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Mads Thill, it all begun with a skull

11


The Danish master of large-scale Black’n’Grey compositions tells us about his adventurous life always in contact with the best tattoo art. Let’s listen to him…

Tattoo by Mads Thill, @madsthill

Hi Mads, would you like to take stock of the past 10 years, from your entry as an apprentice at ‘Bad Boyz Tattoo’ in Frederikssund to your current status as master of Black-n-Grey style?
I think I’m in my 15th year by now. Almost half of my life I’ve been tattooing, which is pretty cool for me to think about.

Actually I got my first apprenticeship at ‘Downunder Tattoo’ in Copenhagen, with Tim Cliff.

This big old scary biker who taught me how to make needles from scratch, how not to behave in a studio and shaking all the Starbright colors weekly. Although later on he got fed up with my young dumb attitude and let me go. That’s when I ended up getting to finish my apprenticeship under Tattoo Mini and Nissen at ‘Bad Boyz Tattoo’. Those guys were the stuff of legends in my eyes and I was very lucky to get a second chance there.

Tattoo by Mads Thill, @madsthill
Tattoo by Mads Thill, @madsthill

They were years of hard work and much artistic satisfaction, weren’t they?
I wouldn’t say it’s been hard work when I think about it, just many hours and a ton of luck. Most of the time I just hung out with friends drawing and tattooing. I’ve been very blessed with the masters that were willing to share with me at the time because it was not very accessible getting the knowledge and skill back then.

Tattoo by Mads Thill, @madsthill
Tattoo by Mads Thill, @madsthill

Dennis Wheeler was one of my masters who was crazy enough to let me hang out at this studio, even though I was getting in trouble with Mini and Nissen for learning more than they could teach me.

Anyways, most guys would kill to have the odds of making some decent tattoos as I have had from the beginning.

The satisfaction you ask about, I don’t know anymore. The deeper I go I realize the satisfaction comes more from the places I visit around the world and living like a nomad among the tattooers I get to meet.

Tattoo by Mads Thill, @madsthill
Tattoo by Mads Thill, @madsthill

Do you think yours is just talent that comes from yourself?
Obviously there’s been a lot of influence from the great tattooers and artists I’ve crossed paths with, I wouldn’t be able to think and work like I do today without them. You might know Kenni Poke, he’s been my best friend for years and I’m very happy to be able to steal his work! Tattoo Mini, Nissen, Dennis, Putte and Tom from my apprenticeship I have to give some thanks for putting up with me, I guess. I’m still learning so I’m sure there are more names to add, but that will be on the next interview I do! (laughs)

Tattoo by Mads Thill, @madsthill
Tattoo by Mads Thill, @madsthill

When did you realize that abandoning the use of color to embrace Black-n-Grey compositions would become your ultimate trademark?
Oh I never abandoned the colors, the clients just stopped booking them for tattooing. I still very much enjoy drawing illustrative New School skulls. Just the direction my tattooing has taken over the years has been towards large scale Black-n-Grey work. Which I really enjoy!

I’ve taken many of the things I’ve learned from the illustrations by Andrew Loomis and his books.

So the colors might be gone but the foundations are very similar still. Actually I don’t really mind what I tattoo, I get joy from every style! Just love working with needles and ink on people’s skin at the end of the day.

Tattoo by Mads Thill, @madsthill
Tattoo by Mads Thill, @madsthill

Yours are not just tattoos, but works of art that go into large portions of your clients’ skin. Is there a firm timeline for completing one of your works, or could the process go on quietly for months in order to achieve a jaw-dropping result?
I wish there was a deadline for completing them! (laughs) Then I’d be able to do way more, but unfortunately I work at the pace of the client.

Tattoo by Mads Thill, @madsthill
Tattoo by Mads Thill, @madsthill

For some of the pieces you’ve seen at the London convention, they are on people who became close friends in the process of tattooing, so I’d say that makes them more likely to complete the project. It usually takes me around 25-30 sessions to complete a suit. So obviously it takes a lot of commitment from the client.

Tattoo by Mads Thill, @madsthill
Tattoo by Mads Thill, @madsthill

Have you ever wondered where your intricate Black’n’Grey creations come from, or does art have to flow freely taking cues from a wide variety of influences?
Some tattooers love dragons, I love skulls! Since I started, skulls have been a favorite subject of mine. So it comes naturally that my works are darker and have depth in order to make them how they are. I follow certain rules when planning out the body. Using lines of action, rule of thirds, golden cut etc. It’s fun to be able to make the viewers eyes follow a certain path through the piece. Even if I do a sleeve on a new client, it’s the beginning of a suit, they just don’t know it yet.

Tattoo by Mads Thill, @madsthill
Tattoo by Mads Thill, @madsthill

What was it like to win the ‘Best Back Piece/Coverage’ at the 2019 London Tattoo Convention and what was the subject chosen there?
It was epic, not going to lie! I cried a little. I know that we are supposed to be humble and not put too much into these awards, but since The London Tattoo Convention had such a high level of tattooers and artists, I feel very good about being proud of achieving these awards for my work there.

Tattoo by Mads Thill, @madsthill
Tattoo by Mads Thill, @madsthill

Can you tell me about your current places of work in Aarhus and Roskilde?
Actually I’ve been working in ‘Sinners Inc’, Aarhus (Denmark), for the past year or so when I haven’t been travelling. And I’m currently working alongside Kenni Poke in ‘Timeless Art’ in Roskilde too. Also I’ve been working on my project ‘The Remote Tour,’ which is a new way for tattooers, artists, craftsmen to meet and learn from each other.

Tattoo by Mads Thill, @madsthill
Tattoo by Mads Thill, @madsthill

Tell me something more about it.
Having been to many conventions over the years, I missed a deeper connection with people from our field. So I came up with this project, ‘The Remote Tour,’ where around 20 people get together for 10 days in the jungle of Costa Rica at a beautiful resort.

Tattoo by Mads Thill, @madsthill
Tattoo by Mads Thill, @madsthill

And your last famous words are…?
Let’s go bowling!

Follow Mads Thill on Instagram: @madsthill
Learn more about ‘The Remote Tour’ on Instagram: @theremotetour





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