Meet author, tattoo obsessive and illustrator extraordinaire Oliver Munden…
Oliver Munden is back with The Tattoo Flash Colouring Book – the second in the series of his hugely popular books for LKP. With every page bursting with beautifully detailed illustrations, it's designed to appeal to both colouring fans and tattoo lovers alike. We caught up with Oliver to find out more about the new book, his various tattoos, and his plans for the future…
For those that aren’t familiar with the term, how would you describe ‘Tattoo Flash’?
To my knowledge any design drawn on paper with the purpose of being tattooed can be regarded as ‘Tattoo Flash’. You find Tattoo Flash lining the walls of Tattoo Palours and within the folios of tattooists.
Currently most tattoo shops are custom shops. Customers bring their own ideas to a tattooist and have something drawn up bespoke to them. In the past it was more common place for people to pick a design from a flash sheet on the wall. Although many tattooists that I admire are making their own interpretations of classic tattoo flash. Of course there are still plenty of people picking flash designs straight from the walls of the many great tattoo shops around the world.
The subject matter in the book is very diverse – do you have a definite idea about what to include before you start, or do things develop organically?
For the recent Tattoo Flash Colouring Book I did have some ideas I wanted to explore… but by no means do I conceptualise the entire book before getting started. New ideas definitely happen as I being drawing pages.
I took a three week trip to America before getting started on the book. I collected a huge amount of reference whilst on that trip. Scattered throughout the book you’ll find particular pages that pay homage to special finds and certain locations I visited. Yosemite, San Fran, L.A, Portland and Las Vegas all their place in the book. But this really only equates to a 10% of the book… the rest looks at my own interpretations of classic tattoo themes. Sailors, mermaids, roses skulls, all the usual tattoo subjects drawn in the way I like to draw them.
I wanted to make this book more intricate that the last but also much bolder, with more considered and structured compositions. I also wanted it to be a little weirder, but in a good way. I’ve blended different tattoo imagery together to create new imagery… skulls embellish old fashioned vases, fish heads weave blend into dagger handles… Hopefully the new level of detail and the more intriguing concepts keep the ‘colourer’ entertained and inspired for longer!
What are your most favourite things to draw?
In my job I draw all kinds of illustrations - every day it’s different. I work as Lead Designer at a design and illustration studio called Ilovedust. We have a huge range of clients from restaurants to publishers as well as sports brands, drinks companies and everything in between. One day I could be illustrating a comic style athlete and the next day a beautifully intricate label for a bottle of Tequila. It keeps things really interesting and also keeps me on my toes as well as always progressing my drawing skills, because every project is a new challenge.
But, when it comes to what I like best – it’s drawing tattoos. I love the bold and classic imagery. A huge roaring tiger head or a mean looking skull will never get boring, these images have been around for too long to ever die, and it's pretty incredible how endless the reinterpretation of such classic imagery seems to be.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve been asked to draw?
I drew a lobster taking a bath in a boiling pot for Converse… that was pretty weird but cool. I really like how that piece turned out.
Do you or your friends and family ever feature in your designs?
Maybe… There ‘might’ be a few hidden in the new book but I couldn’t possibly say for sure!
If someone is thinking of having a tattoo, what should they consider before going ahead? How do you choose something that you won’t get bored with?
When I developed a real interest in tattoos I wondered why there weren’t more illustrative tattoos out there, by that I mean tattoos that were more contemporary in style, like the kind of commercial illustration work I was doing at the time… I thought it’d be great to see more modern takes on how a tattoo could look.
But the more my interest has grown the more my opinion has gone in the complete opposite direction. I LOVE the classic designs, that’s why they are the classics! Contemporary tattooists are constantly reinterpreting classic designs and the core is still there. Huge tigers, Geishas, Mermaids, Vintage Sailing Ships, I get excited just thinking about that kind of imagery, these icons are classic for a reason and in my own work and particularly in this new book I’ve tried to include those giving them my own individual style.
What’s the best thing about living and working in Brighton? Where else do you like to go for inspiration?
The spring and summer. I like the winter here too, but the summer changes the city. It’s on a whole other level. People visit from all over, the streets and seafront come alive. It’s like a party every weekend if the weather is good. I like to get out on my motorbike along the coastal roads on a warm day. Other places of inspiration are definitely when I go abroad. I often get tattooed when I’m abroad, I like doing that as it's a reminder of the trip. Also more locally I like Hastings and anywhere along the south coast and over towards the west… Bristol, Somerset etc. Lastly I have to mention Surrey where I grew up, the scenery is beautiful… I was raised in ‘the deepest darkest woods’.
Is it true that you don’t have any tattoos?
No that’s not true. I had my first tattoo about seven or eight years ago now. I started with a half sleeve in a Japanese style. That progressed into a full sleeve. Somewhere half way through getting that done I started getting more western style traditional tattoos on my right arm.
I think of that arm as my ‘travel arm’ like collecting passport stamps I guess. I’ve had a lot done in the USA as I go there a lot for work projects. But there are also ones from Brighton, Barcelona and London on that arm too. My leg has a piece by my favourite Brighton Tattooist Dan Frye, on the calf, he’ll be doing my shin fairly soon. It does get addictive but I’m still not keen on getting tattoos anywhere that I can’t conceal them if I choose. I quite like the fact and I have them on show or not depending on occasion… I was going to say depending if I was ‘visiting Grandma or not’ but my grandmother seems to love tattoos! Her father had quite a few from when he was in the Army during the war.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on a new project with you guys – a pack of tattoo-themed Tarot Cards… so something a little different, the challenge is proving interesting, the imagery needs to be very specific for the cards to hold their meaning, so it’s battle between them working, but also looking amazing in a tattoos style. I think we are getting there! Look out for those…
Grab your copy of The Tattoo Flash Colouring Book here.