Blending punk rock aesthetics with Japanese iconography and stylings, Wulfbaron creates dark art Illustrative tattoos with a unique flair. Citing a curious mind as the impetus behind constantly evolving and flourishing with inspiration, he swings from anime classics to esoteric demons with a confident grace. Based at London tattoo studio South City Market, Wulfbaron was kind enough to share a bit about his history, inspirations, and progression as a tattoo artist.
How did you get into tattooing and why was it something you were drawn to?
Tattooing was something that always intrigued me. When I was a child I saw a number of heavily tattooed punks in and around London and through friends of my parents, although I didn’t think about it again until I got a lot older. I’ve always been drawn to an outsiders way of life, I’ve always been surrounded by people of various lifestyles; punks, metal-heads, and people who had gang members in their family. At the same time I was also interested in paintings and would love to go to museums. When I was 16-22 I hung out around a lot of people in the punk scene in New Zealand that had made tattoo machines themselves, and that’s when I knew. I started expressing an interest in it, and a guy from a local bike scene gave me my first machine.
Once I moved from New Zealand to England, I knew I would do this, I could just feel it. I stopped partying and really knuckled down, talking to various tattooers in the scene and gaining as much knowledge as possible. I got an apprenticeship that taught me a bit and gave me an insight, but also kind of made me take a step back to re-evaluate how I was to approach this. I realized this would be a lot harder than I originally thought, I would spend days/weeks/months redefining my style and figuring out who would be able to better guide me on my path. That’s when I met John Jon (the founder of AKA in Berlin). He saw a little something in me and after traveling to London to talk with him he decided to give me a shot. So that was it. From then on, I worked two jobs so I could afford to travel to work with him in his newly opened studio in London, where I got to spend time around some of my favorite tattooers (as well as a large number of guests that came through weekly). My position was technically as a shop manager/apprentice, and from then on, that was my life. I wanted nothing else, and nothing less. I would come in extra early to make sure the shop was clean, and watch who I could, talk with people and absorb every last piece of information. I built my skill level up bit by bit over time, and once the studio closed it’s doors for good I knew how to really start walking my path.
It was definitely a long route to take, but I didn’t know much about it from the start and my artistic ability in the beginning was almost non existent so I knew this would take some hard work. Nothing comes easy!
Can you talk about your inspirations, and how your style has evolved over the years?
I am inspired by all. I spend a lot of time watching documentaries about anything and everything, from Japanese sword makers, to old art and history. I really think you can learn something from everybody. You can learn from a fish monger, that it takes being in the right place at the right time, and about his work ethic, or you can learn from a painter with a completely different style to you, how it took him 20 years of hating his work and going nowhere, to finally realizing a eureka moment. If you have a story to tell I want to hear it. I want to learn everything I possibly can from whoever I can. Information and criticism is invaluable.
My style used to be very crude. I was an angsty teen, I’d draw a lot of nerdy shit, vampires and werewolves, men with big armor and bigger chainsaws, things like that. When I got into tattooing, it hit a lot more of a traditional style. I became obsessed with the way old timers would send each other letters, like some kind of secret society, there was a lot of mysticism. Later on, I realized you don’t really have to do this style strictly, that you could just take the techniques, and run with it, and technique from any style always held some relevance for me. From there I just started doing whatever, drawing things how it felt best, but using the Japanese technique of flowing with the contours of the body. You have to make a tattoo or a design fit the space that it is going. If it’s on an arm, it has to move with that arm, otherwise it will only ever look good in the position you placed it on. Every line serves a purpose!
Who are the tattooers, or fine artists/movements, that have inspired you over the years?
Originally anything to do with punk imagery. I’d be inspired by old Agnostic Front artwork from earlier albums such as “Cause for Alarm” by the legendary Sean Taggart but also a lot of even older artists like Albrecht Durer or Caravaggio, people I consider to be quite punk in their own ways. When I first came into tattooing, I saw some designs by Eckel that grabbed me, I liked a lot of John Baizleys work also, and I fell in love with the flow of everything. Tim Lehi, Derek Noble, Chad Koeplinger among many others were some of the first and most hard working people I can think of that helped spark my fire!
Being a fan of Albrecht Durer, I’d have to say that Maxime Buche, Guy le Tattooer and a few other people at the time who were doing this kind of stuff, were also putting these kind of dark images to skin, and finding inspiration in things outside of tattooing. I think I’m just drawn to things I like, it doesn’t matter where it comes from!
Many artists have a philosophy or motivation behind their work...what would you say is yours? How do you define success?
My motivation comes from around me, there’s always something new to look for. I just get a kick out of learning. I have nothing but pure passion for finding new ways of doing things, I eat, sleep and breath it, and I see no signs of stopping. Honestly I don’t ever try to find it, I’m just always looking, sometimes in the bigger things, sometimes the smallest detail. I think if you really love something, this is easy. If you love it, do it. If you try it and don’t feel constantly inspired (even if you’re good at it) then it’s not for you, and that’s fine.
I think success comes in the form of all of these little victories. I don’t get it when I finish one project, because the second that stops, I’m already starting something new. Success comes from doing something that really means something to you, and taking every steps towards a path of mastery towards it. Success is also found in the failures. Every failure is part of your path so embrace it and carry on.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received? What is the best advice you feel you can give?
Just do it, and don’t worry about the bigger picture. Looking too far forward is like staring at a big beautiful cathedral or museum, rather than going inside to check out all of the wonders that it has to offer like art and sculptures. You will stay still, you’ll only see one perspective, and you’ll miss out on everything it has to offer. Be ready to fail, and be ready for your passion to really pull you in every direction. Seek out every piece of information on every subject you can. Learn to love the process.
Beyond tattooing, what are you passionate about? How do you spend your free time, and what do you do on your vacations?
I love art, history, I’m biiiig foody. I go to museums, I go for walks through various new locations (without direction, just to walk and see what a place has to offer), through nature, whatever keeps my curious mind happy. Don’t really drink or party so much anymore, I prefer to spend this time and energy going to a nice restaurant, or reading a book, or finding new ideas. I’m never not expanding my mind. It is my vacation, and it is my time off haha.
Any future plans you’d like to share?
As far as tattooing goes, maybe hit up some conventions, and get back on the guest spot train again, it’s been a while!
Maybe finally do some merch for people who are too far away to get tattooed! I am planning to travel more through Europe, Scandinavia, and Asia this year though. I want to see what I can. I want to hike and eat the food of the locals, and to experience how they live. So, if you’ve got any recommendations, my inbox is always open!