Tattoo Talk: An Interview with Dominique Holmes

Dominique Holmes 2Dominique Holmes, 32, The Family Business, London

You might remember that I posted about going to the opening of Covering Synthesis, Dominique Holmes’s joint show with Mister Patterson. Not only is Dominique an incredible painter and fine artist, she’s also one of my favourite tattooists. Today I’m excited to share my recent interview with her.

How old were you when got your first tattoo & what was it?
I was only 15 when I got my first tattoo; a small black scorpion. It’s not great but I still love it!

Dominique Holmes 4How did you get started in tattooing?
I wanted to become a tattooer from the moment I had my first one done, probably before. It seemed the natural path for me, as long as I can remember I was drawing on myself and my friends, collecting stick-on tattoos and designing patterns and tattoos that I thought I would get tattooed when I was old enough. Back in the 90s and early 2000s there wasn’t much information about how to start tattooing and you couldn’t even buy equipment unless you were a registered tattooer, so I had to befriend (or rather hassle!) tattooers in the hope I would get an ‘in’. Eventually I did, and began tattooing friends, starting with reworking and colouring old and unfinished tattoos they had until I had more confidence in what I was doing. The first full piece I did was a koi fish on the back of a calf, about 7-inches long, and it took me about 2 hours just to line it! I was 21 when I started doing ‘proper’ or ‘professional’ tattoos, and a year later I left university to tattoo full-time.

Dominique Holmes 3Did you have an artistic background before you started tattooing?
I was always drawing and painting and making things so I pursued art and design through school, college and university. My artwork has strangely never been particularly tattoo-related; at college during my foundation year I discovered a love of installation, projection and pinhole photography, and collage – which is something still very relevant in my current artwork. My Grandma was an artist, and I spent a lot of summers growing up with her setting up still life scenes and teaching me to paint and draw. When I was 7 I won an award in an art competition for a clay dinosaur I sculpted – my mum still has the trophy and certificate. I like to think that was where it started!

Has being a tattooist influenced your work as a fine artist?
Yes, it’s made me draw more!!! I’m much more 2-dimensional with my art these days, and I enjoy the idea of the permanence of art as with tattoos, whereas my artistic styles pre-tattooing were based on ideas of temporary images and their evolution. Beyond that, tattooing has led me to research and study many different art forms, such as Japanese woodcuts, traditional Mehndi and Tibetan Thangka paintings, which have become the mainstays of my tattooing style, and have fused into my artwork as a result.

Dominique HolmesHow have your thoughts about tattoos and being tattooed changed over time (if at all)?
It’s impossible to ignore the changes in tattooing over the past decade in particular. The internet has helped make tattoos easily accessible which should be a good thing – there should be no excuse for not getting it right when choosing your tattoo or tattooer now; you can see thousands of tattooers portfolios just by searching #tattoo on Instagram! Tattoos are definitely more widely accepted and appreciated; people who like tattoos or enjoy the idea of them no longer feel afraid to dive in. The more visible tattoos become in society, the more ‘normal’ they become, although it’s easy to say that in a diverse city such as London. There are still parts of the world – Japan being one very big example – where tattoos still have very negative connotations. My personal thoughts on tattoos have not really changed much over the years; to me they have always been a very individual choice, and statement, and as long as they’re done well and they’re not offensive or aggressive, it’s not really for anyone else to judge!

Dominique Holmes 5Who or what influences/inspires your work the most?
I’m influenced by many different styles, artists and things; Eastern traditional art such as Mehndi, Tibetan Thangka painting, Japanese woodcuts, Islamic patterns and geometry, Graphic Novels and comics, collage and pop art in particular Richard Hamilton, the illustrations of Ernst Haekel, the art and ideas of Marcel Duchamp.

What’s the best thing that’s happened to you a result of tattooing?
I don’t know if I could pick just one thing; it has been my life for the past 12 years so really everything great and bad that’s happened is in some part due to tattooing. Designing the cover for the Penguin Essentials reissue of Hunter S. Thompson’s “Hell’s Angels” in 2011 was a real privilege for me, as was being commissioned to create and write my book “The Painted Lady” on tattooed women and my work. I have been lucky to have met many amazing people through tattooing, including my great friend Fiona whose jewelry company Black Pearl I now have a collaborative line with.

You can also find Dominique on Instagram & Twitter. I’m always in awe of the incredible detail and complexity of her work and she always has an exciting project on the go, so I definitely recommend following her.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us today, Dominique!



  1. So much detail and intricate work. Love it.


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