by Geoffrey Stephenson, and contributor Jeani Treacy
Photos courtesy of Bob Tyrrell
From the January 2005 issue of Prick Magazine.

Tattoos by Bob Tyrrell.

Detroit born artist Bob Tyrrell started tattooing in his early 30s. But despite his relatively late entry in the tattooing business, he has had a career that most artists can only dream of. His talent for black and grey realism, and horror-themed tattoos is among the best, and has earned him many well-deserved awards.

The son of a commercial artist, Bob grew up around art: "My dad's an amazing artist. He's done a shitload of wildlife and nautical oil paintings."

But it was his love of music which occupied most of his time during his 20s, and he still pursues it when he can find the time. We caught a glimpse of his talents at Mario Barth's Greatest Tattoo Show on Earth at New Jersey's Meadowlands this fall, playing at the welcoming party. "I wanted to be an artist, until I started playing guitar, then I quit drawing completely for about 15 years."

For the last seven and a half years, though, he has dedicated himself to the art of tattooing. Despite his soaring rise to the top, he remains the kind of humble artist who appreciates and acknowledges the people who have helped him over the years.

What made you want to become a tattoo artist?

I'd wanted a tattoo since I was 18 or so, but I didn't get tattooed until I was almost 30. Of course I got hooked! I got back into drawing, which I gave up years before because I was busy playing guitar. I took a few art classes and spent the next three years getting my drawing back together. The whole time I wanted to tattoo, I just wanted to make sure I was ready. Didn't want to fuck shit up!

How did you get started in the biz?

I apprenticed at Eternal Tattoos here in Detroit. It was fuckin' awesome. The shop was full of great artists, and they all helped me big time. Tom Renshaw was there and took me under his wing. I owe him and Tramp a shitload!

Who are your influences in the tattoo industry?

Paul Booth, Robert Hernandez, Tom Renshaw, Guy Aitchison, Filip Leu, Jime Litwalk, Gunnar, Joe Capobianco, Eric Merrill, Jack Rudy, Nick Baxter, Everyone at Last Rites, Boris, Manu, Benjamin Moss, and about a hundred more that would take forever to name!

Who are some of your influences outside of tattooing?

Frank Frazetta (the MASTER ), Basil Gogos, Giger, Mort Drucker, any good horror related art.

You seem to be at nearly every tattoo convention. Does your constant traveling affect your creativity?

Yeah, totally. I'm doing too many conventions and traveling too much. It's a lot of work to travel like I do, and it soaks up a lot of time. I have a hard time saying no to people! 2005 is gonna be crazy again, but I'm going to cut back for sure after that. I need to draw more and I want to do more fine art. I need to tattoo a little more too, I feel like I'm stuck in a rut, which is something all tattoo artists go through from time to time. I love to travel, but too much of it can burn you out.

When we interviewed Tony Ciavarro, he mentioned that you show a lot of patience when you tattoo, which helped him out. Is this something that came natural to you, or is it something that you learned?

Wow, that's cool that he said that. He's a good friend and an amazing artist. Actually, tattooing and art are the only things I have patience with. You should see me drive! No patience whatsoever. But yeah, patience comes natural when it comes to tattooing. I just want to do the best I can. Actually, it might not be patience, I'm just slow as fuck!

Your realistic black and grey work is incredible. Do you ever work in color?

I do a color piece a couple times a year! I would like to get back into color work a little more, but I love black and grey man, since I was a little kid.

The subjects of your work are quite diverse, from your creepy horror stuff to your realistic portraits and animals. Do you prefer to mix it up a little with different subject matter? Is this often intentional?

I do enjoy both styles equally. If I could do half custom horror imagery and half realistic shit, it'd be a perfect world. I probably do a little more horror stuff than realism, but I can't complain about that! It's not intentional though, if it's either one of those styles, I'm happy.

What do you like to do when you're not tattooing?

I'm trying to play guitar more, but tattoo related shit soaks up all my fucking time. I try to spend my free time ( like I have any of that! ) working on art, playing guitar, and watching horror movies.

What's your favorite horror movie, and why?

The Exorcist! I saw it when it came out as a kid, and back then, it was a pretty heavy movie. It's just a great fucking horror flick. Nothing funny about it. Too many horror movies now have too much cheesy comic relief. They're are not scary anymore. Entertaining, but not scary. To round out the top five, I'd have to say the first Hellraiser, John Carpenter's The Thing, Evil Dead 2, and maybe Dead Alive.

Which celebrities have you tattooed?

I did the American Bad Ass eagle on Kid Rock a few years ago. I did the Kracker logo on Uncle Kracker's arm. That's pretty old, I was tattooing for a couple years when I did that. I tattooed the entire Twisted Brown Trucker band -- Kid Rock's band. I just tattooed Tesla's drummer, Troy Luckketta, this last year. I did a portrait of his wife holding her baby, two weeks before they got married. I just tattooed Pat Lachman, the singer for Damageplan, a couple months ago. A skull eating a hot chick with demons lurking about. One of the demons is pushing her head into the skull's mouth.

I'm still in shock about Dimebag Darrell. It's so surreal. I've become friends with those guys and they're the coolest motherfuckers on the planet. Pat is the coolest dude! Dime was so down to earth ... he was cool to everyone. He loved life man, he lived it to the fullest. He lived to party and play guitar, and he was a master at both! He's one of my favorite guitarists. I'm gonna miss downing shots with him. I'm doing a portrait of him on Pat and Bob Zilla, Damageplan's bass player. I'm gonna get one too, probably from Robert Hernandez.

For more information and amazing art from Bob Tyrrell, go to

To schedule an appointment, contact the studio or visit his website for convention details.

Bob Tyrrell Studios
23884 Schoenherr Road
Warren, MI 48089

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