Some artists specialize in cartoon tattoos. Others have made black and gray realism their forte. Mat Rule is the rare artist who masters both. After falling in love with traditional, black and gray tattooing, he decided to combine the opposing genres to create an exceptionally unique signature style. His work literally sticks out and reminds us of movies like “Who Frame Roger Rabbit” and “Cool World” that brought cartoons into the real world. We sat down with Rule to find out how he found such a stunning style, which characters he likes to tattoo the most and much more.
Tell us how you were introduced to art? My uncle was a painter and I always watched him paint. It was really inspiring for me and I grew up with this idea of becoming an artist. I didn’t study art or become a painter, but that was always on my mind.
How did you come to tattooing? At one time, I lived in Shanghai right next to a tattoo shop. I already had some personal tattoos and [the shop] looked like a really cool atmosphere. They seemed really happy. I studied and worked in a night club. I didn’t really like what I was doing at the time, so the idea to try tattooing was born there.
How did you learn to tattoo? I didn’t do any apprenticeship, I learned on my own. When I got back to Paris a friend of mine was starting to tattoo and I watched him for a bit for the basics. Then I started doing fake skin and tattooing myself. After that I moved on to tattooing my friends and other people.
What’s the first style you fell in love with? At first, I really liked the old school traditional style. It’s pretty much the only style I knew before I started tattooing. I remember seeing Myke Chambers tattoos and that’s what made me start doing this style.
How did you go from traditional tattooing to what you do now? I was in a store and there was zero interest in traditional tattoos from customers. I did black and gray realism for about a year and when I went to a new shop the other artists really encouraged me to do what I wanted to do. I really missed doing traditional and I really liked doing black and gray, so I decided to combine the two styles. I just wanted to do something different.
How would you describe your current style? Carpet ruler style.
Do you remember the first tattoos you did in the Mat Rule style? I started by making gypsies. I did the traditional eyes and the rest of the face was black and gray.
What are some of your favorite characters that you have tattooed? I love the last Albert Einstein I did with Bender’s body in “Futurama”. I also really liked doing the Handsome Squidward with the body of Michelangelo’s “David”. It was a really weird idea but I loved it. But I find pleasure in making portraits with people or animals.
What is your tattoo process? I start from the idea and as soon as I find the character I want to work with, I look for the photo for the black and gray. Then I design the black and gray part of the tattoo and after that I draw the character.
Does your style have rules? The only rule is that the client and I like the result.
Tell us about your “Alice in Wonderland” that went viral. My client wanted an Alice tattoo with an acid lozenge and she let me do what I wanted to do. I used this shot of Dua Lipa with her tongue out and it was the perfect shot to mix in with Alice. It’s shocking to see it copied so many times. I didn’t expect it to happen like this. I’ve always had my work copied, but not as much as this one. This one was crazy
What advice would you give to artists who want to develop a unique style? Just try to do something you love and know how to do. Do something you don’t already see.