There’s something about Charley Gerardin’s tattoos you can’t help but want—and something about his subjects you want to know. Whether he’s inking recreations from your favorite ’90s movies or quiet nude scenescapes, the Melbourne-based artist makes his designs feel real. A naked girl reading a book, the lesbian kiss in Cruel Intentions—Gerardin tats private moments that bring you in. And instead of feeling like a voyeur, his subtle mix of fine lines and high contrast create a sense of intimacy that make it seem just like you’re there.
BULLETT caught up with the artist to talk drawing, drunken tattoos and his definitive style.
Name: Charley Gerardin
Favorite Tattoo Artist: Ed Hardy
Favorite Song to Tattoo To: “Oh Lala,” PNL
Favorite Thing To Tattoo: Naked people
Next Tattoo You Want: A flower around one of my nipples
How did you get into tattooing?
I got into tattooing because I was sick of always dragging my feet to go to work for something that wasn’t bringing me any joy, and also sick of working for some boss that I hated in the first place. Moving to Melbourne, I was suddenly surrounded by creatives and realized I could something different with my life, something fulfilling.
When did you get your first piece?
I actually did it on myself when I was 16—it was meant to be a Spade on my forearm, but because I had no clue how to make a good tattoo, it ended up looking more like a strawberry. I got it covered up when I turned 18.
How did you go from just liking tattoos to wanting to be an actual artist?
I remember being on a trip in Europe with my girlfriend Sass and finding a book about traditional tattoo style—that was a big revelation for me, and the starting point of wanting to become a tattooist. I saw this amazing history and the roots of what illustrated tattooing is now. And if I wanted to learn to tattoo, I had to learn the basics first. Once you know how to do a good traditional tattoo then you can use those skills to not make mistakes on other styles you may want to try.
How did you develop your style?
It’s a bit of a mix of a lot of different styles that I love. I really enjoy being able to do different things everyday—one day being able to do a portrait, then something with more simple line work, then something more traditional. To me being a good tattooist, means being able to do anything a client may ask—that’s what I’m working towards everyday.
Is your approach to drawing the same as your approach for tattoos?
It’s different because not every drawing can translate well. To draw a good tattoo design, you need to respect a few rules. The main one is to visualize how the tattoo will age—because they spread in the skin with time, you need to be sure that you leave space in the design. So many rules I’ve learned from traditional tattoo art—like keeping it as contrasted as possible, and as readable.
What do you get out of doing tattoos that you don’t get from working in another medium?
I guess, being able to have a vision of what it will look like in my head before it’s done. When I’m painting, I’m never sure what the result will be because I’m never sure of myself—kind of trial and error, changing as I go. But I can’t do that with tattoos. When people come to me with their ideas, I have to take a step back and know exactly how I’m going to interpret them. Somehow I’m always 100% sure it will make a good piece—probably because I don’t always have to think of the base idea.
What’s the hardest tattoo you’ve ever done?
It’s challenging everyday—I’m still learning a lot. Tattooing, to me, is the hardest way of painting/drawing that I’ve done so far. You can be doing a very simple tattoo which may be harder than some super realistic one—it just depends on a lot of things. But the main challenge comes from the fact that everyone has different skin—i’s like doing a painting but not knowing what the canvas will be until you start, which is nerve wracking.
Are there any pieces you’ll never do?
I’m focusing on a lot of black only tattoos right now—that’s one of my restriction at the moment. But I’m not stuck doing black tattoos forever—I don’t know where tattooing will take me in just a few months. That’s what’s so exciting about it—non stop self-questioning.
How important is the experience when getting/giving a tattoo?
It’s so important—I always make sure to value the fact that people are offering me a piece of their skin for life. I’m very grateful of that.