He mainly specializes in creating built-to-last portrait work, and is incredibly methodical about the entire process.
In this interview, I got the opportunity to talk with him about things such as the relationship between photography and tattooing, what makes a good reference photo and what does not, tattooing and mental health, and more.
Hope you guys enjoy the read, thanks for looking.
So I know that you are into wildlife photography, and like to incorporate it into your references. Can you talk a little bit about what goes on behind the scenes with all of that? What is the relationship you see between photography and tattooing?
In a portrait you don’t want an image that when converted to black-and-white has no contrast and appears flat. There are things I can do to adjust the levels and values to suit but I would only go so far before it will start to look odd and not translate well to a tattoo. I always push provisional clients to provide me with the best reference before I book them in for an appointment. I believe that not all portraits should be tattooed. I’m always very upfront with regards to this. Just because an image makes a good photograph, does not mean it will make a good tattoo. It is always worth pushing back for better reference when it comes to personal portraits. Ultimately you want the very best result. I don’t expect prospective clients to understand this criteria before they engage with me, it is my job to guide them towards the best possible outcome. This should be the case for any tattooist taking on portraits in my opinion.
One thing it is really important to remember when creating digital stencils is to pay attention to the dpi. If you’re making a line drawing over a 72dpi image that is say only 100mm square and you need to print it to fit A4 size, you’re going to end up with blurred lines when printed to make a stencil as you’ll have to enlarge the image over 200% to make it big enough. Make sure the image you are using is physically big enough to pull it off. Oh and of course pay attention to which layer you’re drawing on! We’ve all been caught out by that!
I would say time. There’s never enough time. It can be all consuming. Design. Clean. Set up. Tattoo. Clear up. Clean. Admin. When you’re all in, you’re committed. I have a better balance now but for a long time I was just blinkered. Personal relationships definitely suffered. Both at home and at work. I have to take a large part of the blame for that for sure. But it’s an easy situation to find yourself in, you know? When things are going well. Ferris Bueller was right though, You do need to stop and take a look around once in while.
If the Covid-19 situation has taught us anything, for me, it would be that it’s dangerous to be all consumed by one thing. Because if you take that away, you’re left with nothing. Thankfully I have a million hobbies and interests to keep me occupied…oh and a wife… and a daughter to squabble with… and of course anyone following me on instagram will have seen my dog; José feature in my stories I’m sure!
How has tattooing impacted your mental health? If you feel inclined, maybe list a few pros and a few cons.
Thanks to anyone who took the time to read/look, hope you guys enjoyed the write-up.
Be sure to follow Duncan on Instagram @duncanwhitfield.
Thanks again for your time man!