Over the past few years, the tattoo industry has changed dramatically. Quickly—in large part thanks to social networks like Instagram which have increased tattoo artists’ visibility—tattoos have moved from a subculture to mainstream. Bryndon Shepherd, the newest resident artist at our very own Inside Out studio in Toronto (he splits his time between our shop and Knightfall Tattoo in Paris, Ontario) has been tattooing for six years and has witnessed many of these changes first-hand. Here, he chats with how the industry has evolved since his apprenticeship in 2012—and why he welcomes that change, his journey as an artist, and how he creates the best experience for his clients.
On his journey as a tattooer: “Getting my foot in the door was difficult because I wanted to do a proper apprenticeship and not all artists take on apprentices. At the time, I was working on other painting and drawing projects and that’s how I met Greg Garratt. We worked together on a few projects and he knew I wanted to learn how to tattoo so he ended up inviting me into the shop [True Grit in Burlington, Ontario] to work on flash and learn to build machines. Eventually that became an official apprenticeship that I had from 2012 to 2014.”
On the artist he admires most: “My favorite artist is always changing, but right now it’s probably Luciano Calderon. I just love how distinct and original his designs and layouts are. I’m an especially big fan of his back pieces.”
On what inspires him: “My style varies. I’d define it as blackwork in general, but I also do dotwork, ornamental, and image-based pieces. For my image-based work, a lot of my ideas come from vintage toys, games, and masks. And for my ornamental work, I really just play around with shapes, but sometimes I also look at the details on frames, tiles, plates, and antique book covers for inspiration.”
On tattoos becoming increasingly mainstream: “The great thing [about the growing popularity of tattoos] is that it’s opened the industry up to so many new styles, perspectives, and artists. There are so many people involved in tattooing now who probably wouldn’t have been just a few years ago. I think it’s also helped debunk stereotypes about the industry and the kinds of people who get tattoos.”
On his lifelong knack for art: “I’ve been into painting, drawing, and arts and crafts since I was a kid. I’ve never really had a desire to pursue a career outside of art and design, but I also grew up thinking that I wouldn’t be able to make a living as an artist. Fortunately, I was wrong, and I’ve been able to turn it this passion into a full-time job.”
On the factors that create the best tattoo experience: “Good people, good atmosphere, and most importantly, a good tattoo.”