His name is Jay Freestyle, and as the name implies, he does his clients’ tattoos freestyle. No templates, no stencils, just good ‘ol imagination and amazing artistry. In this exclusive interview, Freestyle talks about his beginnings as a tattoo artist, his creative process, and his memorable experiences with clients. [Read our original posts about him here and here.]
How long have you been doing tattoos?
I have been tattooing for more than 5 years, but I consider the first 4 years my trial & error phase. The style I am developing now, I have only been practicing for over a year.
How’d you discover your own personal technique of doing it freestyle?
I’m a self-taught artist, so from the very beginning I had no outside influence or guidance. It sounds stupid, but it basically originated from not being able to apply a stencil correctly, whereby I had to rely on drawing directly onto the person. It became normal for me to just draw on people, I find it easier to get the right flow & fit in this way. I like the spontaneity of it all, it makes the whole process more exciting to not know what the end result is going to be. Of course, not everything is done freehand but the majority is.
Can you explain the meaning behind your slogan, ‘Give me a piece of your skin & I’ll give you a piece of my soul’?
I only do custom work. I try to put my heart and soul into every piece and make it as unique and special as I possibly can. So as long as you can give me some skin to work on, I’ll give you art, which to me is the same as giving my soul.
Take us through your creative process while you’re at work. What goes through your mind while you’re improvising/freestyling a tattoo?
The collector has a large impact on the creative process. Some people I have an automatic click with and we bounce ideas back and forth or they just give me total freedom. Those collectors always end up with my best work. When I have total freedom, it’s easier to just create art.
Mostly I’m thinking about how the piece fits the area of this exact body and how it will flow along its shape. If it’s a large tattoo then I try to focus on creating movement in the piece and focus on how the piece looks as a whole from a distance. Smaller tattoo’s I then do the opposite, because of the lack of space I create a more static look and will focus more on small details.
Who chooses the subject, you or the client?
The collector chooses the subject. I always ask what the subject matter is, but lately though I get more and more lucky and people let me do whatever I want.
What’s your favorite subject to tattoo?
I like doing girl faces/pinups. I enjoy abstract stuff like pointillism, just playing around with geometric shapes and patterns. I enjoy any idea that’s original.
How do your clients feel before and after getting a tattoo from you?
It depends a lot on the collector, those that give me free reign understand how I work so nothing really surprises them and they always end up with my best work. They are always the most grateful. Collectors that are more picky generally need some persuasion, they’re normally the type of person that like to micro-manage everything, so there’s sometimes a bit of fear of letting go and trusting me. But in the end, if they listen, they often end up the happiest, because they get something better than what they had anticipated.
Any memorable experiences from client reactions?
There’s a few, to name some, I once did a portrait of a collector’s daughter while he was visiting Amsterdam, she never knew about it and when he returned home to the US and showed it to her, she flipped out (in a good way) and he got it on film and sent it to me.
Another would be a father and son that flew in from South Germany, to get the Ice Age characters tattooed on them, because they felt those characters represent themselves. It was done in a way, that when they stand next to each other, it forms a complete picture. It doesn’t happen too often that parents or spouses get tattooed together, let alone tattoos that form a whole image together.