xxx = Innovative and Original Illustrative Tattooing Nick Baxter EP 246 Innovative_and_Original_Illustrative_Tattooing__Nick_Baxter__EP_246 Fireside Tattoo Network

Drawing For Tattoo Design: Innovative and Original Illustrative Tattooing Nick Baxter EP 246


Innovative and Original Illustrative Tattooing 

| Nick Baxter | EP 246

In this interview Jake and Nick meander around developing a design and consultation management, things like: researching a design topic, developing a narrative with the client, and forming an understanding of the person you’re working with. 

They also touch on things like what it’s like to rework an old piece, simplifying a tattoo design to increase flow on the body, along with intention and meaning in an artists work.

This episode was made possible thanks to:

Interview By Jake Meeks —

Writing By Daniel Pushcarich

Topics: Tattoos, Tattoo Design, Painting, Narrative Illustration, Artist Vs Viewers Perspective, Illustrative Tattooing, Tattoo Client Consultations

Landscape forest sleeve tattoo by nick baxter

“We, as tattooers, are more so trained in visual symbolism than your average tattoo collector. And so, if you can describe, and explain, and sort of tell the story of their tattoo to them, they may see possibilities in it that they never saw to begin with.”

— Nick Baxter

Nick Baxter (@burningxhope) Having spent his life in pursuit of creative expression in multiple mediums, Nick Baxter uses his unique holistic approach and independent spirit to craft not only world-class custom tattoos, but also highly realistic oil paintings that confound, with meticulous technique and fool-the-eye illusions. And with over 2 decades of immersion in the sometimes overlapping worlds of tattooing and painting, Nick also offers his diverse body of knowledge to other artists and tattooers through numerous educational products, seminars, and workshop experiences.

His current tattoo work focuses on large-scale illustrative projects that combine elements of his meticulous realism painting style with bold traditional tattoo sensibilities and compositions that flow seamlessly across the body. Nick uses his diverse artistic skill set to interpret all kinds of representational subject matter into the tattoo medium, whether in color or black and gray, as well as to create imaginary works with believable dimension and depth in the biomech and bio-organic genres.

Nick’s painting output is just as multifaceted; while producing work in the classical realism genres of still life, landscape, and figurative art, Nick also combines elements of each into a hybrid of sometimes unnerving photorealistic precision, producing works dwelling somewhere in the surrealist world. His latest work incorporates overlapping layers of imagery, distorted cartoons, and Trompe L’oeil (“fool the eye”) illusions to form stark postmodern critiques of society, psychology, and culture.

Nick Baxter is based in Austin, Texas at Art Realm Tattoo. 

Please enjoy!


painting of lake travis in austin texas by nick baxter


  • Connect with Nick Baxter:

Studio Profile | Personal Website | @burningxhope


  • [04:05] Unveiling the Potential of Ideas
  • [05:33] Being more Impactful by Simplifying Elements
  • [07:48] A Change in the Consultation Environment
  • [13:18] Educating Clientele to Understand your Vision for their Idea
  • [14:15] The Effect Personality can have on Design
  • [15:53] The Balance of Client Needs
  • [17:18] Pushing Past Old Habits, Risk by Request
  • [20:39] Looking into the Future to Make Decisions for a Design
  • [22:36] Juxtaposing Narratives
  • [23:59] Message versus Interpretation
  • [26:42] The Greater Value of the Viewers Opinion
  • [30:41] Knowing your craft To build Confidence in your Client
  • [32:22] Saying More with Less
  • [38:32] Looking in the Mirror at your Past Self

collage painting by nick baxter


Preparing for a New Tattoo

“[04:05]...It would start with… reading ideas, reading anything culturally relevant to the concept. If it's a western concept, if it's an eastern concept… if there's some sort of… ancient tradition that backs it up…a whole lineage of subject matter and imagery that I could draw from, you know? I'll kind of dig into those avenues or if it's…more of a modern idea, or I want to give it a modern twist, you know, then I'll try to figure out what in current pop culture might resonate with that concept or that idea.”

— Nick Baxter

When the goal is to create a story or narrative in your design, step 1 is RESEARCH. The real key is finding a balance of right and left brain thinking when conducting this research. There are often multiple versions of similar narratives recorded throughout history. This provides us with the opportunity to be creative by combining elements and incorporating our own ideas to create a sort of "mash up" of information which will likely result in a unique design that is formed through our own filter.


Saying More With Less

“[05:33] So I'm always trying to take a tattoo concept and like, boil it down to just like, the core essence of what that person's idea was, and then build upon it from there… But as far as… the core concept from the person, I'm always trying to get them to want to say more with less.”

— Nick Baxter

Simplifying our imagery in the early stages of design is crucial for successful, long lasting tattoos. When trying to create a visual narrative or story, our tendency is is to try and cram in every detail we can. The challenge is to say more with less. It takes some time and creative problem solving but asking yourself questions like, What is the hierarchy of the design? Where is the most important element? What elements are secondary? How can I use the fewest possible elements to get the point across?

Over time, you will find the process becoming easier. Your natural style will start to come through as you find consistent ways to give more information with fewer marks.


Avoid the Low Hanging Fruit

“[13:18] …there’s like a subtle, polite kind of nudging that happens. Like, you know through the consultation process you gotta propose ideas. And say, you know I think THIS idea has a lot of dynamic potential to have a lot of depth, or to be really striking, you know? To create a nice image, and it also represents YOUR idea very well.”

— Nick Baxter

Finding creative ways to encourage your clients to think outside of the box is a skill that is aquired through time and effort and experimentation. Often clients will cling to an image that they feel represents their idea. A lot of times this image might feel very predictable or obvious. It's likely an image that has been tattooed many times and doesn't interest us as artists. At this point, we have a choice. We can bite the bullet and just do the best version of that old, tired tatoo that we can. Or we can make an effort to nudge the client in another direction, challenge them to find a more creative and unique way to represent their idea. It only takes a few more minutes of consultation time and, even if it fails, you'll be more prepared for the next consult.


science and brain and foliage tattoo by nick baxter




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Transcript for this video can be found (here). All transcripts can be found (Here)

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