It seems like we've interviewed and reviewed a countless number of artists here on The405. Mainly they have been artists who's craft is formed with an inventory of paintbrushes,pens,spray cans,pencils,computer software,materials - you name it,we covered it! So I decided that I wanted to think a little more outside of that box and as far away from the canvas as possible. As I sat scratching my head struggling to come up with something that would fall into the artistic category yet wasn't immediately obvious, it hit me - Tattoos! Tattoos have been an art form of which I've held quite some interest in for as long as I can remember. I'll never forget my first (and for the mean time only) experience of getting a tattoo when I had just turned 18. I was always curious as to what it would feel like and fascinated by the chance to wear some personal art work on my body. But where exactly was I going to start? Thankfully the Tattoo Industry has come on leaps and bounds over the last few years, opening the parlor doors and branching out into specialist magazines,conventions,websites,books,clothing,toys and popular TV shows, changing the unfashionable stigma that Tattoos tend to have. My search led me to the Red Hot & Blue Tattoo group, based in Edinburgh, Scotland, where I came across Tattoo Artist Ian McAlister. I was drawn to Ian's work through the style and use of colour in his work, one I have grown rather fond of and i should mention that If I happen to get the itch for some new ink, I might possibly consider taking the trip to visit Ian for a piece of his work. Ian took some time out from inking his clients skin to talk to us here at The405. Check it out! How did you first get into tattoo art? What attracted you to this form of art work? At what point did it become your chosen career? How did I get into tattoo art…well, that’s going back a long way. I guess I was always really into art, both at home and at school, but strangely this didn’t influence my interest in tattooing. Tattooing in the beginning was all about the music scene and, I guess, trying to be a bit of a rebel (back then it was much more mysterious and frowned upon than today). I was very much a stubborn, pig-headed kid and when I realised that getting tattooed had such an effect on those around me and set me apart from the norm, I jumped in with both feet. I started tattooing as a hobby, never thinking it would be a career . When it became an option as a job I was very apprehensive, knowing I would be devastated if my passion for tattooing became resentment when my hobby became a job. Luckily it never has; I mean, I draw on people for a living, how cool is that? How long have you been tattooing for? I’ve been tattooing out of shops (ie professional) for around 9 years. Before that I was messing around on myself and friends for around 1-2 years, I guess. How many tattoo's do you currently have? What are you looking to get inked next? I don’t really count my tattoos. I mean I would consider my right arm as one piece on its own, but it probably took around 7 years to complete and has many different specific pieces which could be seen as a tattoo in their own right. I guess the short answer is I have one very big tattoo in progress. The next tattoo I’m planning is an anatomical heart with my daughter’s name running through it (she arrived in September 2008) which I’ve booked for February of this year. Out of all of your tattoo's which one means the most to you and why? All my tattoos are special for many reasons, but the truth is I’m a big soft mummy’s boy so all my family related tattoos (which are mostly on my left arm) probably mean the most. I’ve also got a full leg most of my best mates (non-tattooists) and also apprentices I’ve worked with have done small designs on. So even though it looks like a bit of a mess, it’s like a scrapbook of people in my life both past and present. What is the key to keeping your work and ideas fresh and not getting mentally or physically burnt out by what you do? A love for tattoo, a passion for art, a foot in reality (remembering how lucky I am to do this awesome job) and to be surrounded by artists/tattooists who inspire and blow me away with their art every day. But, possibly the most important thing I’ve learned is no matter what you’re doing, be it the smallest star or the biggest back-piece, it’s not just another tattoo. That customer has sought out and trusted me to mark their body for life, so half measures just doesn’t cut it. You got to give it your all. There are lot of people that when having tattoo's done describe the sensation to be similar to a hot scratch or a bee sting, myself included. How would you personally describe the feeling when getting a tattoo? Personally I hate getting tattooed and the older I get the harder it gets. I’ve been asking customers for years to try to describe the sensation so I can give first-timers a realistic comparison to how it feels. Answers have ranged from being kissed by angels to fucking unbearable. Along the way one woman said it was like being pecked by a woodpecker, but she was a bit special. Really it depends on where it is, what technique is being used and who is tattooing. The hot scratch is quite a reasonable description, but doesn’t give the whole story. Simply, if the whole tattoo was as bad as the worst bits, no one would get them and I’d be out of a job. But, if it was as easy as the best bits, well…I’d be rich. Which do you prefer to do more, black ink tattoo's or colored? I personally prefer to do colour work, but black is fun too. Basically, tattooing is fun. As for my own tattoos I think the tattoo itself can dictate whether it should be black and grey or colour depending on the style and subject. Hence, I have a mixture of black and grey and colour work on my body. Are there any tattoo artists of whom you are a fan of? Many tattooists as well as artists inspire me, but I am most influenced by and admire the guys who I have worked with in the past and work with now. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked alongside some great talents at shops like Caledonia Sun and Urban BMS, but it’s been at Red, Hot and Blue Tattoo where I currently work that I’ve been most inspired. The staff and artists there show a real passion for tattoos which is as important as the raw talent which they have in abundance. Between Paul, Jason, Sarah and Stuart there’s always some awe-inspiring piece of art or inspirational idea happening somewhere in the studio. As for other artists there are so many that influence me that to name then all would make this answer endless and on-going. What or Where is the strangest thing anyone has ever asked you to tattoo on them? Strangest area--well…nowhere seems that odd now. If you can reach it, you can tattoo it (internally as well as externally) and there are few places I haven’t tattooed yet. As shall leave the rest to your imagination. Strangest subject--swallow voodoo doll, sacred can of corned beef, sacred bottle of wine, harpooned dolphins escaping from a can of tuna, winged hand grenade…the list goes on. Finally, where do you see yourself in 5 years time, in regards to your work, new projects and any other general aspirations that you have in life? It may sound boring or unambitious, but I’m really happy with my life both in my career and personal. So if it keeps going like this I’ll be happy. As long as I keep progressing as an artist and enjoying it that’s all I wish for. Possibly having a joint art show with my daughter who will be 5 ½ in 5 years time (she’s the next big thing in the art world, you heard it here first). You can check out more of Ian McAlister's tattoo work by visiting his Official MySpace here and Red Hot & Blue Tattoo's here A special thanks to Ian McAlister for making this interview possible. - Aaron Hunt