GUY AITCHISON and MICHELE WORTMAN
by Chuck B.
Photos courtesy of Guy Aitchison & Michele Wortman
From the September 2003 issue of Prick Magazine.
Photo by Michele Wortman.
Painting by Guy Aitchison.
Painting by Guy Aitchison.
Guy Aitchison grew up in a household that encouraged
artistic expression. Both his brother and
sister are artistic as well, and in fact, his sister
Hannah is also a working tattoo artist. They can often be
seen working the same convention. Guy began painting
album covers in 1985 and continued to do them professionally
until he started tattooing in 1988. He picked up oil
painting about 10 years ago and continues to paint as much
as possible, sometimes fusing sculpting, computer modeling
and painting to create his more elaborate projects.
Michele Wortman spent a lot of time drawing and
painting as a kid. In high school, she concentrated her
studies in art and then went to the Art Institute of
Chicago for a while. "I couldn’t afford to continue school
there so I decided to chart my artistic course with an
open mind trying whatever medium appealed to me. At
first, it was mostly oil painting and figure drawing. Then
came photography and tattooing. Many of the tattoos I
do I consider to be the equivalent of painting. I have been
working with combining painting and photography as
one medium and have become very fluent with Macs -
designing tattoos, creating music and animating my photography."
Her art and photography collide in her tattoos,
creating a style all her own.
Together as a married team, Guy and Michele are
taking the tattoo industry and art world by storm. They
are pushing the limits of art and breaking new ground
with their online studio and constant travel. It is our
great honor to have their words and art in this
Tattoos by Guy Aitchison.
How long have you each been tattooing
and what initially got you interested in the
Guy: Fifteen years. It's my sister's fault - she convinced
me to get tattooed at 16 and there was no turning
back. I watched the guy doing the piece on me and
realized that I could do it too; that there was no reason
I couldn't do it as well as any other medium I worked in.
I couldn't imagine the possibilities at the time ... but I
knew it would be exciting.
Michele: I have been tattooing for four years. Being
around Guy exposed me to the world of tattooing.
During this period, I started to collect a bit of ink.
Afterwards, I evaluated my decisions and realized I was
craving a look that was lighter, softer with more use of
skin. That was the motivation I
needed to stir my conviction
into tattooing. Of course seeing
what Guy was doing with such
precision and depth in his compositions
showed me that the
limits were endless as to what
was possible in tattooing.
Describe each of your
primary styles of tattooing.
Guy: I like to be as versatile as
possible. I try to let the essential
requirements of tattooing such
as a strong flow, clean shapes,
energetic movement and the
inherent shape of the body be
the determining factors in my
style, so that whether I am doing
a flower or a biomechanoid
mutation, the emphasis is on
how well it reads on the body,
the depth and dimension, the
strength of the design from a
distance and, most importantly,
some form of beauty or another.
I especially like to work with
lighting and depth effects.
Michele: I have heard my work
referred to as pastel impressionism.
The style itself is as much
about a feeling as it is about technique. Primarily the
focus is on beauty, flow and energy.
Photos by Michele Wortman.
One question that I have to ask Guy -
because of a set of very, very early (not so
bad ass) Guy Aitchison flash I happened upon
- did you get hit by a car, have brain surgery
or eat a magic mushroom to catapult you to
artistic genius? It seems like one minute you
were drawing like any other aspiring artist,
then BAM! Your a modern master. Explain.
Guy: It really was a lot more gradual than that. The
biggest thing was the fact that I was traveling and
meeting other young talents like Marcus Pacheco
and Eddy Deutsche and trading tattoos, drawing
flash and T-shirts with them, that kind of thing. I've
always enjoyed collaboration and have done it with
many artists, especially early on. I was a sponge at
the time, ready to absorb anything that looked good
and incorporate it into myself. I try to still be in this
habit, but at the time I was really hungry.
I also feel that I have always had good art habits;
I have always spent much more time at the drawing
board than at the bar. I believe that if an artist keeps
an open mind, mingles with other artists and steadily
produces new work all the time, it is inevitable
that they will land on something good eventually.
Incidentally, I do not consider myself a master;
there is simply too much that I don't know. But
thanks for the compliment.
How did the two of you meet and when did you first start working
Guy: We knew each other from the rock scene back in the early nineties. We were
into the same music and had similar interests. Michele was already an accomplished
painter, and after seeing her work hanging at a bar in Chicago, I realized there was
some real depth there and wanted to get to know her. We started sharing a painting
space not far from my shop almost as soon as we got together back in 1992, and had
a great artistic synergy. During the course of our traveling to conventions, Michele
finally took the plunge and began tattooing in 1998, mostly at conventions. In 1999
we finally tied the knot.
Tattoos by Michele Wortman.
How would you say that you have influenced each other in
Guy: I have learned to be much more sensitive to the body and the idea of not
overwhelming the body with a tattoo, but instead, creating a partnership between the
body and the tattoo. My new work is less dense and has better flow. I definitely have
become more sensitive to female clients and their
needs, which are different from the needs of male
clients ... although there are a good many male tattooers
who don't realize this. We have also influenced
each other to take on technology and integrate
it into our design process.
Michele: When Guy and I first met, he was very
structured in his approach, and I was naive to the
concept of tattooing. From shared experiences we
have both blossomed into a more well-rounded and
conscientious approach. We are constantly learning
from each other and growing as artists.
Many people name you guys as their
influences and/or inspirations. Who are some of
your influences or heroes other than each other?
Guy: Long list. Ed Hardy's Tattoo Time books blew
me away as a
teenager and are
for me taking
the plunge and
learning the art.
The late Greg
work appeared in
those books, was
on me when I
was first learning.
I learned a whole
lot in the course
of hanging out
with Eddy and Marcus, along with Aaron Cain, Greg
Kulz, Paul Booth, Filip Leu ... some amazing young
artists. I am also strongly influenced by a few
painters, particularly the best of the surrealists -
most notably Dali and Max Ernst. Some other
artists I consider influential are Giger, Alex Grey,
M.C. Escher, Robert Venosa, Robert Williams ... and
then there are the non-artistic influences. All in all
the list is as long as a small town phone book, so I'll
Michele: One of my biggest influence is in nature, and
my observations through the lens. Taking time to
look and appreciate the wonder of natural order. I
am also inspired by visionaries who push the limits
of their imagination and ability to communicate. Painters such as Salvador Dali to Alex
Grey. Tattoo artists such as Aaron Cain to Filip Leu. Musically, Boards of Canada to Ravi
Shankar. Really any artist, as well as any moment that I have felt moved by, has become
a source of inspiration.
Tattoos by Guy Aitchison.
It seems the primary place to get tattooed by either of you is at a
convention. This has led to a new type of tattoo "studio," a cyber studio to
be exact. Explain how it works and how you guys work it?
Michele: We have a place in Southern Illinois where we tattoo that is owned by friends
who basically just give us space to work in and the use of their autoclave. So we can
take some appointments there for those who can travel. Most of our work has been
on the road in the past, which can be fun, but can also be stressful and does limit the
scale of the work. Though we're still traveling a bit, especially during the springtime
when most of the good conventions are, we are doing more work [in Illinois] and less
on the road lately. We encourage interested parties to contact us via email to hook
up an appointment and check our events page to see what shows are posted.
Traveling so much, do you guys actually have a place to call home
or is it a suitcase and cyberspace house?
Michele: It's a real house, with some real bikes and some real kayaks, and five real cats.
But it's still a cyberspace house too ... a blend of the homey and the futuristic. We
bought it unfinished and are still in the process of customizing it.
What are your feelings about the tattoo industry - past, present
Guy: Considering the motley assortment of personalities that make up this industry,
I think we're doing pretty well. I could grumble 'till I'm blue in the face about
scratchers, absentee shop owners, suppliers selling beginners kits and all that crap, but
these things will never go away and every type of industry has their own version of
these problems. I am encouraged by the fact that despite all of our shortcomings,
despite our sordid past and sensationalistic public opinions, despite a government and
a mainstream culture that would rather we just disappeared, we're still here and making
some of the most exciting art in any field. The tattoo renaissance is happening
faster than any other artistic renaissance in history. We can complain, but we have to
remember how fortunate we are.
Michele: I like to think of this as an art movement. The skills are there from so many
people to push the envelope into uncharted territory creating new looks and dissolving
Where do you see yourselves in five years?
Michele: We're planning on publishing some nice art books in the next year or so, and
traveling to promote them. This is something we've both always wanted to do. Michele
is working on a multimedia project that she hopes to include in the tour. Guy has a
few major art projects on the back burner that he hopes to find ways of making manifest
sooner than later ... but this will always be the case, hopefully. Our goal is to keep
turning out new work, and to nurture the creative vibe that motivates us. We also plan
to continue making our website more and more visually exciting and taking advantage
of any new web technology to keep it at the cutting edge.
For more information on shows Guy and Michelle will be attending and to
see more art work and book time, visit www.hyperspacestudios.com
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