While his tattoos may be on the cutting edge of color realism, Jamie Schene’s soul remains old school. Instead of taking his cues from tattooers working off of flash, he is more inspired by the old masters of oil painting and the methods they would use to stage their work. He could get on a computer and use Photoshop like so many of his colleagues, but Schene would rather get his hands dirty. In a collaborative effort with his wife Lara, the two will take the painstaking effort to create the still life that will eventually become an astounding tattoo.
Schene recognizes that in the world of color realism, so many tattoos end up using the same reference material. After a while it begins to feel like you are looking at a copy of a copy of a copy. When it comes to pop culture portraits this is to be expected — there are only so many different photos of Heath Ledger as the Joker — but there really is no reason why we should see so many tattoos of the same flower or skull pulled off of Google images. Schene’s method takes more time, but in the end, it is clearly worth it.
“When I started tattooing, color realism wasn’t really happening,” Schene says. “When I started tattooing it was strictly flash. A custom tattoo would be just changing some colors to a piece of flash, you weren’t drawing everything up. I didn’t get into trying realistic stuff until 10 years ago, when I got into doing black and grey portraits only because clients were asking me to.”
“[Ronnie Sanchez and Hurtado’s] approach to doing it was so much different than any way I had ever approached tattooing,” Schene recalls. “It was always just outline, shading, color — a very traditional approach. But they didn’t tattoo that way at all. They started at the bottom right hand corner and completed the piece as they went up.”