Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Featured Tattoo Artist | Steve Cross

© Nicole Reed

Name: Steve Cross
Age: 40
Location: Melbourne/Barcelona

What attracted you to tattooing?

Well, I'm not too sure. I guess I never really stopped drawing from when I was younger, and  it seemed a natural progression from what I’d always done.

How did you get into the industry?

This is a very, very long answer! I was living in Perth at the time, painting murals, doing graffiti, working as a sign writer, skating, delivering pizza – and playing in a band. I was also writing art programs for Juvenile Justice, for troubled kids in schools. There was a lot going on. At the same time I also started drawing tattoo flash for some of my skater mates. 

Through all of this activity, I pretty much became addicted to drawing and studying tattoo designs. I would spend hours at the State Library studying indigenous tattooing, primitive scarification, body modification and pretty much anything I could find about cultural and folk art from every country possible. I started a visual diary thinking one day I may reflect on those days – so glad I did, because it was the start of a long journey into the tattoo world.

Was it hard to find an apprenticeship?

Well, put it this way, there was no apprenticeship! It wasn't even a word used by people who weren't in the industry. But I made the decision to become a tattooist and that was that! I knew it was going to be difficult, and ‘no’ was not an option. Most tattooists I know have a similar story – it is sheer drive and determination that gets you to where you want to be. I took any jobs I could to earn enough money to buy a plane ticket to Melbourne. There, I’d spend up to four weeks at a time walking to each and every tattoo studio trying (and I mean really trying) to sell my tattoo sheets. 

I failed every time but I didn't care – I met every important tattooist in Melbourne and Perth and collected business cards along the way. Whether they liked me or not wasn't my concern. I figured if I met every single good guy/bad guy in the trade, I would be able to gather information. Back then there were no books, no blogs, no computers – you were judged on face-value, and most times criticised. Finally I got a job back in Perth. It’s a Navy port, so most of the pork-chop shops would be quiet all year, then with two weeks notice – boom! Absolutely slamming. At times up to 8000 men with American Dollars would hit the shores. As a young apprentice, that was the best training ground. 

After 10 months cleaning tubes/windows/toilets, answering phones, drawing everyone's artwork and making 1000's of needle groups for everyone in the studio, I was allowed to start tattooing. American sailors had time, money and crazy ideas. This sped up my learning and confidence with dealing with every type of situation and personality. There were some very crazy times in that studio – too many to mention.

How many years have you been tattooing?


What inspires you?

Pretty much everything, from good conversations with creative people, to traveling to amazing places. I visit the art gallery once a month and try and get to every exhibition opening. I try to keep busy.

Who are your favourite tattoo artists?
I have hundreds, but I have been lucky to have met and worked with Brian Graydon for over 10 years now. He still teaches me techniques in composition and style (don't tell him!). Now I also have the pleasure of part-owning KORPUS with him. We have world-class tattooists flowing through Melbourne, who come and work with us here, naming- Adam Kitamoto, Mick Squires, Jaclyn Rehe, Shannon Richmond, Dave Undead, Sophia Baughan, Miles Monaghan, LOZ and Luke Muller. Then there's our full timers - Alvaro Flores, Teniele Sadd, Ozzy, Benny Bones and Clare Clarity, and this can only happen with the talented skills of Lauren Darling pulling the whole ball of artistic kaos together. I am very honoured to have them at our studio.

How would you describe your tattoo style?

Illustrative, mainly focusing on grey work.


What have you learned in your 17 years in the industry?

Well, that would take 17 years to say/write! But buy me a coffee and I'll let you know…

What advice do you have to people considering careers in tattooing?

Do your research. Know the sub-culture you’re getting into, past, present and future, and be prepared for some hard times scattered with some amazing experiences.

What are some of the best things you have experienced as a result of your career?

Basically meeting different people and sharing ideas. Tattooing is all over the world and nearly every country has had it as part of its cultural development. Tattooing was, and still is, a language.

Where do you currently tattoo?

KORPUS Studio, Brunswick, Melbourne, Australia