Q&A: Inked-out color artist with unique style draws his way across London tattoo scene

British artist Joe Frost tattoos a client at the Leeds Tattoo Expo in 2022. (@unigloves/TikTok)

By Tara Mobasher
Medill Reports

Creativity was never lost on British tattoo artist Joe Frost, best known by his Instagram handle @hellomynameisjoe. Decorated with hundreds of tattoos on his own body, the veteran artist with 15 years in the business, specializes in so-called neo-traditional designs. The strikingly realistic style, particularly popular in the U.K., uses lots of lines and bold colors to create intricate illustrations, for which he typically charges a minimum of £80 (around $100). Frost’s nearly 150,000 Instagram followers rave about his line work and his imaginative drawings of animals like frogs and dogs, characters like Poseidon and historical figures like Marie Antoinette. He now tattoos at The Circle London in Soho.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.


How did you get involved with tattoos?

I had a degree in illustration. I didn’t do the degree with the intention to tattoo, but it came into my head once I started getting tattooed. The studio was called Jayne Doe in Essex, and everyone there was just drawing everything from scratch. It was an eye-opener. It got into my head to do it, but it took me a while to get into it after university. I just had to work in a retail job while I was drawing on the side, and then after about three, four years, I started approaching some studios and got lucky. Usually, you just go into the shop with your artwork and hope for the best, which is what I did. And the shop ended up working out because (it was) looking for an apprentice/receptionist. They said if I work on the reception desk for about eight months, then I could start practicing, so I just got there at the right time.


A lot of your artwork uses color and animated characters. How did you get into that?

I used to do a lot of collage work, but it was always color-based. So, when I started tattooing, I just naturally found color easier straight off the bat. I’ve always felt like I’ve had my own style, but that came from other influences outside of tattooing –– looking at different types of art and knowing what I like and what I don’t like and then just finding a way of getting the skills.


What do your clients typically want?

Very early on in my career, I was always asked for large-scale works and sleeves and back pieces. Even in the first year I was doing sleeves, and I didn’t know what I was doing, really, to be honest. It’s something that I’ve just developed over time. It probably comes from my work having quite a nice flow to it. So, people want me to do bigger pieces. Then, once you start posting the bigger stuff, people see that you can do it, and you attract more people. So, I’d say large-scale work has always been quite popular with me rather than one-off pieces, which I do as well.

Who or what inspires you?

I used to go to Berlin a lot to get tattooed by a guy called Lus Lips. He was one of the first people I saw doing neo-traditional work. He was a massive influence on me, and I get tattooed by him a lot. Outside of tattooing, I try not to look too much on Instagram. I like looking at older things –– all things portraiture, like Arts and Crafts movement, wallpaper, stained glass, historical things. I take bits from all over the place and try and put it into my work rather than just scrolling on Instagram and saying something like, “Oh, well. I’ll just copy that.” But it’s a bit more work than doing that. It’s nice to go out and see things and get inspiration.


What’s the hardest part about tattooing?

Two things. You have a lot of homework. I draw everything from scratch, like pencil and paper, which is quite rare. Now everyone uses iPads and stuff. I do everything by hand. So, the homework aspects of it can be quite large. If I have like a couple of large pieces to draw in the week on top of tattooing in the day, it can be a lot of work outside of it. The other thing is trying to push myself. You find your style, and it’s easy to get complacent. It is quite easy to just take a step back and rely on what you know you’re good at. You have to keep pushing.

Tara Mobasher is a social justice and solutions graduate student at Medill. You can follow her on X at @taramobasher.