Tattoo Artists Tell us in Ten – Simon Cooke
Working from a family run bespoke studio in Newcastle Under Lyme gives Simon 'Cookie' Cooke the opportunity to create an atmosphere that offers a little something extra special.
With a passion for fantasy inspired artwork and realism, he prides himself in making every piece of work a one off for his clients. He’s also an international multi award winner who remains grounded to the fact that for him - tattooing is all about being a true people person.
So we thought we’d ask Simon to answer ten questions about what being part of the tattoo world really means. From what made him first become an artist through to what he feels might be the next big thing in our industry.
1) What first inspired you to get into tattooing?
It might sound strange but I just woke up one day and decided I wanted to be a tattooist. I always loved art back in school and knew that whatever I did would be creative. Before I started tattooing I was really into motorbikes, airbrushing them and doing customised paint work. I always felt passionate about creating and I get the chance to do that everyday as a Tattoo Artist.
2) What do you love about the industry?
This industry can be challenging but essentially we’re a community that looks after each other on the whole and offers support. It’s inspirational to be in a world where you see other people that make you want to achieve and do so much more. It’s an ever-evolving craft and I love being a part of that.
3) What would you say your main tattoo style is and why?
My main style of tattooing could be classed as Illustrative Realism. It’s sort of a cross between hyper realism and illustrative but it’s born from my passion of graphic artwork novels. I take my inspiration from Fantasy Artists like Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell and stand out fantasy anime artwork like Ghost in the Shell. There’s always been something about the fantastical and sci fi artwork landscape that’s influenced me.
4) What makes a good tattooist in your opinion?
Personality and building great customer relationships is a really important part of this industry and offering that constant reassurance to your client that they’re in good hands whenever they come through your door. Obviously being a really good artist and knowing what your doing is also a must but some people can be quite hard to get on with in the tattooing world.
I find any sort of hierarchy and arrogance amongst tattooists really off putting personally. Stay grounded, stay true to what you do and don’t be a product of your success. Have a connection and find a common ground with everyone you come into contact with.
5) Do you have a favourite piece you have done? What was it and why?
I feel like every last piece is my favourite piece as I find something different in what I’ve done each time and seeing yourself constantly progress and change is a key thing that holds my interest. Today I’ve done an illuminated skull which differs from anything else I’ve ever done before so it’s quite something to still surprise yourself after being in the industry for 11 years. I specialise in cover ups which is a challenge every time where you find yourself approaching something new and being pleased with the results.
On a more personal note one of my favourite ever pieces has to be a Portrait I did of the musician Prince for my wife which we’d planned out together just before finding out he had died. She loves Prince as an artist and we never expected it to become a memorial piece. But that makes it even more poignant somehow.
6) Is there a particular product we supply you with which you couldn’t live without?
I love Eternal Ink and never use anything else other than Eternal to tattoo with. It holds well, heals well and I find other brands have issues with certain colours. When it comes to machines I’ve probably used everything – I’m a bit of a collector when it comes to tattoo machines which offer something new and a beautiful design. My current favourites to work with are the Inkjecta Nano which is so lightweight and agile and also the Killer Bee.
7) Where do you see the industry heading in the future?
New styles develop all the time and as we go further down the line I think we’ll see a lot of mixing and matching across genres as clients and artists alike get inspired to experiment even more. I think we’ll see Trad-Realism start to gain momentum and have it’s own moment as this is something new mixed with a traditional style tattoo that just offers something a bit out of the ordinary. I can see Abstract Graffiti styling as something that we start to see more of too.
A fact of this industry is that it’s like fashion and styles adapt constantly. Unfortunately sometimes we do follow the ‘wings of fashion’ a bit too much which means everyone can start wanting the same thing. Nothing is ever 100% original but by constantly evolving and looking back I think the tattoo industry offers it’s own unique take within the fashion led world.
I’d also like to see the tattoo industry head down a slightly more regulated route so artists can all work together to stop bad work happening. I’m not suggesting some regulatory body comes in to control the industry but I feel giving us a voice where we agree on an industry standard everyone should adhere to is important. The be all and end all to being a tattoo artist is the work you do on your client’s skin – we’re offering a service on people’s bodies which needs safeguarding.
8) What tattoo conventions do you enjoy going to or taking part in and why?
Liverpool is a staple show for us and we’ve always found it brilliant. I also think a lot of the European Tattoo shows are currently really good and are offering something a little new and different. I’m finding them run well with an understanding that things need to feel fresh as shows are all about the crowds and buzz you create.
9) What other artists and styles do you admire?
I’m a big fan of Paul Acker, Nikko Hurtado and Steve Butcher as I admire anyone who excels at super high realistic full saturation tattooing with detail. I’m also really into the work of A.d Pancho – the super high colour impact he gets into his realism work is brilliant.
10) Any funny or nightmare client stories you can share? (no names obviously)
You know weirdly enough nothing springs to mind. I’ve never tattooed someone whose been a problem but lots of people are up for a laugh and can be quite uninhibited body wise when you’re tattooing certain parts! Tattooing someone is a lot like therapy, we hear a lot of laughter here everyday as people share stories and feel part of something. We like to make our studio a place where people feel they can chill out and relax – it’s all about creating an atmosphere that offers a little something extra special.
Simon Cooke is a Barber DTS sponsored artist.