Tony Torvis is the owner of Mortem Tattoo in Montréal, Canada. His work consists of traditional old school designs without colour, making his clients look like the brilliant black and white photographs of days long past.
Tony’s work is reminiscent of the great tattooers of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s but is still recognizable as a Tony Torvis piece.
Expect crisp clean lines and bold, powerful motifs such as dragons, snakes, lady heads, portraits, and flowers. There is original flash in the shop to choose from, or you can bring your own idea to him, or re-create an old piece of historical flash.
Tony’s Instagram page is full of both large and small scale work, from chest pieces to full backs, sleeves, and little filler pieces.
You’ll also notice from his Instagram page that the majority of clients are repeat customers. Tony’s tattoos are kind of like chips, you just can’t stop at one! Mortem tattoo is a must visit shop if you’re in the area, and there are other brilliant artists working there as well.
Ryan Cooper Thompson is a well-known tattoo artist based in Portland, Oregon. His work is a highly recognizable take on classic American traditional, using only black, red, and green in his colour palette, and taking direct inspiration from greats such as Percy Waters, Bob Wicks, and George Burchett.
Ryan’s lady portraits in particular are highly sought after, and his instagram feed is full of them for good reason; his ladies range from heads to full bodied nudes to butterfly ladies, and are wonderful to look at whether they’re palm sized or full backs.
If you’re getting your own RCT piece you can choose to have something custom designed, a piece of flash made by Ryan, or a flash piece based on older artists work that often date back to the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
Along with ladies you’ll find lots of flowers, dragons, butterflies, and other animals in his portfolio and on the walls of his shop.
Ryan tattoos everything from hands to backs, large and small, one session to multiples. So whether you live nearby or are just passing through you’ll be able to get yourself a timeless piece. (Though he is only tattooing people in the Oregon and Washington area during pandemic times). If you can’t make the trip to get a tattoo you can also buy prints of his here.
She tattoos in a hybrid style of old school and new school. Her old school techniques consist of thick bold lines and the classic colour scheme, with an added almost cartoon-ish look.
Lots of her work features cartoon characters from popular Disney movies and shows like Mickey and Minnie, Moana, Mulan, and more. Her Instagram is also full of old school classics like swallows, reapers, skulls, pinups, and lady heads.
Much of the work she does can be done as smaller pieces if you’re a tourist in the area, and she also puts together fantastic larger pieces such as full sleeves.
If you’re traveling in the area be sure to send her an email and get yourself an appointment, or if you live nearby add a few new pieces to your collection.
Doc Forbes is one of the most famous early tattoo artists in Canadian history, having learned the craft from Frederick Baldwin, the first tattoo artist in Canada to use an electric tattoo machine, in the 1920’s.
Doc Forbes trained under numerous brilliant artists including Pat Martynuik from San Francisco. Much of Doc’s work can be found in Lyle Tuttle’s collection, although unfortunately Doc suffered a stroke in the early 70’s which led to severe depression, which in turn led to him destroying a lot of his work.
Doc Forbes tattooed in the classic old school American traditional style, and most notably worked near the navy base in Victoria, and then on Davies Street right in Vancouver from the 1960’s through to the 1970’s. He died in 1977 on Lyle Tuttle’s birthday; October 10th. Though Doc was a pioneer of old school tattooing in Canada, he also performed medical tattoos on burn victims, and cosmetic tattooing on women’s lips and eyebrows.
Doc tattooed everyone, but his main clientele was young men in the Navy who often got classic military and navy designs such as eagles, skulls, roses, ships, and lover’s names.
A brilliant documentary about Doc can be seen here on CBC’s website. Made in 1964, and entitled “The Diary of a Tattooist,” the short documentary and interview features CBC host Harry Mannis visiting Doc in his shop in Victoria. Numerous people are tattooed in the short film including a mother of four, a man in his 80’s, a close friend of Doc’s, and two sailors. Throughout the documentary Doc talks about hygiene and safety in tattooing, how he makes his colours, the technicality of running the machine, who his clientele are, and much more.
Combining classic old school portraits of ladies and the wings of butterflies has long been a staple in old school tattooing. Flash from such legends as Bert Grimm, Ben Corday, and others from the 1800’s and 1900’s featured variations of the designs below, and more.
Portraits of women are one of the most popular images in tattooing, as are butterflies. Combining the two beautiful designs makes sense, and can form an elegant tattoo that stands the test of time.
One of the most popular ways for this design to be tattooed is a woman’s head with butterfly wings sprouting from behind, to the left and right.
These butterfly ladies can also be seen more like fairies, with the bodies of women and butterfly wings.
Old school American traditional is the most common style for this design, but black work, black and grey, and Neo-traditional are also popular.
Francesco does classic old school tattoos that are bright and vibrant in colour, with bold black lines. Looking at Francesco’s work, you’ll only see black, red, and yellow/gold making up these beautiful pieces.
His portfolio includes both one shot smaller pieces, and large full back or front pieces. Among these gorgeous designs you’ll find classics such as the Rock of Ages, Sun Dance, devils and angels, lady heads, and animals such as snakes, eagles, and butterfly’s.
Whether you live in Rome or are passing through, Francesco is another must see artist.
Joey strives to make a welcoming environment for all who wish to get tattooed, regardless of body type, skin tone, gender, etc. They are a fierce defender of Queer folks and also do their part to call out anti-Semitism, particularly in sub cultures of tattooing and alternative music. You can read an interview that features Joey and other Jewish artists here.
When you check out Joey’s instagram (linked above) you can expect to see lots of flowers, (Jewish) lady heads, and Hebrew script intermingled with classic old school tattoo designs.
Now (August 2020) Joey also makes face masks with other local Toronto artists, and has flash, shirts, tote bags, and more available on their Etsy.
Be sure to check them out if you live in Toronto or are passing through!