Nigel Kurt Meets Bob Tyrrell

Published: 25 November, 2009 - Featured in Skin Deep 143, March, 2007

4am, that’s the time I had to get up to get my latest tattoo. I don’t usually go to bed until at least 3 - 4 o clock so it was a real struggle. A struggle, but one that was well worth it…


The last time I was tattooed was in 1997 when I splashed out and got ink from three of my all time favourite tattooists- Jack Rudy, Brian Everett & Paul Booth. After that I thought it couldn’t be topped so I took a break from getting new stuff.... until now that is. A few artists have come through since I last got inked and have ignited my interest in getting tattooed again.   

When someone told me that one of my two favourite artists Bob Tyrrell was coming to the UK for the London Convention I started planning what I could get done. My own studio is pretty booked up so I didn’t know If I’d be able to make the show, and if I did it would only be on the Sunday. With that in mind I tried to find out if Bob was doing any guest work while he was over here. Lal Hardy tends to accommodate a lot of guest artists at his studio so I asked him if Bob was going there. He wasn’t but Lal thought he’d be staying with Naresh at Flamin Eight in Camden. After a few emails & phone calls back and forth I was booked in for the Tuesday before the show at 11am. I got an email from Bob Himself soon after. In it he said he’s always loved my work & it would be an honour to tattoo me. Wow, in my opinion Bob is one of the two best artists in the world and he’s just said he likes my work. I didn’t think he’d even know who I was!   

My alarm clock that morning sounded like a road drill but up I got. I got picked up at 5am by my friend Gary who was coming down to London with me but sneaking off to see the manager of Siouxsie & the Banshees about something or the other. We drove into Sheffield & left the car there (people from the North wouldn’t dream of driving in London). We got the coach at 6am & off we went. The coach for some reason cost three quid there and three quid back, the train however would have cost anywhere from 92 quid to 287 quid, unbelievable.   

We got held up in roadworks and then an accident so our plan for a quick trip round Camden to get breakfast fell by the wayside. There were no trains running from Golders Green station due to some fault on the line so we jumped in the first taxi we could find. Eventually at just turned 11am we got to Flamin Eight on Castle road.   

Naresh came out & said hello, followed by Bob who gave me the “dude” handshake that most Americans love. We walked through to the back & had a chat about each other’s work while Bob set his stuff up. The size that I wanted the portrait was a bit small for how Bob likes to do them but I had limited room on my arm & I really wanted something this good somewhere where I can see it. All my best stuff previously has been on my legs and as I never wear shorts I, nor anybody else hardly ever sees it.   

Unlike most of the other American’s I’ve had work on me Bob was quite well prepared and had the picture printed out along with the stencil all ready for my arm. Bob spent a while getting it in just the right position and once it was on we left it for a good while to dry on. It had to be as dry as possible because when Bob does a portrait he goes straight in there with a shader. No outline, no guidelines, nothing. THAT is confidence. He started down near the chin/collar and after about an hour he had worked his way up to starting on the mouth. Now Bob admits that he’s slow, in fact painfully slow and now I was getting an idea myself of the speed Bob works at. To watch him putting the detail into the portrait, still only using the shader is quite something, it’s as if he was born with the machine attached to his hand. Bob seems to have the patience to keep at something until it’s absolutely perfect, nothing less will do, and while I was sitting in his chair that was just fine with me. After five or so hours we’d just about finished ... until Bob stood up and looked down on it. He hooked the machine back up & did a bit more. That happened about seven or eight times. Bob would stop the machine, unhook it, stand up, look down at my arm & decide he wanted to do more. In the end it became a bit of a joke and I covered the reference photos so he couldn’t do it anymore. Close to 5 1/2 hours and we were finished.   

During the tattoo, which I might add wasn’t at all sore or uncomfortable for a 5+ hours session, we discussed me going over to Toronto to see Bob next year. He suggested visiting him & him driving us down to Detroit to see his friend Tom Renshaw, who just happens to be my other favourite tattooist. The idea went further and we came to the point of Bob and Tom doing a collaborative piece on me and we also talked about working the Toronto convention. I’m now planning my holiday for next year, guess where I want to go?

We cleaned up and Bob must have taken a hundred photos of my arm, again he was being a perfectionist. Not long after that my friend Gary had found his way back to Camden & we realised that if we didn’t get a move on we were going to miss the coach back home. We said our goodbyes & arranged that we’d swap flash sets at the London Show that weekend. We just made it in time for the coach and I eventually made it home around half past midnight. It had been a long day but I was now the proud owner of a perfect tattoo, painstakingly created by one of the best artists in the world.


Skin Deep 143 1 March 2007 143