Interview with a flash painter, Marlon Maher.

Written by Thomas (Flash Rules Everything Around Me)

Marlon Maher is a 23 year old flash painter from Brisbane, Australia. I have to say I couldn’t believe it when I read in this interview he has been painting for less than a year! His stuff is so good and really just keeps improving with every painting, I really think he is going to make a great tattoo artist in the future.

Check out his Instagram here, and his carbon made portfolio here. Go follow and support this guy as he is going to be a big name one day!

Enjoy the interview below and look out for the awesome tip of using a razor blade!

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How long have you been painting for? How did you learn to paint? What made you decide to start painting?

I have been painting for just about 10 months. I decided at the end of 2016 that I wanted to seriously pursue my dream of being a tattoo artist. So I started drawing, made an Instagram account dedicated to my art and started my research. I stumbled upon another traditional painter who lives in Brisbane too (@livefastdienever), we had a chat on instagram and he invited me to have a paint session with him and taught me all the basics, what paints, what he uses and which techniques. Robert helped me out big time when I first started and I am forever grateful for that!

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What sort of thing do you use for reference for your designs? Do you re-draw things, trace things or think of your own designs?

I use books for my references, I have a bunch of great traditional flash books which feature flash by all the greats, such as Ed smith, Coney Island Joe, Bert Grimm, Sailor Jerry and George Burchett. I re-draw and copy from the books – I don’t like tracing straight from the original. From re-drawing, you start to get an element of your own story in the design. I like to try and chop and change things from the originals as much as I can, while also pulling a lot of influence from my favourite artists on Instagram.

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Your paintings seem to be getting better and better and better! Do you do anything specific to try and improve? What’s the biggest thing you’ve learnt since you started painting?

Thanks very much! I really appreciate that – I try to immerse myself in other people’s art. I am constantly glued to Instagram, following so many painters, tattooists and other artists. This keeps me motivated, which I think is the key to improvement. Since I started painting I think the biggest thing I learnt was to be patient, and add heaps of black!

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You do quite a lot of splits and trades, how do you feel doing stuff like that affects your painting? Have you ever made any huge mistakes on a split and had to try and cover it up?

Doing splits and trades keeps you on point and motivated, I definitely feel the pressure not to fuck up, I put more thought into my splits because of this, I even do a practice run before putting it onto the paper. I haven’t made any huge mistakes yet, definitely had a few drips and drops of stray paint. But I just wait for it to dry then scratch it out with a razor blade.

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Australia has some incredible traditional tattoo artists at the moment, as well as some cool artists from the past. Is there anything unique about traditional tattoos in Australia? Or any Australian tattoo legends (past or present) that have really influenced you?

There are definitely some amazing artists in Australia, I wouldn’t say that there is anything unique about traditional tattoo art in Australia as a whole, but as far as individual artists go, there are some really unique gems down under. In saying that though, there are a couple of artists such as Tom Burrey, who are amazing at using Australia animals, themes and other images and combining them into traditional style tattoos. I don’t know much about tattoo history in Australia so I get influenced a lot by current artists. A few of the unique gems that really influence me are Chingy Fringe at Alfred St, Tommy Doom at TrailerTrash tattoo, Josh Sutterby at Love Tattoo Parlour and Alexis Hepburn at Alfred st. I am constantly blown away by all of their work!

What other artists from the past or present have influenced you to paint, or had an influence on your style?

I am definitely more influenced by present artists, although I will always have the a tonne of respect for the godfathers of traditional tattoo art. Some other current artists that I really dig at the moment are Bob TateAyden ThomasFergus SimmsDan Santoro and Capilli TupouI have been referencing Sailor Jerry a lot recently, his designs are amazing and hard to beat. I am also influenced a lot by Bert Grimm and Ed Smith.

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What equipment do you use? Has this changed much since you first started?

I use Arches watercolour paper, Ecoline inks, a small round brush, an angled brush, my huge home made lightbox, A3 sketch pad, a printer for resizing designs and an array of pencils. My tool box has definitely changed. I started out using watercolour pencils and the cheapest paper in the shop, which was very hard to work with. I am planning on trying out acrylic inks – I think trying a bunch of different mediums and experimenting is key, so my equipment is constantly growing and changing, which makes it pretty fun.

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Do you think traditional tattoo art will still be popular in 20 years time?

I don’t think traditional tattoo art will be as popular in 20 years as it is now, it’ll will come in and out of fashion just like everything else.

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Follow Marlon Maher on Instagram @sketchy_marls

For your one-stop for Traditional Tattoo Flash Painting Interviews and Techniques visit