represent like a motherfucker, via the shop, portfolios and the Internet, because if we can turn around the shit that’s been going on, on the Internet (a total 180) some people will get it. Others will continue, because no matter how much we speak out, there will always be that certain percentage of assholes fucking things up.

This is why at Magnum Opus we continuously have art shows in the gallery and events at the shop and invite people to come to see what we do; lots of hard work and many projects. If it helps get the word out that this shit is serious, well that’s a good start.

But we have to keep it real, keep fighting the good fight. My own personal background comes from a very underground punk scene. Back in the 80s we were all fighting for something, keeping traditional roots and fucking-off any establishment-type shit. The problems we face today are no different. Time to revolt on what’s making our craft into a fucking circus. And that time is right now!

With as many good tattooers there are today, we could fuck shit up in a good, positive way. We need to work with the strength of our numbers, we are many. Compared to these few who are undoing everything we have done, via our work and passion for this craft, which is why we are where we are today…

Phil Kyle
Magnum Opus Tattoo
Brighton, England

Similar Articles

22 thoughts on “Phil Kyle: Perfect Your Craft and Destroy the Circus

  1. Everyone,
    Introducing- Phil Kyle.

    He likes to smoke and cuss.
    He’s also pretty passionate about this tattoo thing of ours…
    and that’s why we all love him so much.
    Thanks, Phil!

  2. I wish more people thought like this. There’s mother fyckers in this town , people that have been tattooing for 10 years or so, that will apprentice any fucker with 5 grand in there pocket. That’s why there’s 5 shops in my town and besides the one I work at there’s 5 ” artist ” an how ever many apprentices that I wouldn’t let tattoo my dog. They can’t do anything that not off the fucking wall . I could keep going but I’ll stop. But my thought is there’s tattoo artist and then there’s artist that tattoo. But that’s jut my opinion.
    Loved the article it’s spot on

    Matt Stebly

  3. Well said Phil. I love where I go to get my tattoos done and they are all brilliant and very hardworking. But I have seen really bad tattoos done, like both my friend an her husband have just had done. By someone who has decided to have a career change!!

    I totally agree with you on that these people should be stopped xx

  4. I fully agree with this article, but i found it very hard to even get an apprenticeship and ended up getting discriminated against because i was a girl. Now i have lost all my confidence as an artist and probably will never try become an apprentice again due to that experience. I respected all of the guys I worked with as people as well as artists but the notoriety of being on a main street got to their heads and they obviously enjoyed being an a group of all guys. I remember them saying they would never tattoo a playboy bunny, but I saw photos of one on they’re fan-page. Being from NZ, I took a real inspiration from Nikole of London Ink as well as yourself and I ended up having it thrown back in my face.

    They’re needs to be a real community for blooming artists and in this economic climate a real helping hand for people like me who do want to become tattoo artists but are sick of getting turned down, because after that what else is there to do, but buy a tattoo gun and practice on oranges or pig skin till you think your ready to tattoo a human. I don’t want to be a rubbish correspondence student, I want to live, breathe, love ink but with the way things are at the moment it doesn’t surprise me kids are trying to take the easy way out. Tattoo artists of the world need to start lending a helping hand to these kids and give them a real chance. Im not saying take on any Tom, Dick or Harry but if someone’s got genuine talent, take them on as an apprentice. Or have the support networks of art schools that do have a tattoo departments where you can get a health and safety certificate and learn the craft in more than two years with help from tattoo artist veterans.

    If anyone has any advice for me I would really appreciate it.

    1. Grow a thicker skin, and keep trying. There’s a lot to be said for tenacity. Getting discouraged and “taking the easy way out” shows the veteran tattooers that you probably couldn’t handle the apprenticeship anyway. Believe me, getting your foot in the door is the easy part.

      Focus on your art, make it speak for itself, and keep trying. If you are worthy you will find a legitimate place in the craft.

  5. Pity Louis Molloy didnt have the same morals before encouraging Jodie Marsh to become a Tattoo Apprentice for a TV Program.

    You say you believe the Internet is to blame in a big way for some of the mass-influence on the popularity of tattooing. Websites, Myspace, Facebook… True…. but when you get a tattooist from London Ink doing the complete opposite to what you believe in what do you feel. Bleedin joke

  6. I agree 1,000%!! I’m new to the craft(two 1/2 years) and am currently apprenticing. I’ve been an artist ask my life and have studied many divergent art forms. I have the utmost respect for the craft of tattooing, and the epidemic of healthy tattooing thats being performed in the Washington D.C. area is insane! I have a rant called Wake The Fuck Up..hopefully people will.

  7. You’re the only reason I gave that show ago, but still didn’t like it. not as rubbish as the others, but it still had dramma. Anyway, dig your shop logos take on the MAYHEM logo.

  8. Yeah Phil its way over due we put millions into this economy and in return we get shit,if we dont run shop right its shut down, but what happens to joe bloggs bedroom artiste? nothing its a disgrace.Its a shame some suppliers still dont ask for shit when you buy gear,the answer is simple if ya know they do it dont go to them if we all do it then it will make it harder for them to continue,but more is needed.I dont have the answer but Im trying my damdest to play my part.
    Respect Philio,Cleb

  9. the irony is that tattooing used to be part of the circus…I agree with you tho, being a tattooer of 25 years myself, this craft has changed alot, especially in the last 10 years. Another aspect that everyone overlooks s the fact that disposable tubes and prebuilt needles has also made a big change in the craft. Used to be you had to have an autoclave and an ultrasonic and needle making equipment in order to tattoo, and you had to be able to build needles to stay in business, or pay $5 a needle from the few supply houses there were back then, and you still had to sterilize them. Now it’s all premade and presterilzed and blisterpacked, to hell with the investment into an autoclave. I imagine a good percentage of people tattooing today don’t even know how to build a needle. I know lots of them don’t understand the basic concept of tuning a machine, hell you can just get a new one for $9.99 less if you buy 10. We as tattooers have to ban together and get a hold on this…Tattooing cannot be learned in 2 weeks, it’s a lifetime devotion…25 years and I am still learning, and I am considered a master tattoo artist, I’ve taken the A.P.T.’s Certificate of Tattoo Mastery test and passed, yet there are always new things to learn. In this ever changing craft, where fine art has now melded with traditional tattooing, I think we need to go back to our roots….there is a reason all the old tattooers used to keep everything so secret…the cat’s already outta the bag, and has had kittens, that doesn’t mean that we as a tattoo community can’t take thing into control and reign things in a bit…we should start out by expressing how important apprenticeship is, and the traditions that were set in place before us….If everyone that has been tattooing, or even a quarter, for 10 years or more, just made the statement, that it is not cool to do the 2 week thing, and that apprenticeship is the only way to go, maybe this might change things….unfortunately sometime I loose hope in that idea…it’s in our hands how our craft turns out in the future…does it continue on this path of disaster, or do we take things in our own hands and make it change…
    Jay Brown
    Rosini Tattoo Family

  10. Hey Lincoln..some people do things to REPRESENT their craft,,,thats what i did…and have been doing long before London Ink and will be well after…
    Like i said it was my own way to show people thats its not a job for every one…and revolving around scratchers…
    When i first starting using the net i found certain tattoo forums that were nothing but that and cleaned those places up.
    The bleedin joke is YOU didnt get the point..
    I did nothing opposite…I simply try to always give back to tattooing what its given to me..
    Check yourself.

    1. I wasnt having a go at YOU

      Quote “Pity Louis Molloy didnt have the same morals before encouraging Jodie Marsh to become a Tattoo Apprentice for a TV Program.”

      i also agreed Quote “True” to your comments about
      mass-influence on the popularity of tattooing. Websites, Myspace, Facebook…

      I was stating a fact about louis encouraging Jodie Marsh to become a Tattoo Apprentice for a TV Program.

  11. how about all these tight ass tattooists taking those who want to learn under their wings and showing them the way!!!all a little contradictory that big statement sorry!!!

Comments are closed.