Name: H.B. Nielsen
Location: On the Road
What attracted you to tattooing?
I think I always liked tattoos as a kid, thought they were tough. And then in high school a lot of my friends started getting small tattoos when we were 16-17, like little tribals and stuff. I got my first one on a family vacation when I was 17, a little panther clawing its way up my chest. I never thought of becoming a tattooer though. I didn’t even draw much until I started tattooing at 24.
How did you get into the industry?
I had graduated from college and come home to Sweden, living on my mother’s couch and working as a door-to-door fish salesman. One of the guys I worked with was someone that went to the same elementary school as me, a couple of grades higher. He told me he was trying to become a tattooer and I let him practice on me. It seemed fun tattooing so I bought a couple machines from him and started practicing on skins of fruits. Things went pretty fast and after five or six months I had a full time job tattooing in a street shop in Stockholm. I was completely clueless at the time though, and in retrospect it’s blind luck something didn’t go wrong.
Was it hard to find an apprenticeship?
Unfortunately, I never had one. However, I’ve been lucky with meeting many great tattooers along the way who have taught me most of the stuff I know today.
How many years have you been tattooing?
What inspires you?
Old flash, folk art, illustrations, DIY art and tattoos, and of course other tattooers’ works.
Who are your favourite tattoo artists?
From old tattooers I really like Niels Fischer, Rosie, and Gustav Bechmann. In current tattooing, I think Liam Sparkes and Ryan Jessiman at Shangri La in London are really good. Guy Le Tatooer is great, as well as Thomas Hooper. Bram Adey in Canada is a guy who flies under the radar, but whose work inspires me a lot.
How would you describe your tattoo style?
I tattoo in black and the style is pretty rough, sometimes bordering careless but hopefully on the right side of that line. I tattoo fast and that shows sometimes, but I like ruggedness, and prefer the texture of a homemade hand poke or the way a tattoo looks after 30 years to a new one in most cases.
If you weren't tattooing what would you be doing?
I’d be a gardener and a writer!
What advice do you have to people considering careers in tattooing?
Draw a lot. Get tattooed a lot.
What are some of the best things you have experienced as a result of your career?
The opportunity to travel as much as I want – that I can fit everything in a suitcase and work anywhere. Right now, though, I would like to stay somewhere for a while so that I can get a dog.
Where do you currently tattoo?
I’m traveling full time. But this year I’ve been staying closer to home, mainly tattooing Swedish cities and in Copenhagen, Denmark. I haven’t planned out my year after May, so perhaps I’ll make some bigger travels, or do the complete opposite and settle down somewhere.