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The Skin Trade: Six Tattoo Artists Share Their Stories2
- Jul 07, 2018 -

Bradley Tan turns 30 this year but he’s already spent half his life on his craft.


We were young and, well, dumb, using ink and Chinese needles at the back of class,” he laughed while sharing about his start. He and his friends figured that better equipment meant better tattoos so Tan approached a tattoo studio near his home, looking to buy the correct tools. Instead, he left with an apprenticeship after the owner saw his sketchbook. “It wasn’t like I was doing badly in secondary school. I graduated, did design and even interned at Ogilvy & Mather while still tattooing and apprenticing on the weekends and after school,” he explained about the earlier days in his career.


Now, Tan is perhaps one of the most well-known Singaporean tattoo artists of the “new generation”. He tattoos exclusively in a black and grey realistic style and has amassed a following of over 15,000 on his Instagram, @bradleytattoo.


While the Singaporean “house style” back in the Noughties gravitated towards Japanese oriental style, Tan was attracted to the black and grey realism he had seen in tattoo magazines. “It started from drawing with pencils and referencing photos. And then it just became what I wanted to do, so I practised hard on my own,” reminisced Tan. He is also the owner of Oracle Tattoo, a studio he started himself before getting fellow artists on board. “When I opened Oracle, there was a bit of a caveman vibe to it. Like I was just there by myself, kind of separated from the community. Having Ian join me was great because there was this brotherly rivalry. Because we work on the same style, we push each other a lot in terms of our work,” Tan shared.


Having started in the era where clients would have to head to shops to see an artist’s portfolio, Tan thinks the immediacy of social media has had a positive impact on the culture. Now that his work (all 15 years of it) is online, we asked if he ever cringes looking back on earlier work. He said, “I think it’s good to look back. No one is ever perfect when they start out but that’s how you see how far you’ve progressed. It’s a good way to look at things: you can always do better.”