Mish (@mish_tattoo) is a talented realism tattooer working out of the world renowned shop Ship Shape Tattoo, located in the beautiful city of Auckland, New Zealand.
Mish is gifted at doing both black and grey realism as well as color realism pieces as well.
One of the people Mish learned from was one of the all time leading black and grey artists, Matt Jordan (@mattjordantattoo) (as well as others at the shop).
To tell you just a little of what I know about their studio, Ship Shape (@shipshapetattoo) is a place full of artists who excel in many different aspects of art, starting with their top notch work ethic. They also all take pride in creating work that is built to stand the test of time, much of it being unique large-scale pieces made to fit different entire body parts such as full fronts, backs, arms, legs, etc. They also love using custom and unorthodox imagery, stuff you definitely do not see everyday (check out https://reference87.com for incredible tattoo reference inspiration).
I got the opportunity to ask Mish some questions, and we talked about a variety of things including built-to-last realism work, some of the underrated difficulties of tattooing, tattooing and its impact on artists mental health, and more. Hope you guys enjoy the read!
First of all I just wanted to hear a little bit about the dynamic between you and the squad over at Ship Shape. It’s known by many to be one of the very most all around talented shops on the entire planet. Can you talk a bit about what goes on around there, what exactly is in the water at your guys studio so to speak?
First of all, as Ben said – we’re fucking awesome! And, thank you! We are all quite close friends here – there’s really not a hierarchy. We all recognize each other’s strengths and weaknesses and try to be quite open and honest with each other. It’s a very nurturing environment, we all feel quite comfortable to critique each other’s work and are very open to sharing any knowledge with one another. If I have a question, I can ask. There is always going to be advice and answers available from everyone in the studio. We all have the same goal: we just want to do the best tattoos we can. As soon as I walk in the door, I feel inspired to push myself to produce good work.
What are a few things you have learned are especially important in order to create a built-to-last black and grey tattoo? And what about the same question but for color realism/surrealism?
Picking a strong reference image is very important. One that has enough contrast and structure. For the longevity of a tattoo, contrast and structure is crucial. Also, understanding the type of skin I am working on and adjusting my techniques to work with different types of skin in order to achieve the maximum effect – be it dark or light skin.
How many years in the game are you right now, and what has been the toughest but most valuable lesson you’ve learned since your time tattooing thus far?
I have been tattooing for 9 and a half years. It’s all tough! Throughout my career and throughout many peoples – there are always going to be new challenges. Mentally, being happy with my own work is very difficult. I am still not 100% happy with my work, and I am unsure if I ever will be. This can be really hard. Sometimes I do think about finding something easier to do! I can find myself struggling with this. Pushing through the mental block for me, is definitely the biggest challenge. I remind myself how fortunate I am that I can do this for a job. It is a super fun job and extremely rewarding when I create something for a client that they absolutely love – it makes it all worth it! At the end of the day, making clients really happy is an amazing feeling and very important. It helps me to do the best I can and reminds me to have fun with it!
What are three aspects of tattooing that you would say are underratedly difficult?
-Communication between the client and artist. It’s not so much about the act of tattooing, but it is still a huge part of tattooing. Working with people to get the best result.
Number one best overall piece of advice you could give all of your future clients?
Trust me! But also, be straightforward and honest with your opinions and thoughts.
Since the time you’ve been tattooing, what have been some changes you’ve seen along the way in the industry? Any big changes you may hope to see or predict to see?
I think the attitude towards tattooing has changed. It has definitely become more fine art driven. More and more artists are starting to branch out and absorb ideas and concepts from outside of tattooing! I hope COVID ends soon and we can all get back to doing conventions and travelling!
How can clients who may be new to the tattoo world tell what is real vs what is fake these days online? Any advice for that?
Man, the only way is to go into a tattoo shop, talk to the tattooists. Nothing beats first hand experience! See how it works on skin. We can see amazing tattoos on the internet, but it may not look the same on your body. The only way to find out is to go out there and start getting tattooed!
Could you pick out one of your absolute your favorite moments since becoming a tattoo artist and talk a bit about it?
When Matt asked me if I wanted a job at Ship Shape, when he was tattooing me! Matt was tattooing a portrait of my dog, I was working part time between studios and halfway through our session, he asked me what my plan was. I told him “I dont know! I am trying to spend more time painting, and kinda finding myself” and he asked if I wanted to work here. Then I told him I’d think about it haha. But you know, I was secretly very excited.
How has tattooing impacted your mental health?
It is up and down! There are good and bad, as I mentioned before you know, being not content with my work can be really depressing and difficult. But, on the other hand, tattooing gives me an instant validation that I have never experienced in any other creative industry. I get to produce a piece of work on that particular day, and get the validation from the client and co workers. That is pretty important, it gives me a purpose and makes me feel good about myself. Also, people want my work! Selling paintings is hard! I have sat and stewed if my paintings have been good enough in the past, with tattooing people book in because they like my work. That is really validating.
Best piece of advice you have received along the way? Who was it from?
“Take your time and think about what you are doing” – Matt Jordan 🙂
Thanks to anyone who took the time to read this, and a special thank you to Mish for taking the time to answer these questions for us. Be sure to follow him on Instagram @mish_tattoo, as well as their shop page @shipshapetattoo.