How would you describe your creative style?
Spontaneous. I often am rooted in the pure FEEL of the act with, at times, no cognitive direction, I enjoy sitting down at a large blank piece of bristol board and, without direction, scoring a line with quill and India ink and and seeing where it goes. Riding the wave, half is balance to stay on and the other is the wave propelling itself, yes “I” may be the wave but I don’t “know” it, meaning I’m not cognitively dictating, much like how I don’t need to tell myself to breathe or command my heart to keep beating. So, those are the moments that I feel characterize my style. I do less of this now from the start, but it used to be how I started all my pieces. I do find moments of this, though, within my more planned pieces, and I hope to pull more of this out as I progress into more structure, in order to keep the balance of controlled taste and exploration in harmony.

Interview with tattoo artist and illustrator, Colin Ambrose on Jung Katz

Interview with tattoo artist and illustrator, Colin Ambrose on Jung Katz

What is art to you?
Perspective. The totality of perspective that any individual possesses. Artists are those who can express it in some way, building on the thousands before us intentionally or not, remembering that nothing is individually separated into points of pure originality and that art is communal and connected to everything that has been or will be. We all give our spin, our perspective and our imagination, since we ourselves are like blooms of the universe. Giving it any more interpretive importance or meaning is to say too much. Nothing can really be said on it, because it cannot be captured by linear thought. When you see it, feel it, hear it. It just is.

Interview with tattoo artist and illustrator, Colin Ambrose on Jung Katz
Interview with tattoo artist and illustrator, Colin Ambrose on Jung Katz

How long does it typically take for you to finish a piece?
For most it can take a couple weeks. But it’s not that I am working on it for that long. I like to feel it out and when I start to feel the energy lessen and I’m not feeling a path, I then shelve the piece and will return to it later. Sometimes I can take months in seeing what I want to do next, most of this stuff is not related to the tattoo pieces I’ve been doing though, those go quicker. I can usually knock out one tattoo idea in about 4 to 6 hours. But quite a few tattoos I’ve done have been from redrawing (simplifying) my drawings/paintings that were not originally intended for the skin.

Interview with tattoo artist and illustrator, Colin Ambrose on Jung Katz
Interview with tattoo artist and illustrator, Colin Ambrose on Jung Katz

How do you keep motivated?
By not stacking my reasons onto visions of my ego. They will of course be there at times, and sharing my work is always a goal or part of it, but I find actual joy in what I’m doing, it’s much like music and dancing, and if you can lose yourself in it to the point where there is no why, then the motivation comes of itself. That will keep me coming back.

Interview with tattoo artist and illustrator, Colin Ambrose on Jung Katz
Interview with tattoo artist and illustrator, Colin Ambrose on Jung Katz

How have others reacted to your work?
Before getting into iconography, tattoos, etc, I did a lot of abstract/expressionistic stuff and only a few people gravitated towards that. I guess it’s harder to hear reactions to such work, where people don’t immediately recognize an image/form/etc where it takes more uninhibited thought to make larger connections to imagery whether they be intentional by the artist or solely relative to the viewer. Perhaps it’s that ‘unknown’ of abstractness which unnerves people- it’s easier to like something completely realized- but that ties into types of characters of people and how far along they are in tearing away the layers of their ego and what they feel comfortable connecting with or pondering on. There is a lot to experience in things we don’t immediately understand. I just feel that the majority doesn’t want to go there, which is sad. But there are of course people who do, I just haven’t met many. Perhaps I should get out more. But it does feel true that most people tend to follow what’s already been deemed good or understood by something or someone else with pre-approved selections within currents of taste. It’s interesting how this idea permeates into all the facets of human control.

Interview with tattoo artist and illustrator, Colin Ambrose on Jung Katz
Interview with tattoo artist and illustrator, Colin Ambrose on Jung Katz

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
It wasn’t given to me directly but it’s a quote from Ira Glass: “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

Interview with tattoo artist and illustrator, Colin Ambrose on Jung Katz

What are your thoughts on art school?
That the curriculum should be vastly different from that of any normal school, for what must be nurtured and ‘taught’ for such a thing as art is more self exploration than techniques. Philosophy and the breaking of societal conventions as boundaries should be of large import. I’ve come at it from the standpoint of feel first and technique second.

Have any future aspirations that you’d like to share?
A friend and I are in preparations for a graphic novel. He is going to write the story and I will illustrate/paint it. I’m very excited about this. I am not a huge comic/graphic novel reader but I do have some classics and they (as well as animation films such as AKIRA) have had a profound inspirational affect on me, I’m really looking forward to pushing myself into more difficult imagery and perspective with this project.

Interview with tattoo artist and illustrator, Colin Ambrose on Jung Katz
Interview with tattoo artist and illustrator, Colin Ambrose on Jung Katz

What art supplies do you use?
Speedball India Ink. Various assortment of quills. Pentel Color Brush BLK #101. Sometimes Pilot G-2 10 ballpoint pen. Occasionally Copic or Micron fine point pens.

What’s your process like?
As I said previously, my process has been more on the spontaneous side but I’m starting to sketch ideas more and utilizing the pencil for really getting what I want before inking, which allows for more exploration, but I still like the permanence of going without and using ink from the start. I also keep a heavy rotation of pieces that I am working on, and I always start new ones if I’m feeling inspired to do so. At the moment I have around 25 pieces that I’m working on, and having a flat file cabinet and 2 large drafting tables allows me to organize it all in a way that I like. And when it comes to lighting, I prefer natural, but I probably do the majority of my work at night so I view it as kind of a luxury to draw in natural light. Everything just feels better in natural light.

Follow Colin Ambrose on Instagram!

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Posted by:Casey Webb

Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Jung Katz, as well as Editor for ZIIBRA.

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