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 publication.

Tattoos by Guy Aitchison.

How long have you each been tattooing and what initially got you interested in the profession?

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 together?

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 the process?

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 largely responsible for me taking the plunge and learning the art. The late Greg Irons, whose work appeared in those books, was hugely influential 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 stop here.

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 and future?

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 boundaries.

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

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