nigel palmer
nigel palmer - disrupting the surface


Random thoughts, musings, and reminders to self.

Posts tagged tattoo
Divergent Movie
At last, I was somehow very tenuously connected to the movie industry!

Back in early 2014 I received a somewhat cryptic email from an MTV journalist wishing to discuss my involvement with the sci-fi movie ‘Divergent’.

I had no idea what they were talking about and had not heard of the movie, so I was totally baffled.


It turns out that my name had been mentioned by Andy Nicholson, the art director of the movie, during an interview with an online tattoo magazine.

I must say I was surprised and flattered. I had no idea my work had spread so far as I have never been one for self promotion or marketing. I just did the work, kept my head down, and stayed in the shadows.

( It looks the article has recently been removed but luckily I had a screen shot.


MTV Interview

Still in a state of confusion, and after a few emails, a telephone interview was arranged for MTV News. This was quite strange for me because I really don’t like speaking on the phone, and we had to get the timing right as I was in Brighton (UK) and they were in New York.

It was all rather surreal, and I still had no idea what was really going on.

Here’s a link to the interview itself:

Screen Shot 2018-02-12 at 22.34.50.png

A screen shot of the interview header and its somewhat sensationalist title.

Being one to underplay things, this made me squirm a little.

(Image links are broken because I later removed some instagram posts)


Inspired, really?

I had to find out more, I mean, I had absolutely nothing to do with this movie in any way whatsoever!

I managed to contact Andy Nicholson and after a brief but pleasant email conversation it all started to make sense.

He was familiar with my work, and that of many others whom had had an influence on the designs, but for some reason the magazine chose to only mention my name during their interview. Of course, I’m very grateful for this as it gave me a great deal of exposure, and made me seem more influential than I actually am, ha ha.

Chatting with him also eased my mind a bit because I couldn’t really see any connection with my work to the designs in the movie, maybe some of my very early work, but I could see plenty of influences from other tattoo artists. Even some of my colleagues mentioned there was only a slight resemblance to some of my early work.

It was all good though.

At last, I was somehow very tenuously connected to the movie industry!


What happened next?

Well, as much as it felt good to be mentioned, and it did increase my exposure, it was also a bit of a double edged sword.

I started receiving numerous requests for the tattoo designs, especially the back-piece worn by Theo James. There was the general misconception that I had designed the tattoos for the movie, which was definitely not the case.

Please can you give me the tattoo designs as worn by Theo James in Divergent?

It would mean so much to me...

As much as I appreciated the interest I eventually had to formulate a stock reply:


“Thank you for your interest. Unfortunately, I do not nor have ever had any association with the Divergent movie or its designers. I did not design, nor do I own or have in my possession, any of the tattoo designs used. Therefore, I am unable to supply you with any of the designs.

If you really want the designs I would suggest trying to contact the original designers, whoever they are.

Sorry I cannot be of further assistance.”


The takeaway

In truth, it was fun at first but started to become a pain, not because of the requests but because I didn’t want to feel like a fraud.

I don’t like taking credit for something I didn’t do. I began to feel a little embarrassed and maybe even slightly ashamed of the idea that people might think I was taking advantage of the situation, and taking credit for the designs where it was not due.

Some even told me to take advantage, run with it, copy the designs or sell my own versions of them, as I’m sure less scrupulous people would do.

That isn’t how I do things. Maybe I missed out on a good opportunity, but honesty and integrity are more important to me than opportunities.

tattoon palmermedia, tattoo, film, divergent
about my tattoo works

I plan to put my tattooing on hiatus in 2019 and focus on my other projects. 



I have been tattooing professionally since 1998 although I had been dabbling with it since 1992, utilising tattoo techniques in my artwork and on myself.

Over the years my work developed into a graphic abstract style incorporating dotwork and greyshade techniques, and cycling through various graphic elements. Most of the work has been designed freehand, as the tattoo progressed, in an improvised and organic way. Rarely was any idea mapped out on paper first.

The main thread that runs through my tattoo work is not so much the finished designs, but the process of achieving those designs. I have a long term process of incorporating certain motifs or elements, then over time, adapting and transforming them into newly added elements.

As each element and mark made informs the next one, so each tattoo informs the next. It is a process of adding something new, and removing an old element from the repertoire once it has served its purpose, then cycling back to revisit old ideas with new eyes and experience.

This is not a linear process, and multiple streams of ideas can run simultaneously over many years. As time passes, various elements are combined and transformed, then recombined. For example, squares become cubes become irregular blocks, triangles become prisms become crystals.

The basic stylistic themes of my work have gone through many phases and developments, including in no particular order:

  • hexagons

  • circles

  • maps

  • grids

  • squares

  • triangles

  • typography

  • layers

  • negative space

  • regular structures and patterns

  • irregular structures and patterns

  • minimalism

  • maximalism

I am aesthetically drawn to minimalism but for some reason maximalism seems to creep into my tattoo designs.