Alastair Magee brings a distinct style and bold finish to new school tattoos, and we like it! Working out of DeadBird Tattoos, meet our Tattoo Artist of the Week and check out some of his work.
Full name: Alastair Magee
Shop: DeadBird Tattoos
Years tattooing: 6
Tattoo style: Freehand/ New school
Hourly rate: R750
Give us some insight into your artistic background and how you got started in the tattoo industry?
I started out drawing for a comic book shop. I wasn’t very good, but I was determined to get better. I never really thought being a tattoo artist was possible. I thought it was reserved for people with parents or family in the industry. I’d never even heard of an apprenticeship. I was approached to design a tattoo for a client that saw my drawings and I fell in love with the art. Just like that, all I drew all day, every day was tattoos. I finally found someone willing to teach me the art form and I owe everything to him. He showed me how to do what I love. I draw on people for a living because of him.
What attracts you to tattooing and the industry?
I think the thing I find the most attractive about the industry, is meeting new artists. I love meeting people in the industry and watching them do their art the way they love to do it. There’s nothing cooler than being in a different parlour, surrounded by artistic people, talking art.
How much have things changed since you started tattooing?
I think I came into the industry at a very cool stage. It was quite excepting when I started out. I feel like I missed that period where tattoos weren’t acceptable. But I think the one thing that will always be changing, is the ability of the artists. I’m always in awe of what other people are managing to do. The quality in skill has definitely been the biggest change to the industry, in my opinion.
What are the pros and cons of these changes?
I don’t really know if there is a con to mention. The pros speak for themselves. The artwork being released to the public is getting better and better, and I feel it makes the industry perfectly ruthless. Clients are being introduced to what they should expect from their tattoo artist. If you’re not willing to evolve with the times and learn new techniques, you’re going to be left behind. If you’re not willing to perfect your art, you’re going to be stuck tattooing in your garage, doing cheap tattoos on cheap clients.
What was the first tattoo you ever did and how did it turn out?
[Laughs] My first tattoo. Man, my hand was shaking. I made an ohm on my younger brothers leg. He gladly volunteered his skin to me as my first piece. I think today it would take me 20 minutes to do but back then it took me 3 hours. As a first piece, I’m still proud of it though.
What was the hardest thing to get right while learning how to tattoo?
The weight of the machine and how back heavy it was took me by surprise. But I think it has to be the black. If I could go back for one thing, it would be to black more. It is a scary colour. It’s hard to just trust your hand and know that it’ll look cool. I really battled with my pieces being too light until I got some great advice from a fellow artist “there’s never too much black”. I changed my whole mindset after that and I felt like I turned a corner.
Explain the vibe of the shop you’re working out of?
The vibe is so chilled. We have such amazing artists, everyone specialising in their own style. There’s really nothing cooler than working with your friends and I feel it shows in the atmosphere when we’re all tattooing and the shop is buzzing.
What style of tattooing do you enjoy doing the most?
I’m in love with new school. It allows me to draw things in the depths of my imagination. There are no rules when it comes to this style. Nothing has to make sense, it just has to look cool.
To date, what has been one of your favourite pieces?
It has to be this really cool Gambit and Rogue Chibi style piece I made on my brothers leg at this year’s Ink and Iron. Every second of that tattoo made me feel like I was finally a tattoo artist. I bit off way too much and I killed it. But apart from that, the rush of tattooing at a convention can’t be replicated.
Which local and international tattoo artist’s work do you enjoy?
I have two South African artists that I follow religiously, Brent Goudie and Lu. They’re pioneers man, everything they do, they kill. It’s amazing to see.
International artists, I would have to say Tim Hendricks. He is my all time favourite. I love his outlook on the industry and on life.
Where would you like to see your tattooing career take you?
I’m aiming high man. I’m not stopping till I’m there. But I’ve always wanted to tattoo in another country for a while and then settle in Cape Town.
If you could guest feature at any international shop or tattoo convention, which would it be?
Eric Maaske’s Classic Tattoo, without a doubt. Why? Because it looks cool [laughs]. There are just so many artists there that I would kill to watch work and have a beer with.
Advice to anyone wanting to get a tattoo by you?
Don’t send me question marks on WhatsApp [laughs]. Never change the design because of the fear of pain, it’s always worth it and when you’re done you’ll kick yourself if you did fall victim. The same goes for placement. But seriously though, I love drawing on people, so just pull in and get something insane.
To make a booking with Alastair, get hold of DeadBird Tattoos on 078 095 4806.
For more info visit the DeadBird Tattoos Facebook Page.
Address: Shop 31a1, Lambton Court, Cnr Beacon & Webber Road, Lambton, Germiston.
Tattoos by Alastair