When you devote your whole life to a single trade or artistry, you’re bound to develop your own unique style. Sure, you might be a professionally trained metalsmith, but who’s to say you won’t one day start your own jewelry line and develop your own unique style. The same is true of tattoo artists. One might learn and have an apprenticeship that’s completely, 100% traditional, but that’s not to say that they won’t fine tune that style to make it their own. The subtle differences that vary from artist to artist are what makes the art of tattooing so fascinating, not to mention addictive. Stylistically speaking, traditional tattoos are often characterized by their bold black lines and vibrant color, but artist Nick Oaks is shaking things up with noticeably finer lines.
Tattooing out of Bait & Schlang, a predominantly traditional shop in Montreal, Oaks’ work still houses the majority of the traditional style’s bones. The vibrant color is still very much an integral part of the style, as are the usual cast of characters that so often take the lead in traditional tattoos like wolves, Native American portraits, and eagles. The only true thing that deviates from a straightforward traditional piece in Oaks’ work are the black outlines. In lieu of the classic thick outlines that characterizes the style, Oaks opts instead for finer more intricate lines. The result is a previously untapped delicacy that adds a level of sophistication that isn’t necessarily widely recognized in this particular style (although it definitely should be). Although one would never describe traditional tattoos as realistic, the fine lines in Oaks work add the tiniest touch of realism that in turn creates a sense of ferocity in the wolf, regality in the eagle, and mystery in the Native American portrait.
In an interview with Cargo Collective, Oaks says that his unique style comes from his drive to create a unique piece for each customer. “Because every customer is different, the ideas and themes that people bring us are always new, we're constantly looking for unique ways to create a unique tattoo. Even when I’m doing something that's been done over and over again, there's always this drive to make it a little bit different from the last one.”