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Wednesday , 20 October 2021
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Home » Tattoos » Tattoo Artist of the Week Mike Armstrong

Tattoo Artist of the Week Mike Armstrong

Meet Mike Armstrong, aka Big Mike, hailing out of the small town of Pietermaritzburg. His awesome black and grey realism work has earned him the spot of Tattoo Artist of the Week. We interview Mike about his newly opened Artura Tattoo studio, a uniquely awesome shop with a county club vibe, his tattoo career and more. See what he had to say while checking out some photos of his studio and tattoos.

Mike Armstrong is our features Tattoo artist of the Week
Full Name: Mike Armstrong
Nickname: Big Mike
Age: 29
Hometown: Pietermaritzburg
Shop: Artura Tattoo Studio
Years Tattooing: 9 years
Tattoo Style: All round, focusing on Black and Grey realism
Hourly Rate: R800

View of Mike's Artura Tattoo Studio
Tell us about your journey into the tattoo industry and how you got started?
I always had an interest in tattooing and art in general. I tried various industries but found myself drawn back to the tattoo industry. While getting a tattoo 9 years ago, the artist and myself got chatting and he offered to teach me. I then went on to do a year’s apprenticeship through him.

What attracted you to the industry and how rewarding has your career been this far?
The fascination of ink to skin is what drew me to the industry. I love the fact that I am always challenged. My career over the years has been very rewarding as it has given me the opportunity to travel abroad. I have gotten to experience the industry in both Canada and the USA.

You have recently opened a shop on Pietermaritzburg. Give us some insight into the shop and its differences to conventional shops?
I have decided to move away from the expected retail aspect of a tattoo shop and opened up in a Country Club Estate with no foot traffic or street exposure. I pride myself on repeat clientele through word of mouth and reputation. You will not see any flash featured in my studio, as most would expect from conventional shops. I keep more to customised design for my clients and my studio provides a more exclusive one on one time for the best results.

An example of Big Mike's tattoo work
How did you come up with the name for the shop?
When I was very young my mother took me to meet a Red Indian Charmin, who had the ability to see your spiritual guides. The man drew a beautiful image of a light being with the name “Artura”. I figured it was a name not often heard, it started with the word “Art” and it couldn’t hurt having one of my spiritual guides look over my studio.

How many artists do you have working at the shop and what is the daily vibe like?
I am the only artist in my studio. Over the years I have found that I work best alone and pride myself in knowing that the success of my studio is the sole reflection of my reputation and hard work. The daily vibe is very relaxed and being surrounded by beautiful country side helps me focus on the art.

What is it like owning a tattoo shop in one of the smaller South African towns? What are the pro’s and con’s of this?
The one positive to having a studio in Pietermaritzburg is that it is very central and I have many clients coming to me from the North Coast all the way through to JHB. One of the negatives is that with it being a small town there are many inexperienced and untrained people tattooing in the area. This means we spend a lot of our time repairing/ covering existing work instead of giving clients a brand new tattoo.

Big Mike from Artura Tattoo Studio

“…wear your big boy pants cause it’s going to hurt”

In your opinion, what type of tattoo style do you excel at and enjoy doing the most?
My passion lies with Black and Grey Realism.

What do you do to keep progressing in your artwork and tattoo work?
I follow a lot of artists and their styles and constantly try different approaches to how I do pieces.

What do think has been the biggest factor in the progression of tattooing over the past 5 years?
The fact that there are more greats artists that are coming out of South Africa, and there is no need to travel abroad to get a world class tattoo anymore. This has led to people in South Africa seeing what can be done on skin and not just thinking they can get everything out of a flash book.

The cool bar area in Artura Tattoo Studio
What are some of the weirdest requests you have ever received?
I once had clients in Canada that wanted to get a “Lock and Key” tattoo. The woman got the lock tattooed on her pelvic area, while the guy got the key on his finger, tongue and man business.

What advice would you give to a client getting their first tattoo?
Research the artist you are interested in and don’t just go on what your friends say. Go to an artist that specialises in the style you are looking for. Make sure that the placement matches the design you are looking for and that your design is timeless and not just what the latest craze is.

What advice would you give to a client about to get a big piece tattooed?
Make sure you eat before, bring food/ drink along to keep sugar levels up and wear your big boy pants cause it’s going to hurt!

Mike standing proudly outide his new studio
What goals do you have for the new shop and your career?
Firstly to constantly improve my skills and deliver top class work to my clients. Also to have people realise that there is a good artist in PMB and they don’t always have to travel to a major city.

If you could guest star at any tattoo shop in the world with any artists, where would it be and with who?
Mr Cartoon in Los Angeles. He is the master of all black and grey chichano in my opinion.

For anyone wanting to book a session with you, what’s the next step?
Pop us an email on and we will most likely set up a consult to discuss what the client wants in detail.

Artura Tattoo Studio Details:

Contact Number: 082 776 8000
Address: Victoria Country Club, Pietermaritzburg

Some of Mike Armstrong’s Work:

Some Tattoos by Mike Armstrong
Some Tattoos by Mike Armstrong of Artura Tattoo Studio
Some Tattoos by Mike Armstrong - aka Big Mike
Click here to see our other tattoo artist features.

Photo Gallery:

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  1. With all due respect…Mike does not touch any other tattoos artist work as his statement says “This means we spend a lot of our time repairing/ covering existing work instead of giving clients a brand new tattoo.” This is the biggest lie ever!!! Mike does not like to be associated with any other artist as he said he does want his work to be ruined!!! He always bad mouths other tattoo artist in the area. I have had this experience myself! He would not even do my daughters portrait on the ball of my arm, he said I was trying to be like eminem!!
    My body my choice where I want my tat!!

    • In response to your above comment.
      I would like to start by saying that when it comes to working around or over another artists work, here are the problems we are faced with:
      Firstly the client will notice a definite change in style of work, every artist has his own style and the artwork would look like its done by more than one artist. Some clients don’t understand this.
      The other issue is that when the work is so badly done that it is irreparable I can’t justify putting my work right next to it as when people say to you who did your ink? and you respond by saying “Big Mike” it makes my work look inconsistent and makes my quality look diminished. I often try advise clients the best way to do a cover up or repair, but clients not understanding that this is not an oil painting you can just slap layers over, resist my recommendations. I will always try my best to help my client out, however if the client sets unrealistic boundaries it ends up with a result of not being able to help the client.
      As far as the eminem thing goes, that is completely untrue, i would not judge someone on what they want or what they choose their appearance to be.
      I do prefer not to do shoulder ball portrait tattoos as it seems to warp the persons face forward, I prefer doing it in a more flatter area to maximize the look and quality of the clients piece. A tattoo is more than just an image slapped on someones skin, it needs to flow with your body and fit body placement.
      If i choose to not do a piece on you because you aren’t allowing me to do my job to the best of my ability, then unfortunately that has to be so, I would rather you say I couldn’t help you than go around saying your tattoo is horrible , all because you wouldn’t listen.
      As far as bad mouthing artists in the area, here is my view.
      I served an apprenticeship and took great pride in learning the skill of tattooing and greatly respect any other tattoo artist that has done the same and is doing great things in this industry. However if you can show me ONE, just ONE other artist in Pietermaritzburg that has served an apprenticeship and is producing actual tattoos and not just scratching people, I will publicly give them all the respect that is due.
      And in closing, Jordan if you didn’t like what i had to say then why didn’t you voice your opinion, My number is 082 776 8000. Please feel free to call me next time you have something to say about me that is firstly misunderstood and secondly uninformed.
      I hope this clears things up a little.

    • I have difficulty in believing this as I have a cover up done by Mike.When I told him what I wanted to cover it with, he did point out scale issues etc. with the design and recommended an alternative concept that he thought would work best. Thats what a professional does. An artist stakes his reputation on every piece he produces. If they feel that what you want will not work, to go ahead would be a poor reflection on their ability and would leave you with something that you wouldn’t be satisfied with.

      His ink, his choice.

      Big up Mike for saying no to designs you feel unhappy with! Many an artist would just take your money with blatent disregard for the end result.

  2. craig jacobsen

    That because he is the best, and all the other work is bad in pmb!

  3. To who ever this concerns:

    I saw a guy in Umhlanga over the weekend and saw the art that was done, what can I say. I have never seen any artwork like this before, it was stunning, brilliant and absolute unique. I went out of the way to get this guys attention and ask him who did his tattoos. The guy was pissed out of his brains and could not make out what he was saying. I only got the word big Mike from PMB. So I google and found Mike.

    Let me tell you Mike, your work is stunning and Fucking insanely good and I will see you soon as I would appreciate and feel honoured to have your work done on me.

    I have friends that is also Tattoo artists eg. Johan from Skin art in Bloemfontein, but your work is a masterpiece.

    keep up the good work and will get in touch.

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