Sean Parry

The Ideas behind the Art


I’ve been thinking for a while that I would like to start blogging about my work, what it means to me, and where I intend to go with it. I don’t consider myself  as a pompous, holier than thou indervidual, and I hope that I don’t come across as such as I write about what my tattooing means to me.

I feel the best place I should start is what inspires me, what inspired me to draw in the first place and how I come up with my designs now. As I get a lot of people asking about my inspiration, here goes.

First and foremost, my passion to draw and create comes from within. I’ve always had an irresistible impulse to draw as far back as I was physically able to. I would tear things apart to see how they worked and drew turtles and bubble cars inside every book I could get my hands on (apparently).


I distinctly remember being with my mum and Aunty Helen when I was first introduced to some images from the book of Kells. The depiction of one of the birds with its bright colours, insular line work, repetitive feather patterns, alien yet familiar appearance and mesmerising knotwork. That moment changed my approach to art forever. I spent hours as a 6 or 7 year old child onward trying to draw the patterns myself and create new ones. In those first images I remember of Celtic art I saw, I felt a magic that I still feel, and I strive to capture it and adorn people or objects with that magic through my art. I feel it in Nordic and Saxon art too, of course! The gripping beasts and disjointed creatures writhing around in mesmerising patterns. I have always had an inner conflict with this art too, and I know this is what draws me to it the more. The breaks in patterns and what first look like mistakes are what also catch my interest, along with many, many individuals before me. Along with the ancient artistic styles I have mentioned, I have always loved the power of creating images on paper, canvas or whatever that reflect the realism of the world we perceive around us. So the disjointed creatures that are completely anatomically incorrect frustrate me when I see them in the patterns, yet I see why the artist that drew them chose to overlook these details in favour of the overall outcome of the art. For most of us, when we see a pattern, it’s the imperfections or breaks in the flow that grab our attention, and the idea of using this to my advantage as an artist fascinates me.

I feel very strongly  in regards to my art about this balance of realism and distortion when I draw up my designs.

For years I have followed certain artists that also create Nordic and Celtic art. For whatever reason, I feel there are more Nordic inspired artists out there alive today to draw inspiration from than Celtic. I have tried my best to only draw inspiration from these artists and not to copy any of them as much as I can. This can always be challenging though as I tattoo and draw in a very similar style, using dotwork to imitate ancient Nordic and Celtic artistic styles (and how I beleve tattooing in ancient times could have appeared).

These styles come from my biggest inspiration of all. And the images of the book of Kells also fall into this category. The archeological remains and artifacts from ancient times. In my spare time as my passion and hobby I study the individual styles and artistic rules the artists used when adorning these ancient objects. Along with the book of Kells, some of my other greatest inspirations are the artifacts from the archeological digs at Oseberg, Borre, llyn Cerig Bach and the panels still displayed on the side of the Urnes church. Other inspirations are the rune stones from all over Nothern Europe from  Sweden to the Isle of Man. This is not an exhaustive list, only a short brief on a few special places and objects to me.

I use these inspirations when coming up with my designs. I try to stick within the borders of the styles (usually only one or two at a time) to try to keep that authentic magical feeling I’m trying to capture. I have an endless amount of ideas of my own I can use in my work, but I really do enjoy it when, say, an individual I’m planning to tattoo puts in their inspiration and ideas they want to express through a tattoo. For me the busier and more complex the idea behind the tattoo is, the more I am challenged and inspired. This is within the lines of what is possible, though. For instance, if somebody wants only to tattoo their upper outer arm but they want the entire story of Norse mythology in the design, I would feel that in trying to express such a large amount of information in such a small space you would lose the balance of composition. Also I do my best to make my tattoo designs capable of withstanding the test of time on the skin. After a few years, due to the way the human body works and cell replacement of the skin the ink will spread slightly over the years. This is a fact about tattooing that cannot be changed and has to be accepted before having a tattoo. On this principle the lines, shading and dots that make up my tattoos are designed in such a way as not to age badly over the years, and I hope they will look as impressive after 20 years as the day they were first done. Of course this also comes down to how well the individual that has the tattoo looks after them. Tattoos fade in the sun for instance. Some people embrace this and don’t mind getting scars and scrapes over their tattoos. I admire this as tattoos are a form of a diary to me as much as the scars are.

I do not write this condoning self harm, quite the opposite! A scar across a tattoo from falling when you were up a mountain with a friend can be looked back on fondly and positively.

I love story telling through my work, but that is a subject for another time.

I don’t usually take tattoo design commissions unless the person asking me literally lives on the other side of the world and physically cannot come to me. I feel the best way to do a tattoo design is straight onto the skin after talking the design requirements and direction in person. Trying to do this online can, at times, be impossible. So much information can be misinterpreted, and the going back and forth and making changes to designs is pointless when it can be done so much more naturally in person. Doing all of this process online can also affect my creative passion for the design, and so I actively avoid it. I also draw directly onto skin as I like my designs to flow with the body as much as possible. And of course, this is how ancient tattooing was done.

Thank you for reading my short rant about my creative background and process. If you have any questions or subjects you wish for me to address please don’t hesitate to contact me and I’ll do my best to respond as soon as I can. 😉

2 Responses to "The Ideas behind the Art"
  1. Hi Sean, been following your stuff for a while and wondering if you would do me a sleeve design? I’m based in NZ and have been trying to find someone that does a similar style without luck 😭 So just really hopeful that you would just take on a design commission that a local artist could do. Or even a previous sleeve design that I could use.

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