Will Sheldon is currently guesting at Sang Bleu, 29b Dalston Lane until Saturday.
Creating original work within the tattoo world is an area largely untackled or difficult to manouveue due to its isolated styles falling into the categories of flash or tribal or script or geometry or so on or so on….. There is a certain safety in a tattooer cocooning themselves within the guidelines of what makes a good traditional tattoo or a photo realistic portrait.
It seems now that tattooers aim to champion each sub category and re-invent these styles to their own rather than create something new. How many more times can we all see a recreation of an Amund Dietzel snake, a lacklustre copy of a Thomas Hooper sleeve or a flat version of a Duncan X graphic?
At only 25 years old, Will Sheldon has been working at the prestigious shop Saved in Brooklyn for two and half years and creates mind bendignly surreal tattoos incorporating the brilliance of folk and outsider art into something modern but timeless rather than nostalgic. His work is simultaneously sensitive and gender neutral as well as catering towards a more intellectual audience with its humorous edge and brilliant colour palette.
His work sets him apart from anything else happening within the tattoo world at the moment, creating original work within this industry is an area largely untackled or difficult to manouveue due to its isolated styles and overpoweringly masculine environment. However it seems that these categories are rarely challenged, or if they are – they are rarely successful. This is where Will’s work really stands out like a breath of needed fresh air.
Instead of speaking to Will about the same repetitive questions that we all want to know but can guess from a tattooer, we’ve discussed some of his favourite art that inspires his work. And, as expected his references are totally new and exciting rather than repetitive or cliched and reflect the excitement that surrounds his work.
If you’re not aware of Will’s work you can follow him here
and see a selection of his work in the gallery below.
Will Sheldon’s favourite pieces of art:
Peter Paul Rubens “The Head of Medusa” 1617-1618
Peter Paul Rubens “Medusa’s head”
This painting for me has been an ongoing influence in my work through out the years. From the subject matter to the application, its a great reference point for all tattooers and painters a like. I love revisiting this painting to try and figure out the formula over how Rubens really captured the juxtaposition between horror and beauty in the Medusa.
The Moralistic Moon Dualism – Friedrich Schroder-Sonnenstern 1955
A couple of years ago I bought a book on Sonnenstern and instantly became a fan seeking out everything I could find about him. Sonnenstern didn’t start drawing until his late fifties, after being mis-diagnosed with schizophrenia. His work consists of creatures, political and spiritual that he created through occult practices (which was his original career path until he was cut off by the Nazi’s in the mid 1940’s).
His work has the simplicity and spirit of a lot of the folk tattooers such as Rosie and Dan Higgs that I really gravitate towards.
Philip Guston, ‘The rest is for you’ (1973)
Philip Guston’s later more figurative work inspires a lot of my characters and themes such as hands, feet, and heads. Guston introduced a stripped down way to draw, his color schemes are also a point of reference in order to make something look simple and kitsch.
Jim Nutt ‘SMack SMack’ 1969
Jim Nutt was part of group in the late 1960s called “The Hairy Who” which were a group of artists who grew up and worked in Chicago. Their work was very surreal, psychedelic and line oriented. A lot of them hun out on State Street and Chicago during the Carnival times and were exposed to the freak shows as well as the local and travelling tattooers which I assume heavily influenced their work. The freedom of the way they draw and comunicate ll the different figures and themes is what I search for in my work.
‘”YELLING” John Wesley, acrylic on canvas 1994.
John Wesley’s paintings are like looking into the mind of a cartoon character on acid. Wesley was linked to the Pop artists in the 60’s but considered himself a surrealist painter. I had the opportunity to see Wesley’s work at Donald Judd’s Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas and it was mind blowing to say the least. Wesley’ work has also helped me simplify in order to get the greatest impact where I am usually more prone to filling up every last space with detail.
Peter Saul, “Typical Saigon.” 1968, Oil, enamel, acrylic on canvas. American.
At first glance Peter Saul’s work can look primal, whimsical, and at times silly to some, but after another hard look one can start to realize all of the complex subtleties that make up his work. The movement and bright vibrating colors and nihilistic approach to Saul’s paintings are what I strive for in both my tattoos and paintings. A true rebel in the art world.