Ruben Jordan Langsted is a top notch tattooer from Denmark who is producing solid black and grey realism work.
I believe his tattoos are undeniably incredible, but what really sets him apart in my eyes are his layouts on large scale work.
I was able to meet him at the Evergreen Invitational in Eugene, Oregon this year when he made the trip out, and it was so apparent that he came from humble beginnings and that he is just a genuine, hungry, hard working artist doing his best to bless each and every client and leave them with the best piece he can possibly produce. He complimented my collection and said “I would love to add something to it one day…even if it’s just something small!”
It’s very obvious that he really takes his time with his projects and doesn’t ever want to rush things.
In this interview that I got to do with him, he goes in depth about his art background, thoughts on tattoo mimicking, what he believes is most beneficial to developing as an artist, and more. I hope you guys enjoy the read.
So I know you’re from Denmark, and visited the convention in Oregon of the USA a few months ago that I attended as well (great to meet you)… Have you traveled here before? What are some of the main differences between here and where you’re from in Denmark?
Actually I’m from Norway, but I live and work in Copenhagen, Denmark. The US trip was the first time for me, so I was very excited! I was initially invited over by Joshua Carlton, the co-host of the mentioned Evergreen convention in Oregon. I was being invited over to hold a seminar for tattooers, which was intimidating but so exciting at the same time. I’m still honored and thankful for this oppurtunity. Your work is absolutely incredible these days by the way.
Coming to the states, I knew I had to bring my A-game to be recognized amongst so many great artists. Luckily I won both ’Best of day ’with an arm piece I did on local tatooer and ’Best Realistic 1st place’ with a second piece. Getting recognition and networking with new and old friends was basically my motivation for traveling in the first place. I feel I accomplished both. I met so many amazing people, so I wish to come back again soon!
What is your art background? Your work is absolutely incredible these days by the way, what have been the most beneficial steps as far as developing your style and talent level as an artist.
I have been drawing my entire life. I have a bachelor degree in Digital Design and have studied ’Mixed Arts an Art-History’ for 6 years. I moved to Copenhagen from Norway, straight after Uni to live with my beautiful girlfriend, now wife. Coming to a city with the one of the most tattooed population in the world made me so inspired to look into tattooing and how I could manage to make my living. I started getting tattooed by a tattooer called Rachel, which now is one of my closest and dearest friends. She made me so interested in the crafts of tattooing and was willing to share and help me get into this industry which for me was more magical and mystical than anything. It was a dream in the making.
At that time I was working full time in a kindergarden, which I absolutely loved. Meanwhile I was on the lookout for an apprenticeship as a tatooer. I went into a new shop every week with my portfolio under my arm, most of the tattooers I met shrugged me off and didnt want to take a glace at my work. I knew it would be an uphill battle getting into this industry. I spent more time on my portofolio and because of the support from my amazing girlfriend I kept looking for a shop that would take me in, eventually it happened. It actually took around two years before I found a spot in a basement parlour in the red-lights of Copenhagen. I had never been happier in my life, not even knowing what would soon be in store for me. In this shop I worked my way up the ranks in an traditional apprenticeship. Working 12 hours each day in the shop from the get-go made it natural for me to spend more hours than most of my competitiors to strive to get better every day.
Slowly I built a dedicated clientelle of locals that wanted cheap and fast tattoos, I delivered as best I could. Then Instagram and Social Media happened, and I slowly found out that I was just a very very small fish in an amazingly big pool. Soon later on I started traveling, which was my break-through. I traveled to my very first convention and even snatched the ’1st place in best bng’. The prize itself didnt mean much, rather the new network of talented tattooers I met. The week after I did my first guest-spot. I got more information on how to develop my technique. I listened, took the critique and learned from it. I kept doing just that, and that’s why I’m where I’m at today.
Who are some of your biggest influences in the tattoo industry? Is there anyone you’d love to get tattooed by soon?
There is so many great tattooers that have influenced me at various points of my career. Recently I have tried to keep the ones who influences me on a short list, a list that changes from time to time. If I have to mention the current ones it would be Carlos Torres for his vision, Oscar Åkermo for his incredible techniques, Fred Flores and Eric Marczinizyn for the compositions and Ben Kaye for his amazing way of coming up with new stuff.
What is the toughest part of being a tattooist? Most rewarding part?
For me the thoughest part is to be a good tattooer and a good husband and father at the same time and juggeling all my responsibilities without looking like a total idiot haha! I always feel like im one hour behind and wish I had more time to do everything I wanted and what is expected of me. I’m slowly getting more and more sought after as an artist which is both humbling and intimidating at the same time, I really want to get everyone who is inquiring in my calendar, but I can’t. Sadly I honestly don’t have the time or energy to respond to all the emails with amazing new clients the way they deserve. So to all who has sent me an inquire and read this, and still waiting for a reply; Sorry!
Favorite tattoo you’ve ever done?
Probably the ’pope, cemetary, dome’ backpiece I did for Kenni, its a backpiece that started out with a chicano theme, but we agreed to keep it classical, detailed and tidy. His skin and pain tolerance is truly amazing, and he heals so well. He also told me I could spend as much time I wanted to make it perfect, so that made it SO much more relaxing and I feel like I could but so much more quality in it than I normally do. I think I put around 40 hours total in it making it the most time I spent on a backpiece ever.
As a tattoo collector, I have heard many different opinions on this subject and am still conflicted as far as how I feel about it. What are your thoughts on what should be the “unspoken rules” of mimicking tattoos? Is it fair ball game as long as everything can be found on Google? Should it be fine if the artist is starving and needs money as long as he or she makes sure not to post the mimicked piece? How do you feel?
Tattoo mimicking is definatly dividing the waters! I personally think its totally okay to mimick or steal ideas, (not copying) from other tattooers, its more than likely they have done it themselves from another artist. Resulting the arts itself is developing, its unlikely someone will re-discover the wheel.
If a tattooer is complaining someone stole his ’roaring lion from pinterest tattoo’ he needs to get a reality check.
I would say this especially goes for photorealism tho, there’s only so many good references out there. Just look at the ’Neptun’ that has been re-used by hundreds of artists around the world- now noone would ever know who was the first tattooer to tattoo it.
I personally had several artists ’steal’ my ideas or compositions, but it never really bothered me. In fact It’s not my original work, so I can’t really complain, and I would never know if an artist has done this before me somewhere in the world, maybe even before social media. I feel that, if you are to steal or be inspired by someone, please let them know by tagging them. Its an honour for me everytime someone is inspired by me to make art. All credit for photorealism should go to the photographer, or even more; the person making the original art. I guess my technique to and interpretation of the references is why people come to me for work.
TLDR: Straight up stealing the design in i.e oldschool is definitely a no-go. Being inspired is a go-go in realism, but please let the artists know.
Describe the worst experience you’ve ever had with a client?
I dont really have many bad experiences *knocks on wood* Probably just people who wastes my time with endless amounts of emails and consultation.
What are three things you wish every client/tattoo collector knew?
Patience, is probably the most important thing when getting good art. First, patience with the booking itself. Many good artists nowadays has hundreds of emails with inquiries to get through and some are more cryptic than others. I’ve had email correspondance that went on for more than 40 emails back and forth before I finally booked him in. It ended up as a nice project nevertheless. Secondly patience with the pieces and work itself; you can work seven hours and finish the tattoo, and it will look ok. But If I get to spend another 3 hours with pure retouch I know it will look amazing and last longer. So yeah, spend the neccesary amount of time in each tattoo is definitely important.
Vision- know where you are going with the work. I personally find it really frustrating when someone wants a ¾ sleeve and then comes back two weeks after and tells me now they want it all the way down. What happens is that the last quarter is really hard to add something that fits in perfectly with the overall design of the sleeve. So make sure you know the exact borders of the tattoo before you want straight lines to end a sleeve i.e below the elbow. If you want seperate pieces with air/skin between them, then its totally fine.
Good skin, some people wait years from when they get the appointment until their actual session. Meanwhile people should really spend time on optimizing the skin for the application. Afterall it is the canvas where an artist is about to create something for you, so why not give the best conditions possible. The best ways to ’prepare’ the skin is totally avoiding sun or ecspesially sun burns. Use lotion after every bath, soap tends to dry out the skin, same with the sun. Don’t drink too much alcohol or chain-cigarettes before the session. Just in general, take good care of yourself and the skin will reflect upon it. Making the healing and application of the work so much easier.
Favorite part of being a tattoo artist? Toughest?
Meeting so many cool people and traveling the world with my work. That is definitely the best thing about this job. It’s so flexible. Also seeing clients reaction to the finished product and of course the hours spent creating art for hours together with the clients, listening to their stories and some even become good friends after many sessions.
The toughest part is the sacrifices you have to make to ’make it’. I’m not spending as much time with my family as I should since I have so much stuff to do besides tattooing. That definitely takes a toll on me, but I know I have to sacrifice something now to gain from it later. I plan to tattoo less in the future and focus more on designing and developing as an artist, when that time comes I will push the boundaries of what I’m capable of with my work.
You have built quite the large social media following as well as a high amount of respect in the industry… What are your three best tips for others looking to do the same in this skyrocketing, highly competitive industry?
It’s probably easier than before to get into the industry but to really become big you have to spend so many hours to be better everyday. So If you want to skyrocket, put all the hours you can, seek information and get critique from honest people. Not just people licking your ass, its more likely they will just give a pat on the shoulder and say pleasing words, and not the critique you need to actually need to take new steps. Don’t ever become complacent, travel and always strive to learn more.
Also, social media has way too much focus for young artists. Likes and followers won’t get you any respect in the industry at all (from respected artists). Keep your integrity, get respect through your clients and work ethics, that will get you somewhere. Keep the focus on the art, not yourself. I see people using social media to get attention, with bare skin and sex-appeal and what not. It works great if attention is all you want and if that makes you a better artist. I’m not saying its wrong, Its just not my way.
Be humble about it, you have the best job in the world. Treat yourself, the clients and the industry with dignity and the respect it deserves.