We spoke to Max of Dr Viper Custom Tattoos in his light and plant-filled studio on the top floor of Hagglers Corner, a vibrant oasis of culture and community on Queens Road, S2. He’s one of the oldest residents in the building and it shows: the walls are covered with the artwork which he has been inking onto the bodies of clients for the last five years, as well as lots of books and treasures from around the world.
Can you tell us about your artistic background and how you got into tattooing?
Tattooing was something I came to after growing up always drawing, painting and making. My family is pretty artistic and it was a career I first pursued by studying art and design in Newcastle and then animation in London. I can barely put a pencil down, and so finding a way to make a living by creating new artwork for every tattoo is hugely rewarding. My style has evolved from a passion for street art and graffiti, but that has developed and matured as new influences allow me to create something which is unique to me. I travelled in East Africa earlier this year and a trip to Japan has been on the cards for a long time!
Do you have a favourite tattooing style, or are you able to turn your hand to anything that a client chooses?
I have developed a style which I think looks beautiful on the skin and to which I have honed my design skill so I can create unique tattoos for every client, and although it’s my style, it can adapt to the particular wishes of my customers. I use very fine dot work which allows me to create anything from monochrome black and grey tattoos to full colour, taking in delicate line work and accurate tonal values.
Which have been your favourite and least favourite tattoo trends in recent times?
Imaginative and abstract styles which work dynamically with the body and respond to it like a canvas, are what really inspires me. I am a fan of the Czech studio Bobek Tattoo and in general, I love the emergence of the use of watercolours in designs. The way we can work with colour and tone to create paintings on the skin has given the art form a lot of freedom. Least favourite? I don’t have any genre I dislike as there is great work being created everywhere.
If you had to choose, which has been the most memorable tattoo that you’ve inked?
This is a really hard question! They are all so bound up with the stories of my friends and clients but a few do stand out. Some tattoos have evolved over months, and that makes them really special – there’s a back piece which I started a few years ago and which keeps on growing as we decide to extend and embellish. Having the opportunity to recreate the extraordinary paintings of Tom French as a tattoo – a childhood friend from Northumberland – on to our mutual friend was a real privilege but it’s often a fox which gets the most compliments; people say that it has a really special energy to it.
Max is available by appointment only, and can be reached via Facebook, his website or a phone call. Normal turnaround from consultation to tattoo is around 2-3 weeks. You can see more of his work at www.drviper.com and Facebook or call 07765 012 368 to arrange a meeting.