Steen B. Rasmussen; Danish “Old Timers” Vol. 7:

Steen B. Rasmussen; Danish “Old Timers” Vol. 7:
November 27
14:15 2017

Lille Steen/Little Rock; Short Guy With Lots of Heart:

Steen himself, at work.

Steen B. Rasmussen, to some of the other Danish old timers, this tattoo artist is known as “lille Steen”.
He has never been too tall, as he chuckles during the interview. But he actually only found out about this nickname, late in his career. It wasn’t until he spoke with Tattoo-Liz (another Danish old timer from Copenhagen) a couple of years ago, that he found out about it

But he knows that it is all love, no one means it in a demeaning way when they call him that. For most of his old colleagues, it is just friendly banter and their way of showing him respect and love. No one doubts his skill or know how, when it comes to his craft as a tattoo artist. Plus he is personally all smiles and a friendly attitude.

From Fyn to Jutland and Back Again:

Now a days Steen lives in Svendborg, a calm lovely little city on the Danish island of Fyn. He even has his shop, in the basement of him and his wife’s house, where they have set up a legitimate tattoo studio.
So there is no crummy home tattooing going on, it is a real studio, he just lives upstairs. It just makes it easier to get home after work, as Steen puts it with roaring laughter.

It’s been like that for almost 20 years now, he previously lived in an apartment, but him and his wife decided agreed that it was time to move out of the big city. So they both agreed that a house somewhere more quiet and with more space was a better idea.

But back when he started out as a tattoo artist many years ago, he travelled all over the place. He started out in a studio in Odense, on a street called Skibhusvej. Then he moved to Jutland and lived in a city called Herning for some time, which was a small town back in those days.  He moved to the city Aalborg in Northern Jutland next, where he met Brian (another Danish old timer) who was working in a studio called Body-Art. Then he moved back to Herning, and later on he would move back to Fyn again.

Commuting 100’s of KM To Work, to Opening his Own Studio:

Before he moved anywhere, Steen had already secured a job in Jutland. But he couldn’t find anywhere to live to start with, nor did he have a car. So for quite some time, he actually commuted and took buses and trains to get to work, several hundreds of kilometres from where he lived. But as Steen puts it, when you are young and really want to be something (tattoo artist), that is what you sometimes have to do.

But then he moved to Herning with his wife and kids in 92 or 93, but they moved back to Odense after one and a half years in Herning. That’s when he decided to open his own tattoo studio, back in the neighbourhood where he had started out himself. He remained in that shop, until he moved it into a larger space on another street, where he then remained till 2003. Personally he hopes and believes, that people are more organized when they travel around these days.

Needed a Break To Figure Stuff Out:

After having run his own studio till 2003, Steen decided he needed a break from tattooing. So from 2003-2007 he didn’t work as a tattoo artist. He even spent a couple of years in Canada, where his wife is from.
Steen spent those 4 years total, working with all sorts of stuff that wasn’t tattooing, his wife worked at an office and helped him get a job in as a metal worker/smith in that company.

He saved up lots of money throughout these years, which he used to restart his tattoo career afterwards, buying the basement and the house, setting up his dream studio. But he actually worked with all sorts of other stuff than tattooing, until the economic crisis came. He still painted and drew a lot, keeping his skills sharp. Steen even saved all his old tattoo gear that was still serviceable, throughout the years; he kind of always knew that he wanted to be a tattoo artist more than anything.

He just had to go out and see what was out there, to be completely certain about what he wanted.  To see if the grass is green on the other side, as the old saying goes, but when he finally sat down I his basement and grabbed his tattoo machine again, he felt completely at home.

A Later Start than Most Back Then:

As you may have read, many of the other old timers started out quite young with tattooing. But Steen started his career as an artist, back I 1889 at the age of 23. However, tattooing was always a childhood dream for him, he grew up loving tattoos. He lived with his parents in their tavern, so already from his early childhood, he saw loads of sailors with colourful tattoos.

Steen even used to walk by Tattoo Bubi’s studio in Odense, on his way to school. He would stare at the windows and the drawings in that studio for so long, that he would be late for school often. So he was already fascinated with tattoos from an early age.

He got started in a bit of an unorthodox way. He used to box a lot as a young man, while he was drawing and painting a lot in his spare time. One of his friends, whom he boxed with, his brother was Johnny Skovbo another of the Danish Old Timers. Johnny’s little brother had seen how good Steen could draw and Steen drew a bit for him. In return he got help through the brother and Johnny, with what equipment he needed to buy to get started as a tattoo artist, which he then bought from Sprawling and Rogers.

Almost a month went by, before the equipment arrived with the post. But when it did arrive, he started to figure out on his own, how it all worked.

From Practicing on Friends to His First Job:

Steen never had an actual apprenticeship, but he did have a good friend from boxing. A friend who let Steen practice on him, but that friend also got tattooed by Jørgen Christiansen in Aarhus. So Steen had a lot of inspiration as well, looking at the tattoos Jørgen had done on his friend. A lot of the other Jutland tattoo artists, also helped out Steen with tips and advice.

But after a while, having already opened his own studio. A tattoo artist called Fnug was the first who then asked Steen, if he wanted to go to this (country)faire. Steen then went to the faire a couple of years in a row, it was very exciting meeting loads of interesting people and tattoo artists, networking.
It kind of all helped his career as a tattoo artist get started.

Being a Tattoo Artist Today:

Steen thinks it is an amazing time to be a tattoo artist currently. There is so much new stuff and people are able to do much more, and they are so talented. It is better than ever before, when it comes to the artistry of tattooing. The older timers also did some cool stuff with tattooing, but the youngsters are developing much quicker than they did back in the day.

Part of it is because they don’t need to spend time, learning all the same stuff the old timers had to learn. At the same time, they have inspiration today online and through Facebook. All of that, it makes them incredibly talented. It is in a way to Steen’s advantage that they don’t have the same routine him and the other old timers developed. But they also learn and grow and develop their own routine.

There are just some talents out there today, who are practically born into the industry and they develop at lightning speed. He also loves that, in his opinion, the young tattoo artists today are really good at helping out each other.

Have to Keep Up or Get Left Behind:

Today Steen is 51, but he still loves his job as a tattoo artist. But he is aware that you need to be careful as an old timer, in the face of all the new developments that happen all the time today, in the tattoo industry.
You have to be careful not to be “all knowing”, just because you have lots experience as an old timer.

A guy who has been tattooing for just 4 years, can be just as good if not better, than a guy who has done it for 40. That is just how things are today, with all the changes that have happened in the industry. Some of the youngsters are using completely new techniques that they have never even seen before. But Steen is aware of this; he loves learning from the youngsters too.

But it is rare that you meet a tattoo artist, without learning a thing or two from them. So of course this is also the case, when an old timer meets one of the youngsters.

Generally Positive but…:

Generally speaking Steen is really pleased with how the world of tattooing is today. However, there is perhaps an oversaturation of artists in the business today. But he is not too worried about this, because at the same time, there are more clients than ever today. It is all about viewing the glass as half full, you might as well get the best you can out of it.

Personally he is just hoping, that he can still tattoo when he gets to the age of 70, but there is no guarantee for that. His body might give out on him, but he knows one thing for a fact. As long as he works hard and keeps up with all the new developments in the industry, he can keep tattooing.

If you don’t want to listen, learn and improve yourself as an old timer today, you might as well hang up your tattoo machine and stop. Steen would personally rather learn from the youngsters, stay up to date and improve himself always. All the old tattoo artists should learn from the youngsters, now and then.

Final Comments:

A lot of the old timers as well as the youngsters who are still capable of tattooing, all of them can learn something from one another. People shouldn’t be blind or deaf, towards the guys from other generations.
But it is also a bit cool, when you see the youngsters doing old school, feels like homage to the older guy’s generation.

Personally the main goal for Steen is to keep on tattooing till he can’t physically do it anymore, as long as he is having fun it is awesome.  As long as that is the case and he can enjoy his work, as well as his life with his wife. Then things are actually rather perfect, in his opinion.

We hope you enjoyed this 7th installment in our “old timers” series. Please keep your eye on Mediazink for more awesome articles. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram (@Mediazink_Official), for more awesome articles and other content.

About Author



Mads W. K. Masters of science in Sociology (Cand. Scient. Soc.), from the University of Copenhagen, who specializes in embodiment sociology, but especially in tattoos and tattoo culture etc.

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