Vibe and visualisation: a chat with Melbourne tattoo artist Jake Danielson

Jake Danielson is a tattoo artist based in Empire Collective, a private studio operating out of Prahran. After enjoying a steep rise to popularity amongst his Melbourne peers and a growing international audience, he found a sweet spot working on large-scale pieces in a neo-traditional style.

That said, he’s always ready to tackle change head on. Ahead of his upcoming appearance at the Australian Tattoo Expo in Brisbane, we sat down with Jake for a chat.

Photo: Andy Swann jake danielson tattoo artist
Photo: Andy Swann

Having amassed a huge range of clients and over 200K Instagram followers in his short time as a tattoo artist, Jake Danielson already has his eyes set on new things.

HAPPY: What’s your creative space like? How does it influence your work?

JAKE: I work at a private studio called Empire. Every day I’m surrounded by some of the very best artists in the country, every one puts out such a high level of work and works so hard, it constantly motivates me to be better than yesterday.

HAPPY: How would you say your style has developed over time?

JAKE: Over time my style has moved from single session focused, smaller pieces in solely neo-traditional, to much larger scale, full body work. I still do neo-traditional, but now I take a much stronger Japanese influence and approach in the way I work.

HAPPY: Describe your creative process.

JAKE: When a client gives me an idea, I can usually visualise it in my head on the body as soon as I hear it. From there I’ll scribble together a layout of how I think it will work out. Depending on the subject I might do some reference searching or some research on the subject matter, so I can give the piece some back story, and I go from there.

It doesn’t always work out so fluently, but I’m lucky that I can visualise things and apply them in a rather smooth process.

HAPPY: What drew you towards tattooing when you were starting out?

JAKE: I grew up surrounded by BMX and skating, the local music scene, and family members having tattoos, so I always had a keen interest in tattoos. Having drawn ever since I could hold a pencil, I always wanted to find something to do with art as a career one day. The older I got the more naturally my art interests and lifestyle choices started to blend together.

HAPPY: What’s your favourite part about working with your medium?

JAKE: Tattooing is unlike ANY other medium. Sure it shares similarities with drawing and painting, which I grew up doing, but it’s such a unique medium – which is what I love about it. All my life I just wanted to draw and create, and I’ve tried my hand at so many different types of art and when I found tattooing I thought; ‘This is exactly what I want to do, every day, for the rest of my life’.

HAPPY: What’d the single most important piece of creative advice you’ve been given?

JAKE: If you think you know everything and you’ve got nothing else to learn, quit. My mentor told me this when I was early in my apprenticeship. I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning and trying to progress.


Jake Danielson will appear at the upcoming Australian Tattoo Expo in Brisbane, taking place July 20-22 at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. Grab all the details here.