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Back and Forth with Mark Lording, the Illustrated man.

Interview • AUS •  Culture

A deep dive with Melbourne tattooist and our second artist collection collaborator. We talk art, music, the creative process and life in general with one of Australia's best.

So how about we start with an introduction?

Sure. I'm Mark Lording. I'm 41 from the outskirts of Bayside, Melbourne. Is that how you mean?

That's exactly it. We'll start with the really hard questions first, Okay? So, do you golf?

I do not golf, fairly disappointing for the Walker crew.

I think that's great. I think we should have more people that don't golf. In fact, it's funny, The two artists that we've done little capsules with so far have both been non golfers. I think we should actually keep it going.

I've definitely had a crack. My wife is a really good golfer. She grew up playing. She's a greenkeeper by trade. Her father's a greenkeeper, greenskeeper. However you pronounce it

You're golf adjacent, then.

Adjacent, I suck. And I have almost zero interest in the sport, but I appreciate it and I will happily go and have a hit at the driving range. I'm actually quite interested when I'm hanging out with her father. I'm really interested in all the work he does. It's out in nature, and I'm interested in how he operates because he's the superintendent at a golf course.

Which one is that?

They're in Sweden. Her family lives in Sweden, in the very south. Kaiser. My wife grew up doing that over there, playing and working her holidays and eventually doing it full time with her father. And then that's what brought her here. She got a job at Woodlands in Mordialloc, which is a fairly nice course. I'm pretty sure golf nerds would know about it.

"It's just because I'm really trying to step outside the box and make new designs that people haven't seen before."

I'm sure the Walker nerds are going to know all about Woodlands. So that's cool to have that connection there as well, which makes that little tie in a bit easier. For the collection. But when people see what you've done for us, I think they're going to be blown away because I am. The art itself is just so unique and it suits Walkers vibe. Plus we get to show off your skill and talent.

I was real apprehensive because I did one and showed it to Glenn and he was like, It's not really what we're after. And I was like, Fuck. Okay, I really know where to go with it. And I thought I just went with a completely opposite direction. I'm really glad they liked it because I always get nervous when it's not tattoo related. Handing the artwork over, because with tattooing, I know the formula, I know what people expect to see. If it's anything kind of graphic its outside my realm. I don't know what the clients expectations are because it's like a totally different ballgame, really. Especially if it's for branding and stuff like that. With Tattooing I know the format, I know the boxes to work within.

I totally understand that too. Sometimes that can be the most challenging part, when you're kind of working without a brief. People want you to do what you do, and you're always worried whether people have preconceived notions about what they receiving. Do you want to touch on that first design?

Sure, I guess I was going on what you guys had done previously and I was looking through how you were approaching it with your photo shoots and the type of models you're using and seeing who you were marketing it for, and I was like, okay, I can see where it's going. Maybe I'll go with this. I expected it was going to just be on a T shirt, and I thought I'll just make it look more like a skate sort of graphic in a sense. That a big back print and maybe like a pocket print, and it'd be something that younger people, the non-golf crowd who enjoy playing golf would wear. I was quite happy with the graphic. But if that was already that in the range, I guess there was no need to just do it again. And this thing we've done now is completely different to that.

Did you find that easier just switching to the kangaroo?

I mean, it's stuff I'm so familiar with drawing, so it was definitely not a task for me to work it out. It's stuff that I draw day in, day out. It was all the same stuff I'm doing for tattoos, basically. Except I guess the finished artwork is different in terms of it's a full colour, rendered digital in Procreate, which I don't normally do that often. Normally, I would hand paint it with acrylic inks if it was for tattoo flash. So it's fun doing a really clean, digital version of that. It looks crispy.

I want to ask about your practice and your work outside of tattooing as well. If you're not actually working on people's bodies, you're working on Flash, So how does that process work? Where are you drawing that inspiration from?

The games changed with the iPad Pro, where previously I would start out with pages and pages of initial sketches on tracing paper. I would normally use sort of coloured markers, not super thick sharpies, but more finer sort of felt tip markers. I'd start off with a very loose, almost a complete mess, rough sketches. And then you're building it up and refining each layer until you're finally placing that final copy on the lightbox with a really nice, crispy gray lead, doing that final line work. And then that will then get transferred onto a really nice bit of watercolour paper. I'll either use a light box to trace over the top, or there's this other really nice stuff that I like to work with called saral paper. It's like, basically, if you were to have your line drawing that you're finally happy with, you place saral paper underneath it, and when you press down, it leaves the exact lines that it imprints it onto the paper. It's kind of like a carbon, It can rub off with an eraser. But once you've made that imprint onto your beautiful watercolour paper, you then get either your felt tip pen, or we use these speedball pens, which is essentially like a metal tip. You dip them in the ink and you just trace over that coloured carbon copy that the saral paper left Then you begin your painting process. So with the iPad, all those layered pieces of tracing paper are completely eliminated. I'm not even touching the tracing paper anymore. I really did love the process, but it is slower. I can have my reference if it's something I'm not that familiar with. Needing a little bit of a guidance of I can have it in the corner of my screen. Whereas previously, you got all books open and printouts.

I love when technology can make your life easier.

Yeah, I was so reluctant, too. it's sort of impractical these days when there is a far easier option. Like, I'm not a tech tech dude at all. My wife just helped me set this zoom up. I'm terrible. The iPad is so good because it's built to be used by dummies like me. Whereas if I was on working on a proper desktop computer, I just can't do it. I can't engage. Whereas with the iPad, you still feel somewhat like you're drawing with your own hand.

Well, it feels like a sketchbook, right?

Exactly. Yeah. So I can get down with that. I do love the process of painting tattoo flash. It's so important to me and I guess many tattooers. But it's got to be part of that culture, though, right? It's going to be part of the process.

"It's your chance to try out the crazy ideas and see if they're going to work."

Do these steps while you're working up the flash make it easier once it comes to actually tattooing it on someone?

Absolutely. Because I'm extra familiar with it. Once that painting is finished, I may have done those lines up to 20 times. Muscle memory there. Whereas if it's a custom design, someone asks for a custom tattoo and I draw it up and then it's just that initial sketching. Finish the lines and I don't even bother doing a colour study because it's so time consuming. I will do a very loose one just so I can go on autopilot on the day and have it stuck to the wall next to the guy or whatever and it's like, oh yeah, I can see that.

When it comes to your clients do you get a lot of people working off your flash or do you get commissions with specific briefs?

I'm going to say 50/50, because I paint a lot. Probably not as much as I'd like to because it is extra time allocated to sit in your spare time making the flash. But it pays off in the end because yes, 50% of it is people choosing straight off the wall of my designs. The work is ready to go.

Have you ever had a piece of flash that has just been sitting there and no one's picked it?

Absolutely, yeah. I'm like, okay, clearly that just people aren't feeling that and I'm not offended. It's trial and error. There's going to be some bangers there though, right? There's a few that are like, oh man, I really thought someone would pick that.I thought it was cool, but they haven't. It's just because I'm really trying to step outside the box and make new designs that people haven't seen before. It's exciting for them and they're like, oh, that's new. I haven't seen that a zillion times, I think that's important. And for me, that's the biggest part about getting a tattoo. You don't want to just be treading water sometimes, right?

You want to be able to take risks and make your own work better.

Definitely. I think that's a big part. I had a friend explain it to me. He's a really well respected tattooer that I really admire and listen to a lot when he talks about it all. And he's like, well, that's what flash is for. It's your chance to try out the crazy ideas and see if they're going to work. It's only the paper, like, just go for it. Whereas if it's a custom design, the expectation is high for you to nail it because someone's giving you a brief of this certain ideas that are important to them and the expectation is to nail it, whereas the freedom of the flash is all in your head and you vomited it out onto the paper.

Okay, so leading back into into those pieces, do you have a top three that you've done in your career?

Yeah, I think I would more have a feeling of things that I'm proud of, like completing a big back piece, or like I've completed a few peoples sleeves, but they're kind of different because they're just scattered smallerpieces that are compiled together. Just putting our faith in the universe that it'll all work out. Like, they're not very planned, but when they're finally finished, I'm like, wow, we pulled that off somehow. I'm really proud of those. There's probably only three or four guys that have committed to getting just my stuff on their whole arm or leg, that's going to make you feel really proud. It's super humbling, and I get pretty chuffed about it, because in Melbourne especially, we're so spoiled with hundreds of world class tattooists. I don't take it lightly when people choose to come and see me I couldn't pick absolute favourites. I'm never quite happy, ever. I always want to try, and that's the way you've got to be.

I wanted to touch on some of the themes in your work. Especially, the Australiana, your approach to flora and fauna is so distinct. Do you resonate with that imagery? 

Absolutely. I do really resonate with it. The reason before I consciously realised I had an absolute love affair with all that stuff, my oldman's a mad book collector. He's like an avid amateur photographer, documenter of things. He's really into surf culture and documenting that since back in his day, and all these beautiful books. I'd look through these certain books with a lot of Australiana imagery in it, and I was really captivated by a lot of the old early advertising stuff that included the imagery of that. And there's a particular style that those animals were drawn in back then as well. At that time, I had no idea what would later come.

"It's only the paper, like, just go for it."

So, we've also asked you to make a playlist. We've got these playlists called One For The Road and they are a 90 minutes, two hour playlist, so people can put it on while they're at the range or while they're playing nine holes. Which leads me into one of my wrap up questions Do you have music on in the studio and what's the best music to get tattooed to?

We're a huge music studio. That's a huge question, Sonny, because it's like a massive part of my life. I've played in bands and punk rock to me, was the gateway to Tattooing, really, because it was like such a huge part of the subculture of first going underage all ages shows, like Punk and hardcore shows. It's like all the older kids had tattoos and it was like a real part of it. And it intertwines heavily with Tattooing. At the shop, it's such a big part of our day, like, oh, what are you going to put on next? And whose turn is it to have a playlist? Danny, my boss is in one of Australia's best ever bands, Eddy Current Suppression Ring.

Wow, okay, cool.

His influence on me and my peers alone has been huge and that whole scene that blew up was such a pivotal thing.

You want to talk about easily one of the most influential bands out of this country in the last 20 years.

It has had a huge impact on our whole circle of friends and then extended friends. So when people come to the shop, we're always playing something interesting, whether it be anything from hip hop to garage punk to stoner metal, it could be anything. But I think we're all conscious of, like, we like to have our finger on the pulse. Like, if a new band is happening, we're at least give it a go. It's also a good way, a good discussion point with your customers. People really enjoy, I think anyway, the music in the shop.

Just quickly, what bands have you played in?

My first band was called Late Arvo Sons, which was, like, heavily inspired coming out ofthe Eddie Current era, because I was really close friends with those guys and still am. So when they started that band, it made us, all of my peers feel like we could do it too. So we started a garage punk band and we played hundreds and hundreds of shows around Melbourne in every shit bar you can think of, and it was a great time. Then that sort of dissolved, ended up running its course, which led into asecondary band with some other good friends, different dudes, that was more of a late 80s inspired DC sort of punk band called Angry Seas. More recently, during the lockdowns, I did a project with my mate who lives in Antwerp. He plays in some punk bands over there. He's from here, but he lives there now and him and his buddies made some really great tunes, recorded them, sent me the files, and I did some vocals at the studio in Frankston with them. We made a little seven inch record, that band is called Brick Windows.

Look at you, you got all the bases covered.

Yeah, I think I just love being busy and having lots of outlets. It's good hanging out with lots of different people and yeah, I enjoy having all those different avenues of contacts with people and talking shit. I love it.

That's how you keep inspired, man. It's how you kind of keep a float too. Right?

Yeah, definitely. I think maybe I'm bit of an anxious person, so if I'm, like, sitting still for too long, not doing something, I get in my head a bit and I'm like, I got to go do something. I mean, I do like, relaxing from time to time, but for the most part I'd rather be doing something great.

So to wrap up, what's the secret ingredient to a good life?

Huge question.

I start off with a big one, end with a big one.

I don't have that dialed at all. I'm still figuring it all out like everyone else. But I have to say balance, man, because every time when something you're going too hard with something or something is consuming you too much, it seems to throw everything out. So I feel like if you can strive to have good balance combined with good health, it makes everything else a little easier.

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