As an artist's career goes on, the more influences begin to seep into their work. For Swedish tattoo artist Oskar, who does art under his first name as well as his Instagram handle, Start With a Pen, his educational routes and personal interests have combined to create a hybrid style he's still adapting today.
"It's this thing that I feel like I can't conquer," says Oskar, who works within the Stockholm tattoo collective, Stuck Life. "There's always new things to learn and that really excites me because I can keep on evolving and it never gets boring or dull."
There's nothing boring or dull about Oskar's tattoo style, either. Constantly adopting new styles, Oskar's ink subjects range across the board: much of his work is centered around traditional patterns and flower designs, while he also often tattoos natural imagery. His often black and grey animal pieces may be the most impressive, featuring blackworks and dotworks of many forest animals he often sees around his rural Stockholm home, like bears, deer, and owls. There's a perceived lifelike texture in the work, almost like you could feel the fur on the neck of the bear despite it being just ink, while there's also depth—some of his pieces feature imagery within imagery, such as one tattoo he did of a forest at dusk within the body of a bear.
Oskar went to art school in college and studied painting, originally aiming to become a studio artist. After college, while he was running a gallery with a couple friends in Stockholm and doing graphic design work on the side, he got an apprenticeship at a biker tattoo shop in Stockholm—a route Oskar describes as an "old school way of apprenticing," where he worked his way up from cleaning to drawing to finally tattooing. It was during his work at the shop where he finally realized his desire to pursue tattooing full-time.
Despite needing a first-hand experience to convince Oskar that tattooing was the direction he wanted to take his work, the art has caught his attention since he was a kid, having always been interested in Japanese and old school Western tattooing.
"At first it was the outlaw, kind of anti-mainstream kind of life that really appealed to me, but also the imagery and the fact that you put it on your body and it's there forever." Oskar says of being interested in tattoos at a young age. "It's something that seemed very powerful and just over time has become more and more powerful—especially when they let me put it on their body."
There's an immediate gratification of watching a person's reaction to his work that you can't get in other types of art, the former painter says, and the fact that people commit their body to his art has always been one of the greatest emotional rushes of Oskar's career. "That's the ultimate compliment to me," he says. But after nearly a decade in the field Oskar, his love and excitement over the artistry is still the same when he was a kid.
"When I see tattoos, it kind of lights something inside me and I always want to check it out," Oskar says. "I just love whatever aspect of life that has that adventure feel to it. Tattooing had and still has that feel for me." See more of Oskar's work below.