The Allstar Ink of Ross Nagle
Ross Nagle does some of the coolest Traditional tattoos we've ever seen.
You heard it here.
Widely recognized and respected in the tattoo industry, Ross Nagle has been an MVP in the game for nearly 20 years. He has a body of work that is consistently clean, bold, bright, and solid. None of that hipster stuff. Tattoos with balls, if you will. Ross is currently the owner of two successful shops in his home country Ireland - world renowned Allstar Ink Tattoo in Limerick and Love Hate Social Club Cork City alongside Ami James. These shops have played host to some of the top artists in the industry.
In the spirit of St. Patricks day, I thought I'd reach out to my Irish friend to talk a little about his newest business venture, and of course, tattooing.
How did you get into the business?
I was always a doodler.. I never finished school so I just worked odd jobs and sold things you shouldn't have to make a living. A fuck up if you will. Anyways, one of my best friends at the time had a brother that was a very well known Tattooer in Ireland so that opened my eyes to the tattooing world. I used to hang out at the shop and get tattooed from the age of 16. Long story short, I just hung out and did what I had to do to get in the door and make a start. Tattooing wasn't anywhere as "popular" as it is these days when I started. Wasn't a bad thing by any means. I got lucky! A fuck up that got lucky. :)
must be the luck of the Irish...
Recent from Tattoo Artists
How would you describe your artistic style?
I never looked at tattooing being an artsy thing. More of a craft by recreating designs from tattoo flash on peoples skin. The style and all that jazz kinda just happens over time. I don't think it's something that can be forced. Every real Tattooer I know has a signature, even if it's subtle, you can still tell who made certain tattoos even in a world full of carbon copy tattooers regurgitating other people's styles. I try to make all of my tattoos easy to read, strong with a little finesse. I suppose my black and grey tattoos are what I'm asked to do mostly so people must like them.
Is your art ever influenced by your surroundings? Where do you get your inspiration from?
My art or tattoos are mostly influenced by my heroes, friends and colleges that I've worked with over the years. I like to learn as much as I can and always take a little of something from everyone and everywhere I go. You can see your tattooing style change slightly the more you travel.
Do you have a favorite subject matter to tattoo? Is there any imagery you're still excited about?
Honestly, if it's not shit, I love tattooing it all. I try give customers what they want. If they don't know what they want even though they think they do, I'll always educate them in other subject matter and styles. I get excited when people give me great reference to work from.
What's it like co-owning a business with Ami James?
Being in business with Ami is refreshing to say the least. We both have a similar goal when it comes to running a smooth solid shop. It's a pretty great partnership that works with no bullshit. We are friends and business partners with a strong vision for the future.
As a traditional tattooer with almost 2 decades of experience, I'm sure you've seen many trends come and go... how do you feel about the "new-school" wave of tattooing?
It is what it is at this point. People like to express their inner artist a little too much these days but I won't hate on it. The proof will be in the future when everyone is getting these no outline tattoos covered up with proper tattoos. The same can be said for the new breed of tattooers that only use over sized fat lines and way too much black shading. There's a lot of people that know what a real tattoo should look like and future proofing it is a skill in its own. There is a bigger percentage of tattooers that have no clue what is going on. I like to do my thing and know that everyone around me is of the same understanding. Outside of that, we can only be hopeful that these part timers go back to working at their local game stores or bank to their graphic design jobs. Death to tat nerds!
Looking at the Instagrams from both of your shops, there's not a whole lot of Pinterest material on there. Not so much Neo traditional, no watercolors, or white ink mandalas... How have you guys possibly managed to avoid the Pinterest plague?
We haven't totally avoided the Pinterest thing but we do pride ourselves on educating people on what can be possible to get tattooed instead of just banging out easy Pinterest Tatts. We try our best to save the customer from themselves on a daily basis. As a result we get to make a lot of beautiful tattoos making both the tattooer and customer happy people at the end of it all.
Being part of the Love Hate family, you've traveled to and done work at Ami's other shops in the US & UK. Miami Ink Love Hate, Wooster Street Social Club and Love Hate London. Which one (besides Cork of course) is your favorite & why?
I've worked in all of the shops and I honestly can't pick a favourite. I consider everyone that works at each shop family, and we have good times everytime. It's crazy to see how worked up people get when they walk into Wooster Street or the Miami shop because they just wandered into a TV set that they've watched on TV for years. They are there for an experience and they get it everytime. Great crews all round to work with and learn from.
Any advice for a tattoo virgin?
Don't try and force your dumb ideas on your local tat wizard. Do some research on your local tattoo shops and if there are none, travel to someone that knows what they are doing. It's worth it. I promise. You will get the tattoo you deserve.