Parlayin with Ben Rorke (Westside Tattoo)

August 1, 2011

Ben thanks for taking the time to chat to us today. Can you give us a bit of a run down of where you work and what you get up to?
I live in Brisbane and I work at Westside Tattoo in Westend. We have just moved into a new building and it’s amazing. I work a lot…It’s a pretty flat out studio so it takes up most of my time whether its tattooing or preparing stuff for work at home and when I’m not doing stuff for work I paint quite a bit in my spare time…the rest of my time is spent hanging out with my awesome girlfriend and friends….

Many people find it hard to get into the tattoo industry because it’s getting over saturated with studios and artists. How did you get involved, when did you first start tattooing and how’s your journey thus far?
I found it hard to get into the industry like most people do but it was a little while before everyone wanted to be a tattooer so I guess I wasn’t competing with the masses…its hard work and it’t stop, there are so many people coming through that are great artists so you don’t have much time to slacken off and get lazy…but in saying that I’m lucky enough to be in a position that I am in a great studio and work with bunch of great artists so its pretty easy to stay motivated and I would say my journey thus far has been great, I have learnt a lot and am still learning a lot every day

Lets take a short trip down memory lane for a second… Tell us about your days before becoming a tattooer. How you got introduced into the world of tattooing and did it take you long to break into this industry during your transition?
When I was younger I worked a bunch of different jobs none of them worth mentioning. It took me a couple of years from the time I decided tattooing was what I wanted to do until I was actually working in a shop. I was exposed to tattooing when I was younger…my dad has tattoos and he was getting them from family friends and I always thought I would have tattoos when I was older…I was drawing a fair bit when I was younger too. When i decided to get into the industry I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and got a paid apprenticeship, it wasn’t much but I could afford to eat and pay my bills, but that was about it.

It can be a nerve wrecking experience, tattooing something on someone permanently. How did you go with doing your first tattoo? Do you remember what it was?
Yeah I tattooed myself and I still have the tattoo, it’s a skull and crossed guitars and its fucking horrible and I was shitting myself…and it was even worse tattooing someone else for the first time and everyone else for the first year or so…I feel sorry for them haha…

Different tattooers have different styles, just like every artist. How would you describe your style of tattooing?
Traditionalish… my style has definitely changed over the years…. I enjoy doing almost anything but I just like the classic look of a traditional tattoo or anything bold with heaps of black.

Here’s a tough question. What is it about being a tattooer that you enjoy so much?
Just about everything…I really enjoy doing my job…I work with great people…. there’s not really much to not enjoy.

There are a million crazy and wacky tattoos out there, what’s the craziest tattoo you have been asked to do? Have you got any tattoos with a wild story behind them on your skin?
I have some tattoos that were done by my friends (that aren’t tattooers) when we were heavily intoxicated they look like shit but I really like them because of the people they done by…. not to say that I wouldn’t have them covered up or anything but at the time it seemed like the best idea we’d ever had…. as for crazy tattoos on other people I think that these days there isn’t much that hasn’t been done or seen before so when someone asks for something that you might think is stupid or crazy it doesn’t seem so bad because its all been done before

Lets talk about the pieces/ works that you’ve got on you, who has tattooed you? And are you looking to get any more work done? If so…what are you planning on getting?
I have been tattooed by a lot of people (too many of name) but I still have a bit of room left on my ribs and back which I am hoping to start in the near future…on of the guys I work with (Dan Bursell) is doing one side of my ribs and that’s about all I have planned thus far….

Being an artist myself, I draw inspiration from heaps of different places. What and who are some of your influences?
Anything and everything, books, Art etc. there are a lot of older tattooers that influence me quite a bit and also some tattooers that are around today as well…most of the stuff that I like tattooing and painting etc. has been done a million times before, I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to tattooing, I just like tattooing and painting things that look like tattoos.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time besides painting/drawing?
I like playing golf but other than that I’m not the biggest sports fan…. I will watch something if its on in front of me but
wont rush to watch the game or anything like that.

We all know apprentice tattooers get a hard time in the shop, do you have any funny stories from your apprenticeship?
I had it pretty good really I done my apprenticeship with Rick Nash at Valley Mall Tattoo, and he was really good to me. I was definitely the shop bitch but the rest of it was pretty good

Being in an industry that’s tough to crack (like any other), what would your advice be to the kids who are just starting out?
WORK HARD and kiss your social life good bye…

Finally, is there anyone you would like to thank for helping you get to where you are today and what you have achieved?
Yeah there are a few, Rick Nash and Janine Kite, Bob and Karen Millar, Jared Ash, Rhys Patten, Karl Swallow, Matt Cunnington, All the crew at Westside and Valley Mall Tattoo and anyone else that I have worked with or ripped off hahaha…Thanks

Ben, thank you so much for taking time off to have a chat with us. We really appreciate it and wish you all the best in your future endeavors. Please do keep us posted with the latest. Cheers!

Words by Kyle Wakeham

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