Introducing Tony Weitraud, better known as Tattoo Tony, as our Tattoo Artist of the Week. Working out of Pretoria and in his newly relocated shop Tattoo Tony’s Custom Tattoo Lounge. Tony’s work is amongst the finest in the world and usually features a bold and colourful look. Find out more about this talented artist who likes getting down with freehand tattoos in our interview below.
Give us some insight into who Tattoo Tony is and how he got into the tattooing game?
It’s difficult to just say who I am, I think that’s a question for someone who likes me? But I’d like to think I’m straight forward, no nonsense, honest, creative, hardcore and slightly morally ambiguous. But having said that, I’m a father, a husband and a tattoo artist. If you ask someone who doesn’t like me, I think arrogant comes up a lot. Probably some other words too? But mostly I try give people the truth they need rather than the lie they want.
I got into tattooing by getting tattooed at a young age. I was always interested in ink from the skateboarding scene and the music I listened to. All my heroes were tattooed and of course it made sense at thirteen. I did art since I was 3 and finally went to a school that would take me to that other level. At 18 I made friends with the guys at a well know studio I was getting work done at and after some time I started working there.
How long did you apprentice for before tattooing your first official client?
It wasn’t long into my apprenticeship that I tattooed my first client, I think maybe six months. But things were different then. Work wasn’t as good as it was now. The ideas I mean. They were plain. I’d always thought there could be another way to tattoo, like draw shit custom rather than rely on flash.
What was that experience like and what is the most important thing you learnt during your apprenticeship?
My experience as an apprentice was surreal. It was a hardcore industry back then. Coming out of art school and plying my trade as a tattoo artist was unheard of. I was a social outcast, as all of the tattooists back then were all bikers, drug addicts, ex-cons or freaks of some nature – not trained artists. I loved every minute of it and worked all hours into the night. I tattooed continuously on anybody that would let me. I had some of the best friends in the world!
The most important thing I learnt in my apprenticeship was probably hygiene. That and the fact that this is no 9 to 5 job.
If you had to explain yourself as an artist, what would you highlight?
I would like to think the last 18-19 years have done that already. I’m pretty much game for anything. There’s nothing I don’t like, except maybe tribal, but other than that, I’m game for anything artistic. There are things I prefer to do and like doing on a regular basis, I’d like to think my work can be spotted as soon as you see it.
You have recently moved into your new shop. Tell us about the move and why it happened?
The move to the new shop was hard but it was a long time coming. The area we were in was changing for the worse. Lack of parking, crime and complacent landlords were among a few gripes. The first day of the move I was sick as a dog and my apprentices, interns, colleagues, friends, their families and even their wives all helped. It was hard and expensive but all worth it. The shop looks great and I hope we’re all happy here for a long time.
What is the vibe like in your new shop, what plans do you have for it and what type of experience are you trying to create for your clients?
We have a lounge type of feel to our shop. We’ve always had that laid back kind of feel, like a home, warm and inviting. I’ve always kept my distance from that clinical, shopping mall type of tattoo studio with all the bright lights and stainless steel. I like for people to feel comfortable. We have more of a private booth environment and yet still have that open feel. And of course hygiene is important, so all working surfaces are cleanable, but personal.
How many colleagues do you have working in your shop and what are their roles?
We have three permanent staff in the shop and one intern. Dean, @deanclarkeart, is my junior artist but no way is he junior on talent. He’s truly a great artist and has so much to give to this industry.
Mike, @mikestdare, is my apprentice. Hard working and long on talent. He’s more a realistic artist and portraits will be among some of his talents. He runs the shop, gets back to all your emails and makes sure we’re all entertained in the shop. Sometimes with some bad consequences.
We have an intern, Ennis, who is trying to ply her trade in our humble industry and learn all she can. Designing, drawing, cleaning and generally doing anything we tell her.
What type of tattoo work do you enjoy doing the most?
The kind of work I like doing most can vary from day to day depending on my mood and the quality of the idea I’m working on. Freehand work still tops the list, and that means skulls. Oh and flowers. I love, what I call, modern oriental or contemporary Japanese. But the darker side of things intrigues me the most.
If you had to categorise your work, what category would you say you fall under?
I don’t really like to categorise my work. I’d like to think people can spot my work on people and say, “Tattoo Tony did that, right?”. That’s all I want, really.
Tell us about some of your highlights in your tattooing career?
The highlights of my career….mmm, that’s a hard one. I’ve been on TV programs and radio programs, I’ve been in magazines and in an international publication released in Spain. I’ve met some of the best artists in the word and gotten drunk with them all. I’ve had a tattoo done by one of the greats, Robert Hernandez. I’ve tattooed on trips to Europe, and tattooed famous paintballers in hotel rooms surrounded by mates, and drunk Scandinavians. I’ve tattooed some of the best sportsmen in the country, some of which are friends.
The highlight, would probably be some of the recognition I get from my colleagues, and other artists in the industry both here and overseas.
As an already established artist, what future goals do you have for your career?
The future, well that’s easy…to travel more. I’d like to travel and work in tattoo studios all over the world. Not for the recognition, but for the experience. Short stints here and there, both locally and internationally.
What do you do to make sure you keep up with the times in the tattoo industry?
I think it’s easier to keep up with the “times” in the tattooing industry, with social media. So Instagram is the choice. I follow a ton of artists and try not to copy the shit out of everything I see. It’s how I see how far behind I am.
You normally work on bigger pieces. What advice would you give to a new client planning to get a big piece?
Clients looking for bigger pieces. Well it’s easy to convince them to do custom work as they’re usually serious about getting ink, so the homework is probably done already. But knowing what you want is key, too many times I’ve heard that they want something big but they’re not sure what they want. Get ideas, designs, pics, concepts and even your own drawings, it always helps the artist see your state of mind. Hit the web, try not to Google search tattoos, but rather search for artists and then find art you like. Lastly, let the tattoo artist guide you, if you’re in my shop, chances are you want my work anyway!
For anyone wanting to book a tattoo with you. What steps should they take?
For people to book their next piece with me, email us your ideas of the piece you’re looking to get. Make sure you let us know all the bits and pieces like, size, concept, placement, and style you’re looking for. Freehand and free reign work gets preference.
Tattoo Tony’s Custom Tattoo Lounge Details:
Some of Tattoo Tony’s Work:
Click here to see our other tattoo artist features.