Q&A: Tattoo talk with Gino Dartnall


I've always loved tattoos and the whole 'tattoo scene' since I was about 9 I've always wanted to be covered in tattoo's 'cause my uncle had TONS and I absolutely loved them. Today, I'm interviewing a well known and respected tattoo artist from Bournemouth. Gino Dartnall is well known for his Japanese work and his delicate, realistic roses and has been tattooing himself and others, including me, for just under a decade now so he know's his stuff! I asked you guys on twitter what you would like to know about tattoo's and the life of a tattoo artist so here's what Gino had to say:

What do you feel is the best and worst thing about being a tattooist?

In one word to answer both of these questions at the same time is just being human: if I was a robot then I could perform tattoos on the spot accordingly, to the client's full desires. But obviously, I'm not a robot, so I have self-doubt and wonder whether I'm good enough, one thing I do have is that I am able to make a tattoo unique and produce it in my own style but it doesn't stop me from thinking what I could have done to better it because I believe you can and should always up your game. Ultimately, tattooing is a lifestyle, not just a job for me so I prefer creating something new and unique rather than tattooing something that's been done a thousand times before. Tattooing has given me that sense of purpose and I feel that it's the freest form of lifestyle and if I tattoo for the art rather than for money or any other personal gain I am the happiest.

I started tattooing a few pikeys for nothing at first, the tattoos looked horrendous but they absolutely loved them

How did you get into tattooing?

I was really confident when I was younger and I was out bike riding with a friend who wanted to get a tattoo, I told him that I could do tattoos easy like every other cocksure youngster but he obviously said I couldn't, so that night I bought a tattoo kit to prove to him that I could. After a few months of the tattoo kit being just sat there, he rang me up and we got the kit out. Somehow, putting it all together just made sense to me - I picked up a grip and thought "oh right, that's what you hold" and picked up the machine, saw it had a little hole in it so I connected the two and I guessed where the needle went and it just looked so easy to put it all together that I got it working and I tattooed him. From then, I started doing tattoos at home: I actually had my own caravan in the front garden so I started tattooing a few pikeys for nothing at first, the tattoos looked horrendous but they absolutely loved them, but who doesn't love a free tattoo? I tattooed dog portrait which turned out alright, then I tattooed a cross on someone's back like Tupac, but the fuck up came when I went to do a name down his arm and realised the lines had to be straighter, mistakes were less unforgiving and I couldn't use as much shading so it needed to be neater - that's where I realised it was harder than it looked. By the time I had done a handful of tattoos, my brother Shane came home with a business card for a tattoo studio looking for an apprentice, so I went up with a portfolio of rough sketches and he told me to go away and come back with a decent finished drawing. I went away and drew this big koi fish: I drew it on a bigger piece of paper so I could fit all the detail and shading in that I couldn't on a standard a4. I took it back up to them two days later and they took me on. They made me stop tattooing thank god and I cleaned the shop, grips and tips, walked the dog etc. for a year or two before they were confident enough that I could do a small tattoo, so one day someone came in after a small skull and crossbones which I was allowed to tattoo, and it grew from there.

Would you ever take on an apprentice?

I personally wouldn't take on an apprentice. I'd show people how to do stuff, but I'm still learning myself and to make someone below me just isn't my thing. I always try to keep everyone on the same level: I'll respect you as a human being and you'll respect me as a human being. When you look back on the old school days, people literally had to clean up the toilet, make needles, open up etc. they got the shit for months, but obviously, that was for them to prove themselves. In today's world, it's so easy to buy tattoo needles and tattoo machines online but before, you had to learn how to make the needles and how to make the machines before you could even tattoo. When you look back to those days, there weren't a thousand tattooists down the same road because it was so hard to get into it, which I respect and sort of wish it was still that way, but in the same breath I don't want to be the person to make someone feel below me so I'm not going to put myself in that situation.

Is there anything or anyone you won't tattoo?

It all depends on the person, I wouldn't want to tattoo a scumbag or a horrible person, I don't really tattoo the public -
I tattoo my friends and create with them.  But if I can't draw it, I can't and won't tattoo it, so it really depends on my capability. I'm getting to the point where I only want to tattoo what I want to tattoo - it may seem selfish but I want to produce artwork that I am really proud of because if my heart isn't in it, it won't be something that I look at and think "yeah, I done good." The actual craft of tattooing makes artwork harder to produce because when you start off, you don't understand the foundations of tattooing and what makes a tattoo last long and have the best outcome. For example, if you're doing soft shade work and no lines, it pops out and looks amazing when it's fresh, but when it heals over time it loses its value and looks like poor craftsmanship. As a tattooist, I feel other artists should look into this rather than just how to produce an outstanding fresh tattoo as I think that it's a bit selfish if they're just doing it for the photo.

What keeps you motivated day after day?

I try to surround myself with artists that inspire me and people who are positive. Luckily I have a partner in crime that keeps me looking forward. I would like to produce a western style photo like the Japanese yakuza where there are five or six people covered in bodysuits that I've produced.  All art keeps me inspired and creative whether it be people pushing themselves to the limit, music, even just someone talking - you can look at anything in an artistic way.  But of course, I've hit some low points where I've stopped tattooing for a while just because I've hit a block, or because I don't feel creative and am going through the emotions of life, but I know tattooing will always be in my veins.

I didn't want people to talk to me, or sit next to me on the bus, so I covered my face in scribbles and had the two seats to myself

Did you feel you had to be covered in tattoos before becoming a respected tattooist?

If you asked me this when I first started, I would have said yes, I was young back then and was finding my own path. Looking back on it, I probably wouldn't have trusted me back then because I looked like a kid, so probably subconsciously I did want to get covered because of that sort of reason but I had the urge to be covered before I wanted to be a tattoo artist, I just enjoy it. It also used to be a way of being an outcast: I didn't want people to talk to me, or sit next to me on the bus, so I covered my face in scribbles and had the two seats to myself - I felt by doing so it would make people less likely to try and speak to me - it worked. But I've also made the best friends and met the most unjudgemental of people due to tattooing and how I look. I've met people I actually want to be around because of their open-mindedness  - the thing about looking how I do is that you can tell instantly if people are your friends or not. The journey of getting tattooed is really remarkable and has been super enjoyable so far and I would recommend it to anyone - I've met some really far out minds that have taught and inspired me in life so far.

Any advice for people getting their first tattoo or wanting to become a tattoo artist?

Becoming a tattooist, everything influences you, everything that comes into your life has an impact. I mean, when I first started no one wanted to take me on as an apprentice, but where I wanted it so much, it made me teach myself. You may meet someone and they take you on as an apprentice and they pave your path but if you really want it, I strongly believe you create your own path and you'll always find a way to get to where you want to be if you're that strong minded. But you have to really think about why you want to become a tattoo artist. If it's for the money or the rockstar status then there's a thousand other you's working down the road. You have to do it for the art: you have to understand it's hard work and you will be up all hours of the night designing something and criticising your work. You will pick apart everything you do just to get better at the craft. You have to understand the foundations of tattooing and put your all into it all of the time.
Getting tattooed all depends on where you are in the world, and what art influences you to put on your body. 
For example, if you were in South America, you would more than likely get a latino style gang tattoo script with a virgin mary and if you were in New Zealand you would more than likely be getting a Maori tattoo - but unfortunately England doesn't have a deep routed tattoo history except for sailors going abroad and getting tattoos of eagles and pin up girls.
But with the power of the internet now, the youth is influenced by so much online around the world it's changed tattoo concepts and the artistic outcome.

I really enjoyed interviewing Gino, he's a very in depth character and we spoke about a variety of things rather than just his answers to the questions. It was so hard picking out the 'best' bits because he spoke so in depth and passionately about tattooing as a craft, but I had to be brutal. If you guys enjoyed this and want to know more, let me know and I'll set up another interview or video with Gino. Let me know in the comments!

Do you have any tattoo's?


  1. A good article and opens up a side to tattooing I'd never considered previously

    1. Thank you, glad I opened your eyes to a different side of the profession :)

  2. Amazing post and great interviewed. I love tattoo as well and I have some on my body.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Kintan xox,

  3. Gino is such an amazing and fascinating person, and produces some lovely art.

    1. Yes he definitely is. His art work is incredible!

  4. Loved this post. I have 3 and want more :) how many do you have ?

    1. Thank you! I have 3 but am getting more of my sleeve done soon. What ones do you have?

  5. Great job with interview. I've learned a lot about tatooing I did not know before.

    1. Thank you, glad I helped to teach you something new :)

  6. I don't have any tattoos, but I love the idea of the creativity behind it! I liked learning a lot more about tattoos than I already knew!

  7. Such a good interview. I don't have any tattoos personally but the artistry and creativity behind it is fascinating:)

    1. Thank you Ellie, glad you enjoyed reading

  8. I dot have any tattoos, but glad to know about it.



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