Interview with Alex Underwood
Where are you from, and where do you currently reside?
I'm from Glasgow, Scotland and I've been living here for about 12 years now, but originally I'm from a small town called Perth, just an hour or so from Glasgow.
How long have you been tattooing, and what led you into the trade?
I've been tattooing full time since February 2015 so almost two years now!
Who is your biggest inspiration, and what influences you as an artist?
I have a few longtime inspirational tattoo artists who I admire; Robert Borbas, Alexander Grimm, Kelly Violet and Phil Wilkinson to name a few. I also enjoy the illustration works of Godmachine, Dan Mumford and Paul Jackson!
What were you doing, and what were your plans before you became a tattoo artist?
I was actually attending university, studying for a digital art honours degree. After I finished my course I was sort of stuck for about 7 months trying to figure out what to do with myself. I always wanted to get into the tattooing industry but was unsure and a little apprehensive about how to approach a studio to ask for an apprenticeship. I had always believed from hearsay that you had to know someone in the tattoo world in order to be accepted into it, so I guess this piece of false information held me back for some time.
Apprenticeships are a huge part of the tattoo industry, can you describe yours to me?
I applied for numerous studios that were local to me, but I kept getting similar responses to my requests; "We've already got an apprentice, try again later" or "We don't take on apprentices". I was just about to give up searching when I received a message from Rock'n'Roll Tattoo Studio inviting me along for an interview where I was welcomed into the team and actually began working that very same day.
For about 3 or 4 months I was scrubbing toilets and fetching supplies, but I was also learning hygiene standards and watching artists work, it was all very new and fascinating and after a long few months I began doing small tattoos here and there and subsequently has lead me to the level I am at now. I'm so grateful to my studio and I probably wouldn't be pursuing my passion if it wasn't for the R'n'R team!
What do you enjoy doing outside of tattooing?
To be honest, I'm very busy these days it's really hard to find the time for anything that isn't tattooing or drawing. However, I do love to travel and explore new places. Im hoping to tour Asia early 2017 its been a dream of mine for a good decade at least.
Another reason of why I wanted to become a tattoo artist is that it's a job where I'm not limited to one city/country/continent. I can travel to almost anywhere and still be able to feed my passion and build a career out of tattooing.
What led you to your current style of tattooing?
The style I currently operate in has a sort of blackwork, etchy, illustrative aesthetic. I've always been fond of the darker macabre themes of art - I can remember in primary school my teacher approached me to ask me why I never draw anything 'nice' as I'd always be sketching boxes full of eyeballs and axes chopping heads off.
I think my style really developed when I was in uni and actively focused on establishing a unique style of illustration for myself, once I got my apprenticeship and started tattooing I found I had to alter the way I drew slightly because some factors just wouldn't translate well into a tattoo. I also only use black because I find that using colour requires a lot more brain power and patience and there is often a routine in which colours need to be put into the skin, I found the colour process to be very exhausting, and so I decided it just wasn't for me. These reasons and also my influences are ultimately what has lead me to my current form of tattooing. I'm still learning and experimenting so in probably one year from now my style will have evolved into something a little different!
If you could describe your work in one word, what would it be?
Alex Underwood can be found on Instagram @aeyudesign
Interview by Megan Clifton (@themeganclifton)