The English tattooist, now settled in Australia, has a style all of his own: his Black Traditional is inspired by masters from the 30s who did a Traditional which he describes as “opposed to the very simplified versions that people see as traditional tattooing today”. If you like his refined, timeless creations, take at look at his tattoos and the eBook version of his marvellous “Scrapbook”.
Hi Rich, would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is Rich Hardy, I’m 34 years old and originally from England. I was born and grew up in and around London but haven’t lived there since 2012. I’m now living in Australia with my wife where I have been for a while now.
When did you start tattooing and how would you define your style?
I started out over 13 years ago in London. Defining my style is hard to describe as it’s happened very naturally but I am trying to achieve the look of tattoos of those who came before us – the ones that shaped American traditional around the turn of the century up until the early 1930s. That was the time period in which the most beautifully executed artistic tattooing was being created and what real traditional is to me as opposed to the very simplified versions that people see as traditional tattooing today. Traditional tattooing’s roots began with those that were very artistic and that has been almost lost today with extremely bold lines and less depth creating a flatter image. There is nothing wrong with that and many people execute that style greatly which I enjoy seeing but it isn’t what inspires me to create the earlier look of tattoos that I’m striving for.
Did it change over time?
Absolutely! When I started out I had no style or any understanding of tattooing. I think that is kind of important as it leaves you wide open to experiment and learn to tattoo all styles. In the present day, people start out with an instant style and tend to corner themselves by only being able to create that one style of tattoo. If you have a great foundation, it broadens the spectrum of skill and you can apply all those little bits to achieving and understanding more complex things for your tattooing in the future.
By not building your craft on a solid foundation, you may fall short.
Is it important for you to also paint and draw, beside of tattooing?
For sure. It helps me understand what I am doing in the skin. Breaking down and building up a design on paper, figuring out where to put the black and how much in the correct places to create a well balanced design that will hold up well over time. Balance is key to everything – from balance in a design to balance in your whole life of tattooing in relation to drawing/painting/prep work and tattooing in itself. If you don’t draw too much and properly prepare for the tattoo, it’s likely it won’t be as good as it could have of been if you don’t put in the ground work, plus you owe it to your customer as they are choosing you over the million other tattooers out there at the moment. The 6 P’s: Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. This can be applied to anything and everything in life.
What are your favourite subjects and techniques?
That’s a tough one as I love tattooing so many different things. As long as it will make a great tattoo then I’m happy to apply it. If it was a definitive subject I would have to say horses, serpents and girls. As for techniques, get it right the first time.
Where did the idea of this eBook come from?
Miki and myself have been friends for some time. Initially being from when Miki invited me to come work the London convention a few years ago which started our relationship. I also did one of the official T-shirt’s for the convention in 2017 and then around a year ago, the subject of doing the ebook came up. I thought it was a great idea – however it took me some time to get around to doing it as I am always so busy but finally we got it finished a few months ago. I wanted to present it in a slightly different way to the regular presentation of a sketch book. I have been collecting vintage tattoo items for around 10 years and among that stuff I own a few old sideshow scrap books – that’s what gave me the idea to make a ‘scrapbook’ with my drawings. I am the least computer savvy person and making a digital book was beyond my own capabilities so with the help of my good friend and computer whizz, Shawn Correia (@handsacrossthesea), we worked together to make it happen.
What are your projects for the future?
I actually have quite a few projects going on right now. Part of me yearns to chill out but it’s all I know. It’s well known that I absolutely admire the British old time tattooer Ben Corday – one of the most artistically skilled tattoo artists to ever live! I have based my tattooing around his fundamentals of design and have also been researching his life for many years. Last year I decided that it would become a book due to the vast depth I have looked into his life and am currently in the middle of writing the book as we speak.
There have been some slight delays in the books release due to some unfortunate circumstances but now it is full steam ahead to be released next year. I have also been working on another small book project with the digital help of my friend Shawn once again. Since I have collected vintage tattoo items for quite a while, I have amassed a large collection of photos and postcards of tattooed people and attractions. It has been my point of inspiration and reference in my tattooing and I figured that more people should see them other than myself. The book will feature 76 of my favourite images – many of which haven’t been seen too much before, if at all. It will be out towards the end of September this year and I look forward to people seeing it.
Tattooing is bigger than all of us and so much is still to be discovered about the history of our craft.
Hopefully some of the images will help others identify missing pieces of the puzzle in unravelling personal mysteries in the intricate history that fascinates so many of us. And the last thing I’m working on is a machine project with my best friend Christopher Waller (@waller_irons) that will be released this September too. It has been something we have been working on for almost 5 years with a lot of R&D to make it the best it can be. It is a super limited small run of 25 machines based on the early suppliers to the trade, Smith and Howard with some improvements to the original design. It will come with a reproduction copy of the original supply catalogue and various other goodies related to the old Boston tattoo suppliers.
Thank you for taking the time to read what I have to say!