His bold and clean lines worked into traditional style tattoos have forged Wesley von Blerk’s name into the local tattoo industry. We caught up with Wes to chat about his career, tattoo style and more – meet our Tattoo Artist of the Week here.
Name: Wesley von Blerk
Shop: Handstyle 7th Street Tattoos
Year tattooing: 3 years
Tattoo style: Traditional
Hourly rate: R1000
What was the defining moment of you becoming a fully-fledged tattoo artist?
I can’t remember any specific moment, to be honest. I didn’t know I was going to become a tattoo artist. I had worked a few random graphic design jobs here and there, some shitty retail jobs too and when I moved up to Joburg and got offered an apprenticeship, I thought I was cool as shit. Little did I know what I had gotten myself into.
What steps did you have to take in becoming a tattoo artist?
First step I’d say was kinda slipping into an apprenticeship at Iron Fist Ink. I say slipping because I was there working retail. I’d kind of do a drawing and leave it somewhere for the guys at the back to see, until it got noticed [laughs]. That shop closed down and I went off to do an apprenticeship with a guy named Jono. From there I was hanging out a lot at Handstyle. I literally would just rock up asking if I could clean the shop, do some stencils, scrub some grips, whatever need be. I laugh now because they always looked at me like “what the fuck you doing here,” but I guess I just hung around long enough for them to finally let me stay. A huge thanks to Paul, Ross, and Matt. I owe these guys for everything I have today. Especially Ross Hallam, the older brother I never had. Without him I would not be where I am today. Thank you mukka!
What was the hardest part about learning how to tattoo?
The hardest part, man I think it was all hard, still is, just getting by each day. Trying to hustle some petrol money to get to the studio to clean the shop, making sure the guys were happy with my work, understanding what works and what doesn’t on the skin, and figuring out how to draw in a certain style. I’m always learning so I guess that will never change, tattooing can be my best friend one day, the next I’m pulling out my hair, but I wouldn’t change any of it.
How do you make sure you keep progressing in the art?
I think to keep progressing you have to keep yourself interested and you have to stay humble. Listening to and watching the guys I look up to in the industry, learning from them all the time, applying what I’ve been told, and constantly doing my research. I’ve just got into painting too, which has helped heaps with my tattooing.
What does the industry mean to you?
The tattooing industry means more to me than anything I’ve ever known! I came into tattooing thinking I was cool as shit, but instead it gave me a poes klap and told me to sit the fuck down. I have the utmost respect for tattooing and everything it comes with. I personally think it’s changed me as a person, each and every day that I have the honor of doing what I do, humbles me. The day you think you own tattooing is the same day you need to pack your machines away.
What have been some of the craziest requests you’ve got from clients?
I’ve never had any crazy requests to be honest, but I’m down to tattoo someone’s forehead if anyone out there is keen.
What style of tattoos do you enjoy the most and why?
I really enjoy doing anything with clean and neat line-work, as well as traditional tattoos (the ones that everyone says are cliché but have been around for over 50 years. How many watercolor tattoos from 50 years ago have you seen?). But yeah, a tattoo that can be identified from across the street is a good tattoo.
If you could guest appear in any shop, which would it be?
There are so many shops I would love to guest from. If I could just choose two for now it would be at Nuit Noire Tattoo in Switzerland and Mainstay Tattoo in Austin Texas. Those guys to me are on another level, I would just become a sponge and take it all in.
To date, which tattoo that you’ve done are you most proud of?
Most proud tattoo I’ve ever done is on my mom, never in my life did I think that would happen [laughs]. Thanks mamma.
What has been your most challenging tattoo?
Every single one is the most challenging tattoo [laughs]. But so rewarding once they’re done.
When you’re not busy tattooing, what do you like to do with you downtime?
I’ve recently started painting, which I’m really enjoying doing when I’m not tattooing. Otherwise, walking my dogs and irritating my girlfriend. I really love surfing, having grown up in Durban, the Valley of the Waves just doesn’t cut it for me.
Where do you see this career taking you?
I hope tattooing takes me around the world. If I get to travel and do what I love the most, then I’m one happy man.
For anyone that would like to book and appointment with you, what’s the next step?
If you would like to get tattooed, you can send an email to the shop at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Instagram, @wesley_von_blerk, and send me a DM.
Tattoos by Wesley