Who do you ink they are? City’s celeb tattoo craze

Some of Alex Rattray's creations
Some of Alex Rattray's creations
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AN ART school dropout is inking up a storm with amazingly lifelike tattoos of celebrities.

Alex Rattray, 33, has a six-month waiting list of customers prepared to pay as much as £2000 to have customised, photorealistic images of the famous tattooed on their bodies.

Alex Rattray and some of his creations. Picture: Greg Macvean

Alex Rattray and some of his creations. Picture: Greg Macvean

Despite winning a place at the prestigious Edinburgh College of Art, Alex turned his back on a career in the mainstream art world. Instead, he spends up to 13 hours a day in his Edinburgh studio creating works of art on clients’ bodies.

Recent creations include Walter White from Breaking Bad, Bruce Willis in Die Hard, Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator mode, Bob Marley, and, er, Stephen Fry.

Alex said he “just knew” art school was not for him and is now delighted his parlour, Tribe Tattoo, in Broughton Street, is mobbed daily with body art lovers. He said: “Art school just wasn’t for me, it seemed designed to manufacture people to all be the same, and I wanted to do something different. It was when I was getting a tattoo of my own – my second – at the age of 19 that it suddenly struck me that this was something I could do.”

Thirteen years later Alex now has more tattoos than he can count and estimates he has personally spent over 100 hours under the needle. But it’s the customised portraits that he creates for others that are really creating a buzz – and, no doubt, a sizeable bank balance.

Bruce Willis tatto. Picture: contributed

Bruce Willis tatto. Picture: contributed

Defending the price tag attached to his work, he said: “You pay for what you get with tattoos. There’s a lot of studios out there that will take walk-ins off the street and just do whatever the customer wants.”

He added: “This time two years ago I only had a waiting list of about three or four weeks, then suddenly the requests just started to build up and build up. I’d already done lots of portrait tattoos but I’m not sure who it was who started telling everyone to come to me!”

The reason he is so busy could be down to celebrity culture – and the way well known body-art fans such as Cheryl Cole, 30, and David Beckham, 38, flaunt their “tats” .

However a recent University of St Andrew study found they are still frowned upon in some circles. It warned that people who are looking for work should think twice about getting a tattoo, because many people assume those who have them are “thugs and druggies”.

Bob Marley tattoo. Picture: contributed

Bob Marley tattoo. Picture: contributed

Alex, however, thinks nothing can be further from the truth and sees all his colourful skin-etchings as artwork. Of the current hot trend, he added: “Lots of people are requesting tattoos of superheroes now, which is great for me as I’m a bit of a geek! I’ve done Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Batman and The Joker, and Captain America, among others.”

jen.lavery@edinburghnews.com