A Profile On Brighton’s Tattoo Artist Taking Social Media By Storm

Image Taken from Patrick's Instagram

After following Patrick on Instagram for several months, I didn’t know what to expect upon meeting him. Whilst waiting outside Brighton’s Small Batch coffee house, I see a (very) tall man approaching (when he mentions he used to play basketball in the States I’m not surprised), with silver hair, covered head to toe in tattoos and wearing a baby pink t-shirt that reads “Smoking Kills” (one of his own designs).

Despite feeling somewhat daunted by the mountain of a man walking towards me, all that goes away as he offers a large grin (revealing one gold tooth) and offers out his hand. We enter the coffee shop and I can tell that Patrick’s a regular. I ask if this is his regular coffee shop, he responds that he’s tattooed most of the staff here. We grab our coffees to go and sit on the steps of the town hall.

Patrick has grown a huge Instagram following in the past 9 months since he’s started tattooing professionally. He tells me that social media has “revolutionised the tattoo industry. When I was a kid you had to go the city, you had to look through all the portfolios, but now you just click on it”. From looking at Patrick’s Instagram it’s clear where his skill lies, simplistic but meaningful hand pokes. Yet he still receives messages from people asking “Can you do this watercolour portrait?” he offers as an example, but there’s not even a hint of annoyance in his voice. “It’s nice that people are messaging” he adds, “but I get like 50-100 messages a day now”. Patrick continues to talk positively about his newly grown clientele, “people don’t mind because I’ve put my lifestyle out there. People see I’m busy, I work everyday”. With such a large growth of customers in such a short amount of time, it’s clear that Patrick worries about disappointing people.

His relaxed easy come, easy go attitude is clear to see as he talks happily about how things are going in his career right now, “at the moment it’s working well”. “I don’t have a diary”, Patrick confesses. But that just adds to the personal and relaxed attitude to his work.

Working constantly, travel is a big part of Patrick’s job, “at the start of the week I’ll put up what city I’m in”. Living in Brighton, with London so close Patrick frequents London “every week or so” and has two studios there as well as organising pop ups. He carries on calmly, with a hint of excitement telling me about his upcoming ventures, listing off Paris, Birmingham, Leeds, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Moscow and Stockholm as places he is going to soon to tattoo people. “I literally work every single day,” he reiterates, “I definitely enjoy it.”

The conversation moves on, talking about the kind of people Patrick meets in his line off work, “I meet some amazing people”. Recently, he went to the London Tattoo Convention at Alexandra Palace, another location where he met amazing people. He encourages me excitingly to “go and do a story on it [the upcoming Brighton Tattoo Convention]”. At this point a man interrupts to tell Patrick that “females are always right” and he humours him kindly, before reciprocating a high five. Patrick pauses to think about the number of homeless people in Brighton, talking regrettably about how you can’t help everyone.

We return to what we are here to talk about – tattooing. Patrick tells me that he’s lived in Brighton for 10 years now and started off by tattooing himself, “I tattooed a lot of my friends in my bedroom”, he reminisces. But it was only a year or so ago that Patrick decided he wanted to pursue it as a job after working in care homes, “I tattooed on my days off”.

Eventually Patrick quit care work to tattoo full time, “now I do that and make t-shirts”. The t-shirt Patrick is wearing is one from his own online shop, where he produces tote bags and t-shirts (for now). I confess that I nearly showed up wearing one of his designs and he offers me an anecdote, “I just showed up at a tattoo shop and one of the artists was wearing my t-shirt, the same one I’ve got on”, he laughs. Since blowing up on social media, he’s impressively sold his t-shirts in 5 different continents. I ask him what prompted him to start that alongside tattooing, he casually responds “I just thought it would be fun, I like t-shirts”. Speaking humbly he tells me that he “never had any ambition to be a fashion guy or designer”, once again emphasising his simplistic style. It seems clear that Patrick has tapped into something really popular right now, the simplicity of his designs is his USP. Talking of the future Patrick tells me about more upcoming merchandise he plans to sell. He smiles, “Everyday is new to me cause I never expected any of it. I made twenty t-shirts and sold them in an hour”, I think I see his eyes light up through his sunglasses.

Moving back onto the subject of tattooing, he tells me that he does a lot of people’s first tattoos, “that’s what I love”. Patrick’s attitude is refreshing in a world of wow factors, “I’d much rather tattoo ten people a day than one person a day. I can make ten people happy rather than one.”

Observing Patrick’s sleeve as he sits next to me, I ask if he’d ever venture into bigger tattoos, “if someone were to come to me and ask for a massive back thing, I wouldn’t even know the logistics really”. Patrick explains that with a lot of his work he likes to “just draw it on the body”. He questions whether or not it would work for him, but seems open minded nonetheless. “I love the idea that someone can come in on their lunch break or something and get a really beautiful tattoo even if it’s just a word or a dot” he continues. It’s this attitude that I think people are really attaching themselves too, something so simple can have so much meaning to the person Patrick tattoos on. “For me, I don’t know about going into bigger work”, he finishes.

The chat flows on and Patrick begins to talk about who his favourite artist is, saying it’s a question he gets a lot. David Shrigley, he tells me, although I embarrassingly confess I haven’t heard of him. “He is the most famous living British artist, he does very simple work, like a simple line drawing with a few words right?” I can tell Patrick is excited to tell me more about him, listing off which prizes Shrigley’s won, including the Turner prize and informing me that Shrigley was just awarded the fourth plinth in Trafalgar square. “There’s four columns right? Nelson’s column and the other two which are always there, and the fourth one is a rotating one given to the most prominent living artist in the world”. Apparently if you go to Trafalgar square now, you’ll see that it’s “just a big thumbs up that David Shrigley designed”. Excitedly he continues, “he was at my house three months ago.” Despite speaking humbly, I can tell that this is a big deal for Patrick.

I ask Patrick if he finds that there are people he looks up to who he now finds, look up to his work. “Before I would be a bit starstruck by certain people, but now people keep telling me they’re starstruck when they meet me”. You can tell by the way he talks that this lifestyle is all relatively new to him. “It’s hard for me to get my head around it, like getting stopped in the street and asked for selfies”. Despite this new found social media fame, Patrick says he “takes it very seriously… A person that I’ve never met comes to me for a tattoo, I try to give them the best time possible”.


Another of Patrick’s unique selling points is his personal touch, “I make it very personal, I make it very calm”. Moving onto talks of the tattoo industry, he confesses “I just wanted to get away from this ego and arrogance and pessimism.” Being relatively new to the world of tattoos myself, I question if this is something he finds commonly within his line of work, “massively” he repeats several times. “The tattoo industry is like a bubble and I can say this because I’ve been getting tattooed for twenty years”, he says with subtle experience. “I just got sick of this people thinking they’re better than everyone and talking badly about their customers”. It’s clear from Patrick’s Instagram that he values his customers, he argues “If you don’t wanna do it just go and work at Sainsbury’s”. Patrick lists off his previous work experience and it becomes even more clear as to where his humble and kind attitude originated. “I know what it’s like to struggle but all these artists that have been told for the last ten years that they’re amazing, they’re out of touch with reality”, rather than bitter, Patrick seems sad that other artists wouldn’t appreciate what they have. There’s no doubt in my mind that Patrick won’t become like these artists he’s talking about, despite only being at it for 9 months.

Patrick also talks about the price of tattoos, mentioning that he believes some artists are “charging far too much” and quietly boasting that he has the cheapest prices in the city (which I must say is impressive for someone with such a large following). It’s clear Patrick has the attitude of charging for what you need, “I’m doing alright” he says happily. With social media being such a modern trend, it’s clear that Patrick is very current, “times change, fashions change, styles change.” Tattoos have become more and more present in modern day society and are no longer such a statement as they once were. “If I’m anything it’s a relevant person, I’m current”, he says openly, “I’m not saying you have to get this tattooed to be a real person, I have no macho side”. Once again Patrick mentions that he can’t reply to people, but when he does he’s nothing but positive, “when a person comes to me, even if  I can’t reply to everyone, when I do I say ‘that’s a great idea, I’d love to do it'”.

Like he said, Patrick has done many peoples first tattoos so he’s used to his customers being nervous, “If you’re nervous let’s have a coffee… I do everything I can to make it a pleasurable experience, because it should be, it’s a memory”. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that tattoos are special and that the experience itself is also special, but that seems to be something that Patrick prides himself on, “It’s a memorable thing and so I take it very seriously.” Humbly Patrick continues, “What people say about me now is that I’m an alright tattooist but I treat my customers with respect, do you know what I mean? And I’d much rather be known for that as opposed to the best tattooist but a really arrogant person”.

Talking again about his social media following Patrick says people ask “How have you gotten so big so fast?” and he responds “All I’ve done is that I’ve put my stuff out there and make it known that I’m all about positivity.” I tell Patrick that I love how he refers to people on his Instagram, “if it’s a girl it’s a babe if it’s a guy it’s a dude” he smiles. From looking at his social media you’d think every customer was a close friend, “It is, that’s how I try and make it.” He goes on, “If they see me in the street I say ‘stop me and have a chat’ I’m happy to”. As he’s saying this yet another person he knows walks past, coincidentally.

“I do believe in energies, I’ve created this energy very organically.” Going back to his previous line of work he says, “when I started all I wanted to do was cut down my hours at the care home, you know?” Reassuringly Patrick mentions that “I’m 35 now, people think it [careers] have to happen immediately but I was tattooing for five years before I asked for a penny. I’m still learning, I’m still improving.” Speaking once again of his new found “fame” he nonchalantly refers to it as “just another element”. “If people get a kick out of that then that’s bless but I’m not gonna be like ‘alright because I’ve got X amount of followers then my price is double'”, again a refreshing attitude when it’s obvious he could charge whatever he likes and still have a huge fan base. He says it’s good because the people he tattoos do “get the affordability and they get the personal element and now they’re getting what they want to perceive as a popular artist”. “The more it grows the more people are just gonna be happier with what they get”.

The lack of judgment in Patrick’s attitude is obvious, “even if it’s just the word babe or whatever, art or love”. Speaking of his followers as getting excited when he responds he says, “I know that feeling…even now I go to all these shops like so and so works there, it’s so bless that I get to work with these amazing artists.” Anecdotally he talks of a tattoo artist he admires called Lal Hardy, who helped to create British tattooing and has been tattooing for forty or so years, “I was tattooing at the booth at the convention, doing a girl’s fingers and he comes past and is just watching”. He talks with the excitement of a young child, “I was like, ‘Is that Lal Hardy?'” We agree that it’s important to be appreciative regardless of followers or how legendary someone may seem.

“How has tattooing changed your life aside from the fame aspect?”, I question. “I get more out of it, it’s just a dream job, I feel very blessed” he smiles, “I kind of fell into it”. Despite this, Patrick admits it wasn’t easy, unlike what some people may say, “You have no idea”. He tells me about his tattooing past, tattooing people in the early hours of the morning at parties. “It has happened pretty quickly but it’s also been a long process”.

Admiring his tattoos he tells me that most of them are stick and pokes (a traditional method of tattooing using only a needle and ink). He lifts his shirt happily revealing even more tattoos on his ribs and back. “That’s how tattoos are done all over the world, I got tattooed in Thailand… that’s how they tattooed”. I ask if that’s what appeals to him about it and he responds, “It’s just a sharp object and some ink”, he makes it sound so simple… “I can do it right here if I wanted”. It seems as though he likes the personal aspect as well as the lack of reliance on technology “I dunno, not having electricity is nice”, he likens it to an electric toothbrush (he prefers brushing his teeth the old fashioned way, if you couldn’t guess). He smiles revealing his gold tooth and saying he’d love to get more.

Knowing his humble beginnings, it’s clear that Patrick is very appreciative of what he has now. He tells me “I’m 35 and I’ve never lived alone” but he seems excited by the prospect of having a nice big flat to himself, “I’m gonna have this beautiful two bedroom flat just to myself”. Asking if he thinks he’ll be lonely with a flat to himself he responds, “I’d like a dog” and the conversation trails off into which dog breeds are the best…

With his work growing more and more popular and with talks of the future, I ask if Patrick plans to stay in Brighton, “Yeah, yeah Brighton is my home… It just feels like home”. Apparently the only place in Britain he would move, is London but for now Brighton is just as convenient. “I can’t stand so much time on public transport, it kills me… but in London you might have to walk two hours just to see your mates for a slice of pizza.” Talking of Brighton he says that’s why he likes it, “I know in 15 minutes I’m here, or I’m at the park, in 10 minutes I’m at the train station”. Another selling point, “You can get the best coffee in the world from Brighton”. With bright eyes he tells me “you know, Brighton statistically drinks more coffee than..” we’re interrupted by yet another passerby who knows Patrick, “…any other city in the UK”.

After exhausting conversation about coffee we move onto the people in Brighton, “it’s good people, I feel safe here”, he nods. “People are openminded,” although he admits that “there could be a bit more diversity.” He talks understandingly about the issues people face in most cities but says he doesn’t see it here.

Speaking about the little free time that he does have, Patrick says he just watches YouTube videos, “uh I watch MBA highlights, I watch grime videos, some pop songs”… intrigued by someone who looks the way Patrick does listening to pop songs in his free time, I question what kind he likes, “Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift” he says surprisingly. But like I said, he withholds judgment, “I like all types of music, I like music that’s just a bit catchy.” Although he admits he’s gone through different phases when it comes to music including metal, rap, dance, trap and old soul.

Patrick’s Instagram also includes snippets of his writing, “All the little things I write, that’s just what I’m listening to”. He tells me that people ask what his writing’s about and to that he says frankly, “Look, I listen to the song, it made me think about someone, so I write it down”. Being a tattoo artist many would think an artistic background was required (including myself) but Patrick rejects that saying, “I don’t have any art background, I have like a literary background”. He tells me that he studied Modern Literature during the time that he was studying in America, “I just like the written word”. Going back to ideas about intricate tattoos he says, “you could get the word ‘sunset’ on your leg and it would take five minutes or you could get a whole back with a big sunset… but really you’re just summing up what we could sum up in five minutes”. This analogy opens up my mind and just shows that no matter how small, tattoos can have such great meaning behind them. In regards to why he usually inks words on people he says, “I like modern art, I like simple art, so that’s why”. Once again he describes the positive and chill atmosphere that he provides, “it’s all about the environment”. Asking about whether or not his customers struggle with the pain he says, “If someone wants to stop you know, have a little break, have a little chat, even if it’s only a ten minute tattoo”.

We agree that tattoos are a big investment, “not just in the tattoo. It’s an investment in the vibe, the person”, which is why making the experience as positive as possible is so important to Patrick. Talking of his Instagram account, he says people ask him about so much more than just tattooing when he does his live streams, even if it’s just about what he’s drinking (Cherry Coke or coffee usually), “then that person has a connection to me”.

Thinking about his future career prospects he tells me, “It’s my goal to win the Turner prize.” But he acknowledges that artists “spend 9 months in a locked basement, come up with a piece of work that is judged by a select committee of rich old white men and then they’re told you either win or you don’t”. It seems Patrick wants to change this, “I’m doing work but I’m interacting with people everyday”. No tattooist has ever won the prestigious prize but Patrick hopes to change that with his relevant style and his integrity, “it’s a modern phenomenon”. He appreciates more conventional art but argues “at some point they’re going to have to recognise tattooing because it’s current, it’s visual, it’s affordable.” He makes some good points. “Just because what I do isn’t detailed or intricate, it still has the ability to make a person happy”. You can see a running theme of positivity, happiness and personal touches.

I ask if there’s anything that Patrick wouldn’t tattoo, he pauses, “nah, there’s nothing… unless it’s offensive”. He confesses he understands different humours but thoughtfully tells me “if some 19 year old art student comes and says I want the word ‘penis’ on my forehead, I would say that’s probably not the best idea”. However he umms and ahhs about whether it might be appropriate for them before deciding he’d “speak to the person” and ask why they wanted it. As you may expect, he reserves judgment on tattoos that others may refuse to do such as the popular infinity symbol, “Nah, I’d do all that”. In fact, patrick twists his wrist, revealing that he himself has a small infinity symbol.

Trying to find out how many tattoos Patrick actually has, he demonstrates by counting the ones on his right arm alone, showing how difficult it would be to know for sure. He does however estimate that he’s been tattooed by over a hundred different artists on his body, “I’ve been getting tattooed for a long time”, he reminds me. He reels off a list of locations where he has been tattooed, including Brighton of course. Patrick says he prefers “mostly black but I like a bit of colour”, which is clearly visible. He does confess he worries about running out of space, but I joke that he still has the face, “the face is a weird one” although he does have a few on his forehead and eyelids. “I don’t want to make myself look any less human”, he says understandably.

As the interview comes to an end Patrick briefly mentions his other projects which include photography, short films and even some upcoming TV pilots. It’s exciting talking to somebody who’s so involved in different aspects of work and seems genuinely interested in all it has to offer. Even before he was covered in tattoos he says people would say “Oh you look interesting”. It’s clear Patrick won’t stop just because he’s garnered such a large following, “it is stable but I’m never gonna stop because I want it to progress always”. He tells me he’s used to being told he should take a day off but happily responds, “nah never”, when I ask if he actually wants a day off. “I’m not gonna settle for just being your standard tattooist in Brighton…I’m never gonna be like ‘ah I’ve done well, I can chill'”. We end the interview thinking about how the future really is unknown. The only stress Patrick feels is that he can’t do as much as he likes, “I hate disappointing people”.

“It’s just a beautiful life”, he sighs contently before telling me he has to get back to the shop.

You can find Patrick’s work on his Instagram

You can browse Patrick’s clothing here

 

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