Sam Taylor inscribes people with the slogans they live by in a unique style of elaborate black and grey lettering. His work stands out because of how many words he's able to pack into his pieces, a take on typographic tattoos that very few others can equal. He employs high contrast to create lettering that seems to shout out from his clients’ bodies. What makes his work so outspoken is his use of emboldened negative space. While most tattoo scribes shape their letters with dense black shading, he does the exact opposite, letting the dark backgrounds of his pieces push the unfilled text out at the viewer.
Script has a longstanding tradition in tattooing, championed by artists such as BJ Betts, Big Meas, and David “Vandal” Ruiz, but Taylor has taken this alphabetical genre to a whole new level by creating what he calls “hollowed Victorian” lettering. In this nuanced approach to textual body art, he mixes together varying gradients of black and grey to create the illusion of depth, giving each of his pieces the appearance of actual sorts — the metal letters used in typesetting. The three-dimensional property of his work is reminiscent of graffiti, but through the precision possible in tattooing, he has refined this eye-catching aesthetic into an ornamental form of bodily adornment.
Aside from the pronounced and elegant look of his tattoos, it’s the language in Taylor’s pieces that makes them break the mold. You’d be hard pressed to find a portfolio with as elaborate of a vocabulary as his. He doesn’t limit himself to rendering just acronyms, names, short words, and clipped phrases. Instead, he creates compositions spelled out of entire sentences. He inscribes his clients with slogans, mantras, and maxims, even if it takes a sleeve or back-piece to get the point across.
As if squeezing entire sayings into spaces as small as the back of a client’s head wasn’t already impressive enough, the vast variety of typefaces that Taylor shapes is what makes his work so visually striking. He’s almost like an assemblage artist, frequently combining numerous different styles of lettering — ranging from gothic print to flowery cursive — in the confines of a single piece, making his work look almost like old vaudeville signs.
It’s not only the exquisiteness and complexity of Taylor’s lettering that makes it so impactful; it’s the sentiments that they convey as well. A phrase like “for those I love I will sacrifice” expresses something quite different than “not guilty.” His pieces tell the outward world a considerable amount about their wearers.
To read more of Taylor’s beautiful Victorian script, make like the letter O and roll over to his Instagram. He is based in Melbourne, Australia and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for booking should you want the saying that best represents who you are inscribed on your skin.