Meet Phillip Wells, a Joburg based Tattoo Artist working out of Handstyle 7th Street Tattoos, and who’s Neo Traditional style tattoos stand out among the rest. Get to know Phil and his work below.
Name: Phillip Wells
Shop: Handstyle 7th Street Tattoos
Years Tattooing: 6 years
Tattoo Style: Neo Traditional
Hourly Rate: R1000 an hour
Tell us about your journey into becoming a tattoo artist?
It all sort of started in Matric I suppose, my best friend got a piece done, I thought it was super rad. After I turned 18 I went and got my first tattoo, which turned into a steady flow of regular visits. I wasn’t much of an academic in school and studying wasn’t an option. I left school a little lost as most of us did. Two years went by doing small jobs here and there, along with many visits to local tattoo shops. I decided maybe I could give this a go and it’s all been a rollercoaster ride since [laughs].
What was it like doing your first tattoo, what was it and how did it come out?
I think every tattooers answer to this is…bad. I tattooed an old school microphone. It was easily the most nerve racking thing I’ve ever had to do. To put something permanent on someones skin forever is a big responsibility.
What does the industry mean to you?
It’s means everything to me. It’s my life. It’s how I live. It’s how I stay happy. It humbles me everyday. Whether it be if I’m tattooing or just hanging out with colleagues, tattooing has always given me a purpose, a sense of direction. I have a lot of respect for this industry. It’s been one of the hardest journeys but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
How much has the industry changed since you first started out?
Six years, in reality, really isn’t a very long time to be tattooing. So I can only speak from my own experiences. Technology has certainly made life a lot easier being a tattooer. New machines, equipment, printers. Instagram also made a massive impact in the tattoo world. Pushing tattooers, better online representation and portfolio structure, Instagram made a big wave. Of course the level of work has moved up as the years have passed by too.
Where do you see the industry going in the future?
That’s a hard question to answer. The tattoo industry is forever evolving with new styles and new creatives. At the end of the day the process stays the same – needle, inks, pain and forever. The rest of it kinda follows.
What style of tattoo do you enjoy doing the most?
Being in the hardcore music (metal) scene growing up pushed my eye towards a very certain style of tattooing. Mostly consisting of Traditional and Neo Traditional tattoos. They looked bold and made a statement. I liked that. From there Ross Hallam came into the picture. I’m fortunate enough to work along side him now, I always looked up to Ross. He was a vocalist for a band called Conqueror and also an all round great tattooer. I liked how his tattoos looked, I liked his outlook on tattoos and tattooing and just generally the epitome of what a tattooer should be when I was coming into the industry. Ross sort of paved the road for me and where I wanted my tattoos to go. Can’t thank the dude enough!
I mostly do Neo Traditional tattoos now, which is an illustrative type of art work mainly based with strong lines and colour. I also enjoy Traditional, Japanese and would say I’m pretty versatile in other styles as well. Usually I’m having the most fun doing Neo Traditional tattoos. They’re challenging, unforgiving and all round good looking tattoos, that hold. That’s the most important aspect for me, the tattoo must look just as good ten years down the line.
How do you make sure you keep up with the times and progress as an artist?
Again, Instagram is a good indication of the level of work artists are putting out there. Neo Traditional has evolved a lot over the years, taking a lot of different directions. I suppose it’s finding which direction you’d like to go and what you want your tattoos to look like at the end of the day. For me traveling best progressed me as an artist. I have been fortunate enough to travel and work in several different countries across Europe. Those guys are the ones setting the standard in the industry. Being fortunate enough to get to work along side some really incredible artists pushes me to try and get onto their level. I guess progression is all about how much effort and work you put in.
Phil’s Instragram – @philtattooist.
If you could be tattooed by any local and international artists, who would they be?
Being a tattoo collector I have been fortunate enough to get tattooed by a lot of local tattooers that I look up to. I think I have about 16 different local dudes patched on my body and it’s been an honour getting to spend time with all these tattooers. Internationally, man the list is endless. But Lars lips (Berlin), Jacob Gardner (Australia) and Jean le Roux (originally South African, now living in London) all come to mind first. Fortunately all my arm tattoos consist of international artists.
What advise would you give to someone that is contemplating on getting their first piece?
Not every first tattoo has to mean something. We’re living in 2018, if you think that dagger and rose is cool, get it. If you really want to make it personal, throw a “mom” or “dad” into it. Do your research and don’t shop with a budget. If you want a piece you’ll be happy with, pay the price. And hey, maybe even tip your tattooer at the end of your session, I promise we remember those who do. Other than that, Google is your best friend on do’s and don’ts on getting your first tattoo.
For anyone wanting to get tattooed by you, what’s the next step?
My booking formalities are quite simple. Good old email (firstname.lastname@example.org) gets your foot in the door, generally followed up with a consultation, deposit and finally the booking being made. I’m looking forward to hearing what ideas you have next!
Photos by Alexander Wolf.