When drawing on paper you have the option to erase and start over. Tattooing on the other hand is a completely different animal. I had a chance to talk with Jock about his jump from drawing on paper to drawing on skin.
Rock|Life: How long have you been tattooing for?
Jock Hyland: I’ve been tattooing for about six years now.
RL: What was the first tattoo you got? And where?
JH: My first tattoo was a little clover on my leg that I actually gave myself. I ordered a “tattoo kit” from eBay I think or somewhere online and decided to give it a try. I sat down in my room, plugged everything in, and watched this 20-minute video that came with the kit. The kits are a joke by the way. I went to town on my leg and it hurt like a son of a bitch. I questioned if I even wanted to do it, but I wanted my first tattoo to be one that I gave myself for some reason. Of course, I put it right in that fleshy part right next to the knee on my leg and it wasn’t easy to get to. But that stung!
RL: Is there a specific way or right way to get into the tattooing industry?
JH: Well, I got thrown into the fire, so to speak. There was a guy from California that taught me a couple things about tattooing. He saw some of the artwork I was doing and was like, “alright I’m going to teach you a couple things. I’m going to show you this, show you that, and I want you to do a tattoo on me.” And I was like, “Fuck man, are you kidding?” I just got this stupid little kit and he wanted me to tattoo him. I thought he was crazy. So that was my first experience. After that experience, it reiterated the fact that I needed to learn some more stuff.
I’ve practiced a couple times on grapefruits to try to get my line work and saturation down. The theory is if you can see the ink when you peel it, you’ve gone too deep. If you don’t then you’re okay, and that’s kind of the depth you want to set. Of course it’s nothing like the real thing, but it kind of gets you familiar with how the machine works. I’ve tried tattooing on practice skin as well, until people were willing to let me practice on them. You’d be surprised how many people are down to get free tattoos, not matter how shitty they are. After a while, people would bring their friends and pretty soon they were giving me money. So I could buy more supplies and keep on doing what I was doing. I just stuck with it.
RL: Do you have a specific style you specialize in?
JH: I’ve tried to lock in on one specific style but the situations that I’ve been in, I had to be well rounded in order to tackle the tattoo requests that come my way. Some guys are able to lock in to a style early in their career; they know what they want to do and they focus on that. I find myself being well versed in a lot of different styles, but I’m trying to hone in on my own style. If I had to give it a name right now, I’d say it would be “illustrative realistic neo-traditional.” After experimenting in all different styles, you just kind of take pieces from all of them and you put them together into something that naturally flows through you. Like the drawings that you created off the top of your head or when you’re looking at a reference and drawing stuff, I like to call it the “artist filter.” There’s a certain filter that each and every person has that’s they’re own, that’s going through their minds into their hand and onto the piece of paper they’re drawing on and that’s what they create depending on how they see things. So everyone has their own style, depending on where they’ve been and what tattoo influences they have.
RL: Is there a specific style that you’ve never done that you’d like to do?
JH: One thing that I’ve never really seen but I’d like to try would be pointillism or dot work portraiture. I think that stuff would be pretty cool.
RL: Is there a specific part of the body that you’re not a fan of tattooing?
JH: Probably the ribs and the under part of the arm. It’s impossible to get a good stretch, I feel.
RL: If you weren’t tattooing, what would you want to be doing?
JH: I was in the restaurant industry for about 10 years and I was a chef for a couple years. I might be doing something like that. I always tell my wife that if I ever quit tattooing I’ll get into massage therapy or something like that. Maybe painting, if I could make a living painting. That would be cool.
RL: Do you have a preference for black and white tattoos or color?
JH: No, I think it depends on what the subject matter is and what kind of feel the person is going for. For example, I did this addition to a compass that somebody else had done. The compass was pretty intricate and dainty looking and she wanted roses added to it. So I decided to do what I thought would look best and do some real simple soft black and gray roses that were really light so they appeared to be white with the contrast of the compass. Then I added these really dainty leaves that sprouted out from the compass to kind of complete the piece. Would color roses have looked as good? I don’t think so. Black and gray can be pretty simple, and there are guys who do it really well. But when you’re looking for a really dynamic piece, you have to go color. Color is going to help really push some contrast where light and dark can only go so far. When you throw in colors and complimentary colors, you’re looking at something that is really dazzling to the eye.