Every Friday, BULLETT’s introducing our favorite Instagram profiles and getting to know the people behind the posts.
Curt Montgomery will tattoo pretty much anything, as long as you’re okay with him reimagining it in minimal, but bold line work. Scrolling through his Instagram, you immediately get a sense of both his style and dynamic ability as an artist. With an eye for precise detail, Montgomery makes the words “DADDY ISSUES,” look just as artful as an abstract rendering of two people making out. For him, design concepts are made timeless and most tattooable when they’re completely broken down.
Starting with a focus on hyperrealism, Montgomery grew into his minimalist approach after time at art school and years in isolation. The 36-year-old honed his illustration skills by moving to northern Canada by himself, where he realized he wanted to pursue tattooing. After securing an apprenticeship in Toronto, his style gradually shifted away from realism to one-color line work.
But having simple designs doesn’t make his work is shallow—Montgomery deals mainly in death, sex, and the human condition. While his favorite pieces are of random objects like lawn chairs and lamps, the ones that stand out confront mortality and romance with fearless humor. A kinky sex scene reading “YOLO,” or a skeleton touching fingers with a human hand both make playful commentary about youth, hedonism and redemption. After all, we’re all going to die, so we should stop wasting time and have weird sex—or, at least, get a tattoo that does.
How would you define your style?
I always keep it very minimal. When you have something very complicated, like a certain design that would generally require a lot of detail—the appeal to me is breaking it down to the bare bones of what it is and making it look good for someone to want permanently.
Why do you think people are drawn to such minimalist ink?
I think part of the appeal for younger people is the lack of commitment, where they don’t have to give up a bunch of space on their body to say something they want.
Do you think that’s unique to this generation?
It’s still a big commitment—it’s just nice that there’s a tattoo style that doesn’t require you to get big, bright pieces as your first piece. You can get small pieces and still have the same effect you’re hoping for—they’re just simple and easy to understand.
What is it about that type of line work that speaks to you?
As an illustrator, before I started tattooing, I illustrated high realism on paper. And then when I got into tattooing, I apprenticed to be a realism tattoo artist. But I really enjoyed lining. As the style progressed for me, I started dropping blacks out of the tattoos. I find it very challenging to say a lot with little—so as simple as they do look, there’s a lot of thought in each tattoo I do. I like that with line work, it has to be perfect, because there’s nowhere to hide any errors.
At the beginning of your career, why did you decide to move away and spend so much time alone?
I was 28 at the time, and I was on the brink of either shit or get off the pot with drawing. I either had to get sorted real fast or get a 9-5, because I’d been floating around. And when I got out of the city to go live in isolation, it helped me focus. On a Friday night there was nothing to do but get better as an artist.
Were you following other tattoo artists on Instagram while you were there?
When I was up north I had no social media—I think I had a flip phone. I only had books to reference visuals from.
Does Instagram affect ink trends?
People see the trends so much more easily. Before Instagram, there wasn’t the visual reference of what you could get. You had to go on people’s sites or go into their shops and look at their books. But now, you have visual references from all over the world, and it’s improved tattooing for customers. You’re no longer bound to your local tattoo artist.
But has it made your job more challenging?
I haven’t tattooed outside of the Instagram era, but I would think it’s made tattoo artists extremely careful. I feel like I have to be so good with every single tattoo—there’s the added pressure with Instagram that all your work will be seen by so many other people, and it has to be top notch all the time, or else it’s a wasted opportunity.