Self taught and living the dream, we bring your Larnelle Pienaar as our featured Tattoo Artist. Working out of Outcast Tattoos 818 we get some insight into Larnelle’s journey of becoming a full time artist, his career, lifestyle and more…
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Full name: Larnelle Pienaar
Shop: Outcast Tattoos 818
Years tattooing: 4 years
Tattoo style: Black and Grey Realism
Hourly rate: I don’t charge per hour, rather per day (R5500) or per piece (starting price R750)
Tell us your story of how you became a full time tattoo artist?
This is quite a long story, but let me summarise… Straight out of school, I studied some welding inspection courses and I got into construction, as a welding inspector at an Eskom Power Station in Limpopo. I thought that this was where my life would stay and end, even though my love for art since a kid was buried deep down inside.
I built myself up in the construction industry, I am actually qualified in three different methods of welding inspection. I found my beautiful wife in 2014 and got married 2015.
In 2017 I got one of my greatest gifts, my baby girl “J’maika” and so my lil family started, in this time my wife bought me a drawing book and pencils to start drawing again, and that was a fire reignited! She knew that when I was young I wanted to become a tattoo artist but my family would not allow it, so she actually said, “baby, try. If you succeed, I’ll support you and if you fail, at least you got it out your system”.
Because of my responsibilities, doing an apprenticeship without an income for a long period of time was just not an option for me, so I began to self-teach. I grew more and more with every attempt. I would even practice on pig-skin and my legs. Then moved on to friends and family, and then word got good enough to actually start charging people.
At this point I was juggling full time construction and tattooing on the side, till June 2019 – this is where my life changes forever. I got retrenched from my construction job, and made the decision, with my wife, to come to Johannesburg, take a leap of faith and tattoo full time here. And, the rest is history!
What first attracted you the industry?
Miami Ink caught my attention whilst I was still in school, and then just the aspect that it is an art-form that can change someone’s life forever.
What were some of the hardest skills of the trade to learn when you were first starting out?
Getting that perfect, one pass, consistent, crispy AF line work that makes you think it just came out a printer. I was super hard on myself to get my lining perfect first, because it’s such a fundamental aspect of tattooing.
What are your pros and cons of how the industry has evolved over the last few years?
Pros would be that it is evolving in a way that challenges every artist around to keep getting better and keep pushing the limits to what can be achieved.
Cons would be that a lot of people see the lifestyle and fun part of tattooing, then jump and try to become artists, but there’s so much more to this. It takes all you got, and if you don’t have that drive and fire to keep pushing, then this is not for you.
In your opinion, what style of tattoo is trending at the moment and what do you think the next trend is going to be?
At the moment we get a lot of geometrics and sacred-geo being used. Mixed up with different styles as well, and I love it!
Next trend I believe will be the whole mixed-media of fusing realism and illustrative, or any different styles that never were fused, but slowly are, that’s a trend that could hit strong.
But, humans are strange, the next trend will probably be something we all not even expecting.
If there was a style of tattoo you hope never to be requested to do, which would it be and why?
Old style tribal, to all who have and plan on still getting it, I have no hate about it, just there is so much more that can be achieved and executed on skin, it’s crazy!
Old style tribal is outdated and also, for me personally, like watching paint dry [laughs] it’s quite boring.
What do you do to ensure you keep progressing as an artist?
Always challenge yourself! There’s always room for growth, never get comfortable. Always find ways to make what you’re pushing out, better than the last.
What style of tattoo do you enjoy creating the most, and why?
Black and Grey Realism, because there is no limit to how real you can make something appear on skin. I’m pushing to get to a point where my tattoos look so real that they can even talk back [laughs], not possible, but you get my point.
When not working and tattooing, what do you like to do with your downtime?
My downtime is my family time, I have a beautiful wife, daughter (3) and baby boy (1) that deserve all my attention when I’m not in studio, which is actually where you would find me most of the day, most days, except Sundays [laughs].
What does a day in the life of Larnelle usually consist of?
Wake up 6:30am, chill with my daughter having cereal, get ready for the day. Head over to the shop, grab some coffee and have a morning admin session. Client arrives around 10am. Get the design and stencil sorted and it’s game on!
Got the beats in the background, my “butchery” apron on and we vibing. Few breaks here and there, few jokes here and there, few colleagues catching feelings here and there because we hassle each other at every opportunity [laughs]. Session ends, clients wants to kiss me cause they love their tattoo (always men, dammit).
Head on home to my beautiful family, and have my kids jumping all over my head till they fall asleep, and then can relax with wifey.
How would you best explain the vibe of Outcast Tattoos 818?
Energetic, contagious, chilled, familia!
For anyone wanting to book and appointment with your, what’s the next step?
To book me, you can contact me through Instagram DM’s @larnelle.art, email me on email@example.com, messenger me on Facebook or WhatsApp me at Outcast on 0649180109.
Tattoos by Larnelle Pienaar
Photos by Alexander Wolf Photography.