Inspiration Board | Thomas Hooper

Tattoo Artist

Yeah, it's easy to be apprehensive before going under the needle of a tattoo artist's gun, but sometimes the feeling is mutual. Acclaimed contemporary artist Thomas Hooper reminisces about the first tattoo he ever gave: "It was so stressful I wanted to vomit and run away from what I was doing." Little did Hooper know when Jim macAirt of Good Karma encouraged him to take a stab at tattooing, that his life would change forever. From Good Karma, the English-born Hooper hopped around shops in London until moving to Brooklyn with his wife, Kimberly, in 2007. Pulling inspiration from natural forms, geometric shapes, Eastern religious imagery, and the unconscious, Hooper's sharp line work and intricate pointillism have gained an international following. "I strive to use a symbology and language that is both unique and visually appealing," Hooper says. "My teacher, Jim [macAirt], introduced me to Tibetan art. I feel in love with the visual beauty of the Buddhist images and started learning about the iconography, and this in turn taught me about Theravada Buddhism." Though he's traveled the world with his work—from Europe to Japan and both coasts of America—Hooper now resides in Austin with his wife and son. Earlier this year, he released his latest book, Inward: The Art of Thomas Hooper, a compilation of his flash, paintings, and textures from the last 10 years of his career. When he's not tattooing in London or San Francisco, Hooper can be found sketching up new pieces at Rock of Ages Tattoo (2310 S Lamar Blvd). To this day, he still gets giddy when working on a client. "Simply put, it's amazing, terrifying, stressful, and a complete honor to be trusted with such an incredible commitment," says Hooper.


Handmade compass — This was made for me by a friend and peer Scott Sylvia. I have a strong love for handmade tools; they have a connection to the person who made them and remind me to go out and do things for myself.

Bag of crimson red tattoo pigment — This pigment is part of tattooing. I don't use it in my tattooing but like to mix it in to some of my painting mediums.

Fuji x1pro — I love taking pictures. And this little camera is incredible. I couldn't live without a good camera because I like to keep records of my tattoos.

My tattoo machines — I use them every day and wouldn’t be able to do what I do without them.

Skull — Any of my skulls from my collection remind me of our impermanent nature and how fragile the system that supports our consciousness is.

Brushes, Pencil, and compass — I couldn’t live without these. I like to be very formulated and exact, but at the same time I like to erode and deform the structures and patterns I create. My tools usually end up receiving a lot of abuse and I use them until they have nothing left.

Black ink — Everything I do utilizes this substance, drawing, tattooing and painting. This blackness and its iconographic nature is constantly inspiring. The green bottle of sumi is one of my favorites.

Mandala stencil — Mandalas are used heavily in all of my work. This stencil was part of a project that I did whilst working at saved tattoo in Brooklyn. I love that place, and this a great reminder.

Old shell — This is a reference to sacred geometry. You will see it in all my work.

The rose — This flower is faultless and I have a constant draw to use it in my art.

Ink well and stipple rotary — This is a simple machine I modified to create dots on paper—something I use a lot in my art.

Skull rings — These I wear every day. They are created from drawings I made. I love how a 2d image of mine became a solid 3d object.

For more information, contact Rock of Ages Tattoo. 2310 S Lamar Blvd #105, Austin, TX 78704. (512) 804-1213. Or visit


Photography by Bill Sallans

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