Introducing our homegirl Boo, hand poking from Kevin Paul Tattoo. Boo is a young and free-spirited artist who simply enjoys what she does.
All the tattoos featured in here are entirely hand poked. No machines involved.
I'm going to let her take over from here.
So, I'm a hand poke custom tattoo artist. I love to create unique designs for my clients and not letting the fact that I only hand poke get in the way of the design, by this I mean undertaking large pieces as well as small, utilising line and dot work which I love, but also adapting to smooth shading and colour blends.
I started hand poking at the end of 2009. I did have to take nearly a year out of tattooing back in 2012 as a violent burglary messed with my creative skills! I came back in mid 2013 and have been pushing myself hard since.
I actually thought I was going to be a chair designer, I have a bit of a thing for ergonomics, even down to spoons and the correct balance of them, but when I started my degree down at Falmouth College of Arts, Cornwall, UK, I went to get tattooed at a local studio with one of my own designs. They suggested I should make flash sheets to sell, I started to and then got a bit precious of my art and thought “hey, I shouldn't be just deigning these, I should be tattooing these!”
Her Hand Poking Career
I managed to get hold of some needles and ink and messed about stick and poke style on my hands and fingers. It took awhile for me to find the right teacher, a studio where I fitted in and then I met Mr. Adam 'Starfish' Dutton at Tradition 180 and it all started to fall into place. He has been a massive inspiration to me as well as a major influence, he is a phenomenal artist who had 3 strokes and still creating masterpieces like my arm sleeve.
It doesn't seem really relevant these days as so many people jump straight getting visitable skin inked before the rest of their hidden skin, but back even just 5 years in the UK, it could stop you from getting a good and secure job, Adam went ballistic at me when he'd seen I had tattooed my hands before even getting a tattoo apprenticeship,“If you don't make it as a tattoo artist, you've fucked your life,” he shouted at me, well that just made me more deter minded to be the best tattoo artist I could be.
It was Adam who asked me as a test of patients and passion to only hand poke for a year before he would verse me in machining, he knows the basics of hand poking as he is predominantly a machine tattoo artist, and well after a year I was already head over heals in love with this beautiful, traditional and intimate technique.
I've flirted with machines since, but my heart is truly in hand poke tattooing and pushing it to the limits, I want to be able to show that a hand poke artist can achieve the same quality and techniques a machinist can. I find it a really beautiful way to put ink in the skin. If done correctly it causes so much less trauma to the skin, especially over coil machines.
Still even healing time compared to a lot of rotary machine tattoos, hand poke tattoos just take less time. No scabs, which means less of a chance of ink falling out, whether it was picked out or just over saturation of the skin. You could say its more hygienic too, as I don't have machines, tips and grips to cleanse, I use single use, pre-sterilised needles that I just pop into a needle bin after.
All those pluses, plus I guess I'm a bit of a Luddite, I've always been massively interested in learning old techniques of that the creation of machines took to mass production, I like the individuality and personality of something that is handmade, rather than machined.
Boo, the Hand Poke Artist
I'm a bit of a jack of all trades, give me any challenge and I'm happy to accept.
Left to my own devices however and I tend to like to mix realism with graphics, smooth shading with bold undulating lines and splashes of intense colour and all the dotwork. I have an eye condition called meares irlen syndrome, which can affect your depth perception as well as other things, but it's given me a really great clarity with black lines on skin and I've often wonder if it has affect the art I make as I see the world a bit differently to most people.
A typical session is around 4-5 hours and that is only because most of my clients can and are available to sit for that period of time. I do get a good majority of smaller tattoos to do, as people like to dip their toes in the water with handpoking as it isn't so common, but you defiantly get the most out of me when we have all the time in the world as I get really in to the flow of tattooing, just like most artist I guess.
I've tattooed up to 9hours in one sitting before, but I admit, I'm not a machine and I do start to slow down after about 7hours. I should get to the gym more and work my arms and hands, ha!
I love to explore and I love being outside, even if I end up inside old crumbling abandoned buildings. I take a lot of influence from nature, so I tend to immerse myself in it. Come round to mine one day and you can sit beneath palm trees and pretty orchid flowers.
I also love to create and create anything normally out of nothing! I live to create, whether its wild dance moves around the kitchen as I'm concocting another new and wonderful dish (insert sarcasm) splashing ink on any surface I can find, or stick and stitching things my magpie eyes find together, etc. I'm big on making my own synthetic free cosmetics too and I'm trialling out a tattoo healing balm currently, amongst other goodies, which may hit the shelves shortly.
Plus, on top of that, I'm trying to give a bit back to the arts community by lending out my body for artists and photographers to muse over, basically I don't mind getting naked and dancing around woods and abandoned buildings for creative projects and life drawing. I don't do sexy, but random shapes and faces and I'm there. I generally don't take myself too seriously, as this world seems to get serious enough, but I love to love and share that through my endeavours above.
Life in General
Its been an amazing 5-6 years, I've come up against a lot of flack for choosing to continue hand poke tattooing. I've had ex-colleagues tell me I would be no good at anything other than script writing (which is an amazing talent in itself), that I wouldn't even be able to do dot work, let alone colour work and smooth shading.
I've also had other machine artists say I'm wasting my time, not giving any value to the technique and mocking it as its not modern or 'now', that I could make more money if I just picked up a machine as it can be quicker.
I'm really glad, happy and grateful that handpoke tattooing is on the up and people are seeing it for what it can be, a truly stunning and wonderful way to get tattooed, without compromises.
Once someone has focused time on learning hand poke techniques, an artist can rival a slow to average machine artist, so there may be a few stigmas to get over, but its on the way with articles like this being published, so again, thank you!
Thanks, Boo! Now, what the bloody hell are you all waiting for? Go get hand poked by Boo!
Follow her on Instagram.