World renowned artist Mike Cole is an extremely rare breed of artist in that he prefers to remain completely anonymous and shies away from any kind of fame and recognition. Mikes biography does not appear on his website and guests are instead greeted to a photo of the man himself and the words “Speak through your art, not your mouth”. Mike has certainly done this as a quick glance through his portfolio reveals an incredible talent for bio organic, geometric, and Japanese style designs that make the viewer wonder why this amazing individual wishes to remain a mystery. Whatever the reason, the fact is Mike’s work rivals that of some of the best artists in the world and his reclusiveness only adds to his appeal.
Mike began tattooing after dropping out of art class in search of something that allowed him to express himself in a way he felt more comfortable. Having been in the business for almost 17 years Mike learned the trade as he went along and has never completed a formal apprenticeship. Counting artists such as Escher and Giger amongst his influences he has expressed a wish to blend together the bio-organic style of tattooing with a more hard-edged geometric style.
As you gaze upon Mike’s extensive portfolio the first thing that becomes clear is his incredible understanding of color and shading. The Japanese-themed full chest piece featuring two stunning lotus flowers is a wonderful example of how contrasting colors can be used to create an eye popping design. The saturated colors are painstakingly blended into one another to give a seamless design that seems almost impossible on human skin.
Another impressive piece is the biomechanical sleeve completed in primary colors that set each other off perfectly. In this jaw dropping design, Mike has used the clients own skin tone within the tattoo to give a 3 dimensional effect and gives the impression that the tattoo is an extension of the client himself. The use of light and fine line shading in this tattoo is truly mind-blowing and many established artists would benefit by borrowing from Mike’s technique.
Although Mike prefers to work mainly in high contrast colors the occasional black and gray piece will find its way into his gallery. A piece which shows Mike’s versatility as an artist is the black and gray geometric sleeve design worn on the upper arm. This tattoo is intricately detailed and shows a depth and tone that can only be achieved after hours of careful graduated shading.
Many of the leading tattoo artists around the world have chosen Mike to ink designs onto their own skin. Female artist Dee Dee Seruga handpicked Mike to finish a sleeve on her left arm, and a whole host of artists from the experienced to beginners count Mike amongst their biggest influences. Mike has also recently been featured in a tattoo book created by renowned artists Mike Devries and Guy Aitchison called ‘Tattoo Prodigies’ which features over 256 full color pages, 800 photographs, and a collection of interviews with featured artists.
A truly amazing piece which breaks from his traditional bio-organic and geometric style is the full color Japanese dragon which features breathtaking detail. This incredible design is shown in gentle tones of turquoise, aqua, gold, and shimmering lilacs to perfectly capture the mystical aura of the Japanese dragon. The Japanese have many different meanings attached to the dragon including freedom, good luck, wealth, and fearlessness. Many tattooists specialize in Japanese themed work but few are able to capture the magnificent beauty shown in Mike’s designs, and his work exhibits a great respect for the Japanese tattoo culture.
Mike does not currently operate out of one studio and instead leads a slightly nomadic existence as he appears as a guest artist in studios across America. He is also a regular on the convention circuit and details of his appearances can be found on his website. He has recently been working out of studios and conventions in the southern states and anyone wishing to catch him there can book an appointment through the website. Mikes personal life and past remain a mystery but in this day and age of the overhyped celebrity status this can only be a good thing. By letting his talent speak through his art, Mike has lent more credibility to his name than a thousand magazine articles could ever achieve.