Apprentice Series: Callum Hultquist

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Welcome to the 'Apprentice Series' where we speak to some of the most promising tattoo apprentices from across the globe. We'll be discussing their journey, ups and downs, apprentice life and tips on scoring an apprenticeship yourself.

First up is apprentice Callum Hultquist (@Innerlucem) who is the newest addition to the team at Duke Street Tattoo in Essex. Callum has been painting since he was a child and has developed his own unique style of Traditional tattooing. He has a plethora of amazing paintings to his name and is going to be starting on skin in the next few weeks. 

How long have you been painting and has tattooing always been a goal for you?

I started painting intensively about 3 years ago as a result of being unsatisfied with music as my sole creative outlet - but I’ve been drawing since I was a child. It was only after spending time within Duke Street Tattoo, surrounded by flash mounted on the walls, that I found a very enticing and unique prospect in which I could channel creative focus.

It’s obvious that you developed your style before you started to learn to tattoo, but what do you think usually comes first? Style or tattooing?

Style, without a doubt. Tattooing is, at its core, a medium through which style and imagery is applied. And style is honed through all manner of influences individual to the person. But then again, quality tattooing is important to strengthen a style, so there is a symbiosis there.

Your style is a very unique take on Traditional. Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I’ve always sort of seen Traditional as a vessel in which you can convey anything and everything that fascinates. It is important to acknowledge those that have paved the way so far and the essence of traditional tattooing is taking classic designs forward with respect. Novelty is always at the forefront within my work; I like to explore esoteric and alchemical ideas using traditional imagery. But I enjoy light-hearted and comical designs too - they’re far less pretentious!

Do you think it’s important to be surrounded with people with a similar style to yours when you are learning or does it not really matter?

In my case it has certainly helped. When other people are using the same techniques in application that you will eventually be using in your work (even if the subject matter is different), then you will absolutely see benefit. Additionally it helps in a creative sense as sometimes they can see your work from a perspective of similar tastes.

Could you tell us a bit about the process of getting an apprenticeship? Is there a lot of competition?

Apprenticeships were, are and will always be difficult to obtain. There is always competition and timing is everything. And even then, finding a good apprenticeship is even harder. I’ve been very lucky to be offered the position in my current shop - previously I’ve been in apprenticeships that have been all take and no give. The best tools at your disposal for getting an apprenticeship will always be persistence and humility - don’t take shortcuts on building a good portfolio, it takes time.

Did you face any sort of confidence barriers before trying to get an apprenticeship and how long did it take before you felt ready for it?

I guess I’ve sort of answered this in the last question in a way. There isn’t really any sort of preparation that can make you ready for it except being aware that the whole process is a long one.

How are you finding it at Duke Street so far?

Everyone at Duke Street has made me feel incredibly welcome and I’m humbled by how at home I’ve been made to feel already. So, a sincere thank you to everyone at the shop.

Excited or nervous to start on skin?


Callum is definitely one to watch so be sure to check out the rest of his work, keep your eyes peeled for when he opens his books and maybe even pick up one of his awesome original paintings over on his Insta @innerlucem.