We get to know Chris Theunissen of The Tattoo Studio 012 in Pretoria in our latest Tattoo Artist feature.
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Full name: Chris Theunissen
Shop: The Tattoo Studio 012
Years tattooing: Roughly about a year and a half
Tattoo style: Blackwork, Neo-Traditional/Traditional and Illustrative styles
Hourly rate: R900
Give us some insight into your journey of becoming a full time tattoo artist?
From a very young age I’ve always enjoyed art. As a child I collected Pokémon cards and watched Dragon Ball Z like most people from my generation, but for me it was more about the illustrations than anything else. I truly just found it fascinating. I got my first tattoo at the age of 15 from Megan Ann and I just found the whole experience to be so magical. From the sounds of the machine to the visuals and smell of the shop! Since that day I’ve pretty much been hooked on the scared art-form that is tattooing.
I did my apprenticeship at Humdinger under the guidance of George Geogriou, Nathan Burton Phillips and Charl Steyn who showed me the in’s and out’s of tattooing, the industry and what it is to be a true tattoo artist and to respect the craft! I started working with Charl once he opened his own shop (The Tattoo Studio 012) as a Junior Artist and he’s been one of my best mentors I could ever have asked for in lots of aspects in my life and I’m humbly grateful.
If not a tattoo artist, then what do you think you’d be doing as a career?
This is quite a hard question for me because truly I don’t see myself doing anything else in life. From a young age I purposely got body modifications and got heavily tattooed to make myself un-hire-able. For me it was becoming an artist or nothing. I have a pretty mean growl though so if any heavy metal bands are looking for a front line man, look me up [laughs].
What about the tattoo trade drives your passion for it?
For me personally tattoo connects us to our primal selves, which I feel we are very disconnected from in today’s modern society. I feel that people can truly be themselves in a tattoo environment without preconception or judgment for self-expression.
What does a day in your life usually consist of?
A lot people have the conception that tattoo artists have a Rockstar life style, which couldn’t be further away from the truth. Most of our lives consist of making art and you pretty much always have homework. If I’m not busy tattooing I am at home drawing, painting trying to refine techniques or doing admin for appointments. Tattooing is truly a full circle.
How do you like to make sure you keep progressing as an artist?
I try and work with different mediums and styles, this is why my style is always evolving and fine tuning itself. Reading up on the old masters, their perceptions and process of creating also helps me out a lot. Also spending some time with other artists to just pick their brain about the techniques they use. A mentor told me to always have a sketchbook handy for when those ideas strike you.
What style of tattoo do you enjoy creating the most and why?
Blackwork pieces with good contrast between solid blacks and negative spaces, playing around with line weights . I also love doing Neo-traditional and Traditional pieces. Truly anything that’s going to age well and stand the test of time.
What would your ultimate tattoo creation consist of?
A conceptualised well thought out piece of art with perspective that plays well with subject matter, background and light source. With good contrast between darks and light’s. An anthropomorphic character with sacred geometry and organic elements as a background.
How do you see tattooing evolving in the years to come?
Tattooing has come so far as an artistic expression and the artistry is already there, if you look at artist like Ralf Nonnweiler, who has already pushed the technical application of tattooing to the point that blurs subject matter and tattoo. At this point it’s more about equipment catching up and evolving with artists.
Tell us something most people don’t know about you?
I have quite an interest in crystal methodology and I am quite a big collector of crystals and minerals. I spend some of my downtime harvesting crystal and using them in my side projects.
Which local and international artists inspire you, and why?
There are so many artists which have inspired my work locally and internationally but just to mention a few;
Locally – Charl Steyn: His style and subject matter are truly creative to his personality and his solid application from line-work to colour packing and understanding of colour pallets and perspective is truly inspiring and a mastery on its own.
George Geogriou: Has such a good understanding of contrast between dark and light with smooth application of shades and depth in his tattooing. It also translates so well over to his understanding of colour in his Neo-traditional and Traditional work too.
Internationally – SAD AMISH Tattooer: Has had quite a bit of an impact on my work. From the human anatomy and translating it onto skin. To capture the beauty of the human body while still simplifying it to the point that it’s going to age well as a tattoo.
Heather Mclean: Truly has a unique style of morphing human anatomy with organic materials which I truly love and she brings so much flow into her art with very limited elements. Using solid blacks and negative space with different line weights and whip shading, which is very similar to my own style of tattooing.
Where do you see your career taking you?
Hopefully into old age and I’m lucky enough to have a career where I meet people from all walks of life. I would like to grow as an artist and enjoy my art. There’s always room to improve as art is endless! I would love to eventually do more guest spots around South Africa, Europe and Asia. Experience the cultural diversity of the world and the people who dwell in it!
For anyone wanting to book an appointment with you, what’s the next step?
Follow me Instagram @thatpussiepeachguy or drop me an email at email@example.com with some ideas or just come get some pre-drawn flash. I’ve always got a bunch on hand ready to be tattooed. We’ll set up a date and get you tattooed!
Tattoos by Chris Theunissen
Photos by Alexander Wolf Photography.