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 grey."

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 about all sorts of stuff including doing a 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 my portfolio."

Alright kids, you heard the man, Shane O'Neill is ready do put a one of a kind tattoo on your canvas.

Check out his website – – 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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