Meet the tattoo doctor: Sunderland body artist carrying out in-depth research into designs and practices as part of PhD

A Sunderland tattoo artist is carrying out in-depth research into his profession as part of a PhD on body art.

By Ross Robertson
Monday, 15 April, 2019, 11:34
Adam McDade. Picture issued by the University of Sunderland

Adam McDade, 29, is combining working in a tattoo studio with research into the production and design of the art he creates on people’s bodies.

The university of Sunderland student, who also has much of his own body covered with ink, said: “I think I was 14 when I got my first one,” recalls Adam, from Barnes in Sunderland. It was a Scorpio sign on my bicep – I got it covered up when I was 18.”

“I’ve now got tattoos on my feet, ankles, legs, calves, thighs, chest, arms, hands and fingers.

“I have always been interested in all types of visual medium; I used to draw quite a lot. It just so happens that tattooing is the form I am now working on.”

Adam has been tattooing other people professionally for the past 14 months at Triplesix studios in Fawcett Street, Sunderland; experience which he is now using as research for his PhD.

He said: “I really enjoy the physical process of the work and I get to utilise it as part of my research.

Adam McDade's tatto designs. Pictures issued by the University of Sunderland

“I also like the fact that it’s not just me who gets something out of this – it’s a collaborative process with someone else. You can see instant reactions to your work, the response they give is automatic.”

Adam, a former St Aidan’s School pupil, is in his second year of his six year PhD, which has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF).

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The practice-based PhD means Adam is able to work in his area of research, although this can be quite demanding.

He said: “I’m working seven days a week and it’s quite hard to support yourself financially through all of this research.

Adam McDade's tatto designs. Pictures issued by the University of Sunderland

“But I have always been very creative, whether it be through music or literature or tattooing.

“I like the way every tattooing job is different, the way each individual comes with a separate set of requirements, different budgets, and different skin types. It’s all fascinating.

“The brief is dictated by the client and the requirements change from person to person.

“My research is about enriching both academic understanding and professional practice of contemporary western tattooing. While tattooing has been studied within an academic context from a social sciences and historical perspective, very little is understood of the discipline from the perspective of design.”

Adam McDade's tatto designs. Pictures issued by the University of Sunderland

Adam did a Foundation year in Art and Design at the University of Sunderland before going on to successfully complete both a BA and MA in Illustration and Design.