xxx = Tattoo Like A Painter James Hall EP 265 Tattoo_Like_A_Painter__James_Hall__EP__265 Fireside Tattoo Network

Business and Mindset: Tattoo Like A Painter James Hall EP 265

Tattoo Like A Painter

| James Hall | EP  265



The traditional tattoo approach of lining, shading and coloring (in that order) never appealed much to James Hall (or Jake for that matter). James has spent the majority of his tattoo career moonlighting as an oil painter and it definitely comes across in his tattoo work.

In today's episode we talk about the value of working in other mediums, James' annual art show focused on encouraging tattoo artists to pick up a paint brush and how to create a studio environment that attracts the clientele you are looking for.

Tons of great nuggets in this episode. Be sure to keep up with James at the links below and check out his latest art show "Pixel" if you are in the Austin area.

This episode was made possible thanks to:

Video By Jake Meeks —

Writing By Daniel Pushcarich —

Topics: Fine Art, Tattooing, tattooing community, tattoo shop, boutique environment, tattooing and painting. 

still life paintings by james hall



“The idea of tattooing being closed off at times…I’ve never agreed with that. Let’s help each other get good and hopefully impact other people, because tattooing is really powerful.”

— James Hall

James Hall (@jameshallcreative) enjoys illustrative design, using aspects of realism to bring an interesting dynamic to his work. James’ work is generally structured with nature based subject matter, but also enjoys concepts from realism to pop-culture influenced concepts.

James believes that communicating through a creative language helps both clients and tattooers reach a level of trust that is highly valuable. He looks towards creating lifelong relationships with my clients through this medium, and always looks forward to working with his clients.

James Hall is based in Austin, TX, and owns Aura IV Tattoo Gallery (@auraiv_tattoo).

Please enjoy!

flowers and owl arm tattoos




  • Connect with James Hall:

Aura IV Tattoo Gallery | Artist Website | IG | Contact

fish sea animals and coral seascape arm tattoos


  • [00:00] Intro
  • [02:58] Evolution of James’ Work
  • [05:28] Utilizing Digital Technologies to Make Designing Easier
  • [10:08] Saint Michael VS The AI, Emerging Tech For Idea Generation
  • [15:58] AI Doesn’t Put the Ink In The Skin, YOU DO!
  • [18:14] Wait, wait…AI Got One More Thing To Say…
  • [20:43] Curation of The Pixel Art Show
  • [22:07] James’ History of Art Curation
  • [24:49] Self Expression In Art and Tattooing, Silencing The Stories We Tell Ourselves
  • [26:51] Jake and James Reminisce About Pixels
  • [30:29] How Many People?!
  • [31:22] It’s Serious Business! The Public Face of Tattooing
  • [37:04] What does the Environment Say To The Client?
  • [40:08] Tattooing Has Always Been About the Experience! Now Even More so
  • [43:57] Get Boutiquey With It…Nah Nah Nah Nah Nah!!!
  • [48:39] Role-Play Isn’t Just For The Bedroom, Team Building and Community In Tattoo Shops
  • [51:33] On Having Good Mentors
  • [01:01:09] Where to Find James Hall


Utilizing Design Technologies to Create Better References Material 

[05:28] “When you have that illustration in there, and you’re losing some edges and playing around, I’ve noticed I can have more fun when I’ve already logged that data ahead of time.”

— James Hall

The rise of technology has revolutionized the tattooing industry, making it more accessible than ever before. Stencil apps and digital design programs like Photoshop, Procreate, and Clip Studio have transformed the drafting process, enabling tattooers to create and manipulate designs in mere hours.

These tools also offer a fresh perspective on subject matter. For more illustrative tattoo artists stencil apps provide a perfect reference for linework and allow for experimentation with shapes, blending, and edges. With the aid of technology, tattooers can push their creativity to new heights and bring their clients' visions to life with unparalleled precision and speed.

Self Expression In Art and Tattooing, Silencing The Stories We Tell Ourselves


[24:49] “A lot of people say, ‘man, I really wanna do the show but I’m not an artist’, and I’m always like what does that mean though? Can you create something and share your perception of the world around you? Let’s see what that is.”

— James Hall

What are the different ways that you make marks? Do you have to be a painter in order to be called an artist? Painting is just one of many possibilities, and James highlights some unconventional options that don't involve paint at all.

Artistic expression can take many forms, as seen in art shows, galleries, and museums. While some artists use traditional media such as paint or pencils, some might make a giant sculpture of a robot made of repurposed metal desks from their old, abandoned school. 

There's no single definition of what it means to be an artist or engage in art. Often, the only restrictions we face are those we impose on ourselves. So don't hold back – be bold and embrace your creativity in whatever form it takes.

illustrative tree and rose with pocket watch

It’s Serious Business! The Public Face of Tattooing


[31:22] “How do we get the general public, that’s not in the tattoo industry, to get that same spark that we do. Like, oh man, There’s something serious going on here.”

— James Hall

The tattoo industry has undergone a dramatic transformation in recent years, with increased acceptance and visibility. From TV shows to large-scale art shows and conventions, tattoos are now celebrated as a legitimate art form. Tattoo shops have even taken on a spa-like atmosphere, and this shift has contributed to a newfound respect for the industry.

Tattoo artists have also adopted a more client-centered approach, taking care to consider the image they are putting out into the world. A positive public image is crucial, as it helps to create a welcoming and exciting environment for those who may be new to the world of tattoos. This focus on creating a welcoming atmosphere and positive image has helped to further elevate the industry and its artists.

Tattooing Has ALWAYS Been About the Experience, Now More than Ever


[40:49] “How my studio looks, the furniture, the colors we use for the walls. I take all my notes for that from outside of tattooing. Like home design, industrial design, or even things like patented scents.”

— James Hall

Let’s dig into that image topic a little deeper. In recent years, the experience of getting a tattoo has evolved beyond the traditional "biker shop" aesthetic. Some tattoo studios have adopted a modern art gallery approach, with tattoo artists displaying their work in a designated space. Others have embraced a more holistic approach, transforming their walls into lush gardens with calming music. The trend towards boutique-style tattoo studios is on the rise.

However, there is no right or wrong way to develop your shop space. It all comes down to the kind of experience you want to offer your clients. Taking extra measures to create a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere can make a positive impression on clients. Of course, there is still a place for the classic street-shop style, with flash designs covering the walls and the scent of green soap in the air. Like I said earlier, ultimately, it all depends on the kind of client you want to attract.

Role-play Isn’t Just For The Bedroom, Team Building in Tattoo Shops


[48:39] “That’s one of those things early on when you need the income, you’re constantly bending over backwards, and you’re being taken advantage of.”

— Jake Meeks

As a tattoo artist, you may have experienced the frustration of trying to talk a client out of a long list of 12 really specific tattoo requests, and they’re trying to jam it all into one design. How do you talk them off the memorial tattoo ledge? For many beginning tattoo artists, communication is a challenging skill to master. However, communication is not an innate talent; it's a skill that can be learned and improved upon.

One effective method to enhance communication skills is to conduct role-playing exercises or conversation nights in the tattoo studio. These activities provide an opportunity for artists to workshop their ideas and approaches, as well as review past interactions that could have gone more smoothly. Not only does this help artists communicate more effectively, but it also creates a supportive environment for growth and development.


black and grey succulent oil painting




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

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The Fireside Tattoo Network is home to the Fireside podcast, Fireside Technique video series and our Fireside Weekly blog.

The Fireside Tattoo podcast is hosted by veteran tattooer Jake Meeks, check out our episodes where we discuss, argue and wax philosophical, from tips for all levels of artists to trends in the tattoo world. Many guest artists have sat down for interviews and in-depth conversations and many more are planned…check back often!

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