(For more of Grace’s work, you’re invited to check out her personal blog)
I had the pleasure of talking with Anthony Janssen of Laval’s Studio RAW Tattoo Shop. This guy’s not just any 18 years old: he’s been tattooing for 3 years, travelling to pursue his passion, and obviously collects tattoos in his own right! Already established in the ink trade, he’s also the bassist and vocalist for BlackWork, part of a photography company, launching a skateboard company, AND studying in Illustration & Design at Dawson College. Talk about getting shit done for a young man, eh?
We sat down to talk, tattoo artist to aspiring handpoke artist, and he let me in on both his journey, and the industry’s secrets.
When did you know you wanted to get in to tattooing?
Pretty much growing up in England, I lived in a, I wouldn’t say seedy, but less rich area of London. I lived in the like low East side of Brixton, (…) There were a lot of tattoo shops that were around there, and they weren’t the best but the people there were actually super friendly to my uncle and I.
I mean I was always really interested in art since a very young age. I mean my parents would tell that I would draw anything: like I would have to draw before I went to bed or I wouldn’t sleep. So art had always been a thing, but tattoo art specifically really got in my life. I guess, (it started in my) young teens, when I really started interacting with the industry. I would pass in front of a shop and really see the different types of y’know, traditional Japanese styles.
I just really got interested, and another dumb thing that got me interested was watching tattoo shows like LA Ink and stuff. Yeah, a lot of people actually really like those, but they’re so inaccurate. Yet it really sparks people’s interests and makes you want to pursue it on your own.
That’s a big part of the industry, where you kind of have to learn from yourself before you can take notice or inspiration or notice of other things. You have to know for yourself that you want to do it. You have to know where you take inspiration, for me, it’s been tradition, mainly because looking through my family heritage, everyone I knew was in the military, and when they were off duty, they would just go get tattooed. It’s really learning from within before you look out for someone else to teach you how it works and all that.
Do you find tattooing, or creating art in general has had a positive impact/emotional release on your life? Basically, does it help your mental health?
Yeah, without a doubt. It’s the ultimate vice, some people like partying, I love having a nice cup of tea and painting or drawing. I feel like that’s the most satisfying thing.
What were some of the bands/artists that influenced you, during your time in England?
I love this question, because a lot of people don’t know ’em. I discovered ’em through music, a relatively modern post-punk band called Death of Nevada. The sound has changed a lot to classic rock, but I was always intrigued by the vocalists tattoos. I did some research and found out that they were done by this guy called Antony Flemming.
(His art’s) all traditional, but with a neo-traditional twist. ‘Neo-traditional’ is sort of hard to define, but for him it’s really easy because it’s all old-school elements, but with a new-school flair. I think he hasn’t been tattooing for very long, only 8-10 years, I think, yet he’s amazing, he tattoos like he’s been at it for years!
Words by Grace Karam
Photos from Anthony Jenssen