Tattooist Ryan “The Scientist” Smith talks about his style and projects
Popularly known as The Scientist, Ryan Smith is fast gaining widespread recognition in the industry for his ornamental style. Based out of Exeter in the UK, he’s won multiple awards including UK’s favourite artist at the Industry Awards, 2017. We chat with the artiste about his work and the tattoo scene in 2018.
Q. How long have you been tattooing and how did you start choosing skin as your medium of art?
Ryan Smith (RS): I’ve been tattooing for about four & a half years now, it’s something I wanted to do since I was young for many years but I didn’t get the opportunity until later in life.
Q. You're hailed as the creator of the Ornamental Hennism style of tattooing. How did you come to combining the Asian henna tradition with modern dotwork? Could you please tell us more about the style and what traditions and artists influenced you in creating such a thing?
RS: It’s a was an evolutionary process really, I was doing quite a bit of dotwork at the time, as well as henna pieces, & I was exploring the ideas of combining these two together, & trying to create 3D looking pieces. From there I started to add realism into the mix as well & thus creating a whole new style for the world of tattooing.
I had always loved the Asian culture & henna patterns. I found them both very interesting & beautiful. I have a love for repetition as well, & the henna designs & ideas feed my love immensely. Artists who inspired me when I created this style are Marco Manzo; he was my biggest influence, a master of henna work. Roman Abrego - how he makes his pieces sculpt to the bodies own natural shapes & curves have been inspirational in helping me use that understanding & convert it into my own work. Marco Galdo, his work really stood out to me in a sea of dotwork artists, instantly recognisable. It was this instant recognition that made me look at stamping my own style with what I was doing, so when you look at a piece, you know instantly it’s a Ryan Smith piece.
Q: With you innovations earning you a cool a nickname like 'the scientist', how do you approach traditional motifs like the rose?
RS: I like to do realism roses, I try to make them look realistic but also make them in a way that’s my own way of doing them, so again, when you see a rose, you know it’s one of mine.
Q: You’re known for your marathon sessions and also the collaborative projects with artists like Jay Freestyle. What's your idea of artistic freedom and taking ideas from clients?
RS: Yes I do many big sessions both as a solo artist & also in collaborative efforts. When I ask for free reign, I like to take ideas off clients, things they really like, things they would love & I also ask for things they really don’t like & would most definitely not want. Then using the list I would create a design using elements of what they love & parts of what they like to create them a unique piece of artwork tailored specifically for them.
When I work solo, I like to plan ideas but I also like to work while freely in the sense that I will change the design to fit as I work, I will do a lot of freehand work & add onto section I have already planned & created. I find working like this helps me to get designs to fit the body much better. When I work with my good friend Jay we work a lot more loose. We meet the clients the night before the show, we would have already had the love & hate list, & with the client in front of us we will discuss, draw on the clients, & together develop our idea for the weekend. We will then spend the rest of the evening getting our design ideas together & start to compose & create a unique piece of artwork. The next day at the start of the show we will present our ideas to the client.
Q: You've won a multitude of awards over the years. What would you say is the favourite milestone in your career?
RS: I’ve won 36 Awards in total in three & a half years of competing. I think my favourite is winning Best in Show in Milano 2017 with Jay Freestyle in a collaborative leg piece, it really was an incredible weekend & still one of my favourite pieces I’ve done I really love it. Winning 3rd place Ornamental at the London tattoo convention on my first visit is very special to me. I was against full body suits from so many masters, & I had spent two days working on a full outside of the leg piece, a really beautiful flowing piece which complimented my client so well. Winning 3rd place Best in Show at London in 2017 with Jay & Jenna was pretty damn epic too! But a very special one is being nominated as the UKs favourite artist last summer 2017 at the UK Industry Awards when I was voted as the people’s choice champion.
Q: You also created the Kaos Theory Project, a new collaborative scheme, could you tell us more?
RS: The Kaos Theory Project is my baby I’ve been developing for about two years now. It’s a big collaboration scheme which pairs some of the world best tattoo artists together of different styles to create unique one off pieces of artwork for they’re clients. It’s also a chance for clients to get some truly rare bespoke pieces from artists who may not normally come together without such circumstances. It also gives the artists a chance to create & be artistic, a way to fully express themselves while amalgamating they’re own unique style or brand into the mix to create something amazing with they’re partners. They get to learn from one another in how each other tattoos, designs & composes. & who knows, maybe one pairing will create the next big thing or new style!
This year the Kaos Theory is changing up a bit & taking it on tour out of its birthplace NR Studio in London by moving to new locations. The next edition held is in Amsterdam at the Freedom & Flesh Studio. It’s a 4 person collaborative session featuring AD Pancho, Tofi, Jay Freestyle & myself.
It’s slightly smaller than the usual 6 artists, but the next edition in May, will be a 20 person Kaos Theory Project at the Liverpool Tattoo Convention in the UK!! The line up is massive, so many top artists, it’s going to be huge!!