Hometown: Coventry, CT
Occupation/career: Working with people who have traumatic brain injuries/ bartender and graduate student for rehabilitation counseling.
Photography by Steve Prue
About the ”My Soul Will Never Be Broken” piece–I believe your soul is the essence of who you are, your mind, body and spirit. I have had a lot of challenges in my life, and a lot of “things” broken. I look at life as this–you can break my arm, or my leg. You can break your promises and even break my heart, but my soul, the essential part of ME, will never be broken.
I love cats and I love zombies so I wanted a cute but gnarly zombie kitty hybrid. I thought Jime Litwalk was the perfect artist to put it together and as you can see he did an amazing job.
I wanted “Capo gals” on my legs to complement the theme of my sleeves, which is why I have the Earth mother on my right calf and the snow queen on my left calf. If I had to compare myself to one of them, though, I’d have to choose the snow queen.
by Vicki Botnick
Almost as amazing as Ryan Hadley’s killer color portraits is the speed with which he lays them down. One of those artists with an innate eye, he can look at an image and transfer it directly onto skin. The result, always finished in one session, is so detailed and specific that it looks stenciled on, but no, he doesn’t even sketch. “I get ragged on for working too fast,” he admits. “At Hell City last year I did three tattoos by three in the afternoon. Some guys would say you can’t just be rushing through something permanent, but I say if I can get the same product in a quarter of the time, and cause the client less pain, then why not?” Less pain, high quality—we’re on board.
Speediness, though, didn’t serve him as well when he was a kid. He grew up a little too fast; at sixteen, when most of us are learning to drive, getting our first kisses and studying algebra, Ryan was working full-time at a steel mill and starting a family. By twenty-two, he was divorced, paying child support and tired of the grind. Falling back on some natural drawing talent, he started tattooing out of his house with a mail-order kit. Although he quit after six months, afraid he was jacking people up, a year later he decided to try again.
His first real job was at a local bike shop. Realizing that the owner was selling drugs, catering to outlaws and, horror of horrors, reusing needles, Ryan called the Board of Health on him. With no guidance, Ryan had taught himself a few things, including the habit of dropping outlines, by examining at the work of idols like Grime and Deano Cook. Finally he was taken in by two brothers, Donnie and Dominic Manco, who despite their Christian bent appreciated Ryan’s darker sensibility. “The first trial I did for them was a portrait of Jesus on a pastor,” he laughs. “They loved it.”
But it wasn’t until a couple of years later that Ryan started to hone his own style. Looking for someone to tattoo a Renissance-style backpiece on him, he came across Monty in Indianapolis, and had his eyes opened up to a whole new world of technical skill. Watching carefully how Monty used certain size needles, laid out his stencils, prepped his work station, Ryan changed his whole approach to tattooing. That’s when his signature surrealist realism matured.
In a way, Ryan’s style mixes his earliest influences: His father drew comic books and his grandmother painted still lifes. That new school plus realism is still very evident in his portraits, which are photo-quality but slightly twisted, with soft flickers of color and subtle shading. “I do something kinda crazy with the mouth area,” he describes, “very dry, like cracked salt flats, and I do different things with the eyes, either shading them deeper or adding more white contrast, so they’re the focal point.”
The details and the color are lifelike, the ripped-away chins and bloody eyes, less so. His philosophy on color is to stay with realistic tones. “I’d rather get to the point and use bright color a little to pop. I don’t use black and grey undertones. I start off with medium tones, warm skin hues, then go back through with darker tones on top of that and lighter tones on top of that. Some areas have five to seven layers.” That kind of richness, plus the little extra images hidden in many of tattoos (a car barely reflected in a pair of sunglasses, for example) make for a fascinating, multifaceted body of work.
In 2007, Ryan opened his own shop in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Although he sold it after a year, it was too hard to go from being the boss to following orders, so he returned to the same location and opened up again, changing the name to Ryan Hadley Studios. He’s comfortable with the hectic details of running a business, especially now that he has a few managers to answer emails and do the booking, so he can concentrate on his artwork. The shop has a theater screen with full surround sound, and a bar. “We encourage people to drink,” he says. “It’s a fun atmosphere. A lot of the walls are seven feet high, painted black, with a Belgian slate concrete floor.” The atmosphere is that of being in a big-city gallery.
That gallery feel comes in handy when Ryan’s mounting one of his many art shows. The last one saw thirty-three hundred people through the doors. A painter by night, he wants to move even more into the fine art area, and is planning a show for next year featuring artists’ interpretation in painting of any song written by The Doors.
That ambition and confidence, the kind that lets a high-school dropout not only open his own shop but turn it into a fine art hotspot, has brought Ryan an enviable level of achievement and success. Besides getting to tour with metal bands, he’s also scored several corporate sponsors. Neotat machines and Tat Soul chairs, among the many, have clamored to provide him with free gear.
Ryan’s success is due to his work, but it also owes something to his personality. He’s got what he calls a “Jedi mind trick—I wave my hand over customer’s faces and they end up getting what I tell them to. One time a guy came in wanting his wife’s name on him and somehow I talked him into getting a rhinoceros. He didn’t even like animals, but I said ‘Dude, I’m feeling it man, just let me do this.’ And he ended up loving it.”
Mind tricks and speed records are impressive—but even more so is Ryan’s portfolio. Check it out for yourself.
Ryan Hadley Studio
821 S. Calhoun Street, Suite 200
Fort Wayne, IN 46802
Hollie Sweets appeared as a Skin&Ink Doll in our Feb 2011 issue.
Hometown: Aurora, CO
Occupation: Inventory manager for Myxed Up Creations
Photography by Sean Hartgrove
My artists are Chris Stucker, Dirk, Matt Victor and Bob Ashbaugh.
The tattoo on my calf is a representation of my Catholic upbringing and my own personal interpretation of the influences it has had on me. The inner calf says “Deliver Me From Evil” over filigree, and the outer calf shows a dagger stabbing through an anatomical heart, which to me demonstrates my strength fighting all evil that comes into my life.
The piece on my left shoulder was originally to be a story of mine and my fiancé’s life together. Now the tattoo is a memorial for the memories of the life I had with him and for his brother, who was killed in a tragic car accident near the end of our relationship. I use it as a daily reminder that nothing lasts forever–you must savor every day and live your live to the fullest with no regrets.
My body is my canvas and I only have artwork done that means something real to me. I use ink as an outlet for self-expression. As a person with quite a bit of artwork, I always have to deal with the narrow-minded people who assume that I am something that I am not. I decided long ago that if they are so quick to judge me, then they aren’t deserving enough to be in my life–their loss, not mine.
(except pulled from the Skin&Ink January 2011 issue)
Miss Nico from All Style Tattoo in Berlin is one of Europe’s best artists for tattoos that perfectly combine creativity and realism. No matter whether black-and-gray or color, her work excels. Exclusively for Skin&Ink she talks about her philosophy, her travel plans and how she handles her years-long waiting list.
Located in a row of Eastern European-type blocks in Friedrichshain, one of the creative hotspots of Berlin, All Style Tattoo has already secured a location that will be “gentrified” in the near future. The shop has been here for eighteen years, since the day when Robert, the original owner, opened it as one of the first East Berlin studios. Miss Nico, who originally comes from western Germany, has been working here since 1993 and took over ownership ages ago.
Coming from a family of artists, she moved to Berlin in 1988, just before the fall of the Wall in late 1989. This was the craziest of times for an already quite insane city, and Miss Nico was there in the middle of it, working in construction and bars to pass the time while applying for a spot at the “HdK,” the famous art university of Berlin. After no less than four of those attempts failed, she tried her hand at tattooing at home and in various squats, since there was no established shop infrastructure at this time yet. Finally she received the offer of Robert to join All Style, and she has never looked back.
I know that the new issue has been released in some places already. This issue includes a feature on the four contest finalists along with instructions on coming to this site to vote for the winner. This has led to people contacting us and asking about the voting, so I wanted to clear things up.
Please feel free to come back on Dec 21 to begin voting for the Skin&Ink’s Win $500.00 Towards Your Dream Tattoo Contest winner.
Thanks for your interest in the contest as well as our magazine!