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“Tattooing under a stunning Sycamore Fig tree on the banks of the Olifants River,” Gareth Putter reflects back on the time he tattooed german volunteer Anna. “It was such a rad time, tattooing in the Greater Kruger National Park. At least 60-70% of our clientele are foreign volunteers that are in the area doing conservation work”. Field guide and tattoo artist Gareth Putter caught the attention of Tattoo Addict and we just had to know more.
LET’S START AT THE BEGINNING. HOW DID YOU BECOME A TATTOO ARTIST?
I have always had two passions and dream of one day owning my own Game Farm/ Lodge in a reserve. When I didn’t see myself reaching that goal with just field guiding under my belt, I decided to follow my other talent which is my artistic side. I ended up moving to Cape Town to try and sell paintings and drawings. Then someone suggested that I look at the tattoo industry as a means to make money from my art. I had my first tattoo done when I was 15 years old, but the industry was very different in those days, so I never really thought of it as an option for myself until much later on in life.
SO HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
I did an apprenticeship with one of the first old school artists in the country, Alain Reymond. This apprenticeship was only for a few months, so it took me a while to gain the proper knowledge and skill set as a professional to start doing proper work. I would urge anyone looking to get into the industry to put in the time upfront and do a proper one or two year apprenticeship with a respected studio in order to kick off your career with the right amount of knowledge, support and experience that is needed in this industry.
WHAT ARE YOU BIGGEST INFLUENCES AND INSPIRATIONS?
Within the tattoo industry, I would have to say that as an artist one is always looking to push oneself and improve on the quality of the work you are putting out. Every single tattoo I do, to this day even 13 years later, still stresses me out somewhat Even if it is a small semi colon or a realistic lion. I place a lot of pressure on myself as an artist to get things as perfect as I can no matter the style of tattoo I am doing. I believe this influences my growth as an artist. I am inspired by all the other great artists in SA, we truly have some phenomenal artists in this country as well as thousands more popping up around the world. As an artist, I don’t think we will ever fully arrive at a point of satisfaction in our own work as that very point of striving for perfection is what keeps us growing and learning and there is always room for improvement.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE STYLE TO TATTOO?
My preference is greyscale realism leaning more on the side of wildlife portraits. Being a qualified field guide and founder of the Non Profit Organisation, Rocking For Rhinos, means that I have a natural affinity and passion towards wildlife and nature and hence I feel that is the reason I am drawn to tattooing what I love.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE TATTOO ON YOUR BODY?
I woke up one morning and my 3 year old son, Thorne, was busy drawing on my arm. He drew a happy face which I loved and had tattooed on me by my apprentice within a few hours of my son drawing it. Even though the tattoo is upside down as my son drew it, it represents a time in my life and most importantly my son and his happiness and its importance to myself as a father.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PART ABOUT BEING A TATTOO ARTIST?
I think the best part of being a tattoo artist is the diversity of the people I meet as well as the fact that I can manage my time as I see fit.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE MOMENT IN YOUR CAREER SO FAR?
The highlight of my career thus far is definitely getting flown out to Nairobi, Kenya to tattoo an elephant on Tyler Hubbard from the American Country Western Band “ Florida Georgia Line”. It was such a great experience and a fantastic feeling to have someone like Tyler appreciate my work and what I do as an artist so much so that he chose me to join him on a family vacation to do a piece for him.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY DOING WHEN YOU ARE NOT TATTOOING?
I am either with the family and our pooches, spending time together at a dam or on my mountain bike catching some me time. I also spend a lot of time toying with other business ideas and plans.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE ATMOSPHERE IN YOUR STUDIO?
We like to believe it to have a very chilled atmosphere that focuses on giving the client what they want... to a certain degree of course. In this industry the client is not always right 😁
TELL US MORE ABOUT ROCKING FOR RHINOS AND YOUR INVOLVEMENT
Having been a field/adventure guide for many years, I have always cared about the state of the planet and nature. When the rhino poaching issues started having a serious impact around 2011 and 2012, I decided to take action and with several friends founded Rocking For Rhinos, which is a non -profit organisation. We have been putting on massive music festivals, art exhibitions and auctions for the past 6 years in order to raise funds for rhino conservation initiatives in order to help in any way we can.
LACENANO FEATURED YOU IN ONE OF THEIR PROMO VIDEOS. HOW WAS THAT EXPERIENCE?
It is another dream of mine to one day have a reality tv series centered around our small studio, tattooing other wildlife enthusiasts from all around the world. The elephant tattoo that I did was done on Anna from Germany who had just finished a volunteer course with another organization. We decided to give her a cool experience by doing her tattoo under a stunning Sycamore Fig on the banks of the Olifants River.
WATCH GARETH TATTOO ANNA UNDER THE SYCAMORE HERE
DO YOU FIND YOU GET A LOT OF INTERNATIONAL CLIENTS
I would say that at least 60-70% of our clients are foreign volunteers that are in the area doing conservation related work.
ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO ADD?
Thanks to Tattoo Addict for being great service providers, you guys are always on top of your game and the staff seem like a great group of people!
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