Woolgoolga local James Mifsud has been a Tattoo artist for twelve years and specialises in body suits, full colour and Japanese and Neo Traditional styles. Focus went to his studio to check out his work and find out how it’s done.
What is your connection to the Coffs Coast?
I’ve lived on the Coffs Coast since I was young, going to Woolgoolga Public School and doing all of high school in Woopi too. It’s an awesome place to grow up and good to be classed as a local by the community.
What inspired you to become a tattoo artist, and how long have you been doing it?
I have always had a love for art. I drew any chance I had while growing up and did art all through school.
I started tattooing at Absolute Tattoo twelve years ago. I was in the shop from day one and am thankful for the opportunity. I now manage the shop, as well as being a full-time artist, working alongside an awesome crew: Cameron, Shaun, Nick and assistants Rohey and Ben.
What do you love about tattooing people, and are there any challenges?
Everybody is different in skin and life experiences. You make a connection with the client in the chair, and they all have a story to tell. I have made many close friends over the years with all my repeat customers. It’s a great experience when they are so happy with their tattoo. It gives them and myself a feeling of satisfaction.
There are challenges every day when tattooing depending on the client’s skin, the tattoo placement, design, and the list goes on. It’s part and parcel of being a tattooist.
What is Neo Traditional style in tattooing?
Neo Traditional tattoos are a modern take on old school tattoos, using more bold and thin line work and a bit more colour to make it a little more realistic than the traditional tattoo. They are fun to do and look great forever.
What advice would you give someone considering their first tattoo?
A lot of people make the mistake of going too small for their first tattoo or getting it in the wrong position. Tattoos change over time, and some parts of the body don’t hold the ink very well.
My advice is to look at the artist’s portfolio, do a bit of research on them and then listen to their advice because a good tattoo artist will want the tattoo to look even better than you do.
Are tattoos becoming more popular?
I think tattoos are becoming more popular because it is seen more as a work of art these days than just a tattoo. It’s not just a bikie, sailor or bad boy thing; it’s artists doing what they love doing, and people from all walks of life getting ink is much more widely accepted.
Can you tell us a bit about your creative process? How do you come up with new designs?
People who book in with me sometimes leave the whole process and design up to me, which is challenging but also satisfying at the same time. I do like to get some sort of reference from them, to get what is in their head into mine and vice versa.
We do as much custom work at Absolute as possible.
Giving our clients a one-off piece is done in many ways, such as drawing or using Photoshop, depending on the style and clients’ needs.
You specialise in body suits. Are there special techniques or skills needed for this, and how long can it take to complete a full body suit?
Doing big jobs such as sleeves and body suits takes a lot of thought, preparation and commitment from both the artist and the client. Many hours are spent designing and under the needle, depending if it is colour or black and grey and what the theme is made up of. If it is detailed, smaller needles are used.
Covering large areas can take years and depends a lot on the client’s availability to get the work done.
Where can people see more of your work?
People can see more of my work on Instagram: jamesmifsud or on the Absolute Tattoo website: absolutetattoo.com.au/james
I also have a portfolio at the shop in Woolgoolga.