Graham Beech Highlark

Graham Beech Refines Interpretations Of American Classic Tattoos


ROUGH N’ TUMBLE SIMPLICITY

Graham Beech tattoos in a style that’s both gritty and unhinged, but what I think sets him apart from other traditional American artists is the refined element coming through in his work. It’s as if all his pieces were coated in an invisible varnish. A varnish that softens rough edges and bathes everything within a six-inch radius in quiet glow. Graham keeps the rough n’ tumble simplicity of the style alive, but simultaneously harbors a devotion to intricate highlights, shadows and composition that feed off detail.

In terms of content, Graham’s playbook is filled with interpretations of American classics, with Japanese motifs merging in from time to time. The ‘puma meets the tiger’ while the ‘sparrow meets the serpent’, and most of the flora and fauna is done in that characteristic bold-edged manner, compromising traditional Japanese technique but immortalizing its cultural context. The aforementioned softness is especially evident in his faces, with their smooth contours and spellbound stares.

In one particular piece, the devil himself shows his sculpted countenance from behind a flesh-colored mask. The rose and timepiece pairing shows up on many a forearm in his portfolio, once in black and white, other times in color, crisp and familiar at every instance. Somehow, the traditional symbols we’re used to seeing don’t grow stale by Graham’s hand, instead taking their hefty histories and proving their relevance in the contemporary mainstream. And even though that mainstream has a tendency to swallow ideas and spit out half-assed duplicates, artists like Graham keep classic tattooing evolutionary but not exclusive.

To point out a few more examples that I feel embrace Graham’s creative identity well, there’s a little, unassuming tattoo tucked among the full-color felines and blossoms that features an atom diagram with arrowheads piercing the nucleus. That right there is a meshing of the conceptual and the classic, a completely custom piece designed to honor the best of both worlds. A black and grey key and heart-shaped lock combo is a thematic step away from the usual, but radiates the same personality and permanence. “Refined” is an understated way to put it. Graham trades simplicity when he needs to, but keeps a rhythm going through every piece, thereby respecting the roots of the style and at the same time, not allowing them to pin him to the ground. Find Graham at Made To Last Tattoo in Charlotte, N.

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