by John Dekkers
Photos courtesy of Shane O'Neill
From the February 2005 issue of Prick Magazine.
Tattoos by Shane O'Neill.
There are so many different styles and variations of tattooing
and so many talented artists making their way in this
ever evolving trade. One artist who, over the last seven and
a half years, has worked hard and made a name for himself in a select
group of realism and black and grey artists is Shane O’Neill. Like
some tattooists, Shane did not start out with the slightest intention to
tattoo. While in school, he drew and breezed through his art classes,
but he wanted to go to trade school to learn carpentry after graduating.
It was his mother who persuaded him to attend college at the
Philadelphia University of Arts. In his senior year during a game of
wall-ball at school, Shane's opponent was actually a teacher at the
University. When Shane saw one of his paintings, it was exactly what
he wanted to do. Shane ended up taking an extra credit class with
the teacher and eventually landed a job working for him at his studio
after he graduated. Over the next five years, Shane did freelance illustration
and advertisements for children's books, Disney, Time
Magazine, among others.
"One spring my
brother asked me to
try to tattoo, I
could've cared less. I
had a couple of tattoos.
I told him if he
bought me all the
stuff, I would try it
out. So for a Fathers
Day gift, he got me
this kit. I got it, set it
up – total crap kit;
those kits they sell
you are a joke." Shane
recalls. "I just started
out with the easy
things I knew I couldn't
F-up. Most stuff I
figured out myself,
some things were just
common sense to
me. I automatically
liked doing black and
A friend of Shane's
urged him to show his
work to a friend of his
who owned a tattoo
shop at the end of town. Shane reluctantly went up and
showed the owner his illustration portfolio. Eventually,
after a few nights of hanging out, Shane agreed to
take a week off from his illustration job and work
at the shop. That week he made three times his
normal salary. Needless to say, Shane quit his
job and started tattooing.
"I worked six days a week. I would come in
early and stay 'till 11:00 p.m. at night. I just
wanted to tattoo," says Shane. "I was just trying
to learn with every tattoo. I grew up
around that neighborhood so I had friends
coming in to get tattooed by me which allowed
me to get pretty good fast." After tattooing about
a year, Shane did a portrait of this mean face on this
guy's arm, then BAM people started asking him for
faces. "I could already do portraits on paper. It was just a matter of learning how to do
it with a tattoo machine," Shane says. "After that, I started pushing portraits off on people
for cheap. Not long after, I got to work the Detroit convention. At the show, I did
another face out of some magazine on someone. He entered it in the Tattoo of the Day
and ended up winning."
From that point on, it all started falling into place for Shane.
"Once I started focusing strictly on realistic stuff, Tom Renshaw was the man. He still
is the man, but at the time he was the only person doing phenomenal portraits," admits
Shane. "I met him at the Reading Pennsylvania Convention. He looked at my book and
gave me some advice, told me what needles to use, spit out some stuff that was priceless
for someone that's trying to
learn. The next morning I started
trying the stuff he told me to use.
Over the years, we've only hung
out five to 10 times, but every thing
he said to me has been advice; he
probably doesn't realize that I took
every single word of it to heart.
Then Tom introduced me to Bob
Tyrrell. At the time, we had both
been tattooing for only three years
and were both focusing on the
same style – evil looking stuff and
portraits. Bob and I have become
great friends. Eventually we decided
to split a booth and room
where we got to talk
set of flash
together; so over the winter we
did a set of flash that sold like
crazy. We are going to do another
set this winter, I hope."
In between his convention schedule,
Shane will be dividing his time
working at two shops. Most of the
time you will find him at August
Moon alongside other great artist
including B.J. Betts. Shane can also
be found at Damian’s City Tattoo, an "old school street shop," as Shane describes. "I just
wanted to work at two different shops so it's easier for my appointments to go to
which ever shop is closer to them. I also like building up two separate sets of clientele."
Shane's professional goals include owning his own shop one day "with a few guys
working there so I don't have to work five days a week. It would make my wife Jennifer
and kids Sage and Gyllian so happy," he says. This year he plans to slow down on the
convention circuit "not because I don't like doing the shows; I just don't like traveling
so much. My kids get mad at me
for going away all the time and I
don't like leaving them," Shane
continues. He is planning a trip
to Europe, however, including
stops in Milan and London.
“As for tattoos, I just want to
do cool stuff, over the past few
years when people want either
B&G or color I'll try to automatically
talk them into B&G.
Now I’ve totally changed my
stance because there are so
many people looking for realistic
color and I can do it no problem,
it just takes a little longer than
B&G. So now I want to start getting
that stuff in my book so
people will start asking for it.
Right now it's only a small part in
Alright kids, you heard the
man, Shane O'Neill is ready do
put a one of a kind tattoo on
Check out his website – www.shaneoneilltattoos.com
to see if he will be travelling
through your city or do a little
traveling of your own.
You can also set up visit the
following studios for more information...
August Moon Tattoo
623 Pulaski Hwy.
Bear, DE 19701
Damian's City Tattoo
129 West Market St.
West Chester, PA 19382
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