LIKE many people, Whakatane tattoo artist Richard Nielsen has been unable to ply his trade during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Just because he can’t tattoo his art on to his customers, during what he has dubbed “the Tatocalypse”, he hasn’t stopped being creative.

He normally spends part of his time creating the images tattoo artists call “flashes” that they can display on their shop walls for customers to select to have tattooed on themselves.

“I used to spend about an hour of my day just drawing, now it takes up about three quarters of my time,” he said.

IN LIMBO: Whakatane tattoo artist Richard Nielsen continues his creativity during lockdown creating “flashes” for other artists to use. File photo

The creativity has been in evidence on his Facebook page, @richneilsontattoo, with new art works appearing every day, most of which have Covid-19 themes.

They have become so popular that he has been taking orders for prints. He has also been swapping flashes with others in the international tattooing community, in places as far away a Spain and Italy.

Many of these have a distinct political inspiration such as the “Saint Cindy” one pictured; some are dedicated to frontline staff such as nurses, and others play on messages being pushed by health officials such as Hold Fast, and more.

Nielsen said his art was inspired by the old school tattoos often seen on sailors in the 1950s and ‘60s. Ships, eagles, roses, dragons and tropical scenes, dominate his work, often framed in intricate mandala-style patterns.

He has even posted some flashed for people who have printers at home to use for colouring in.

He said he started out drawing by hand but had gradually shifted to drawing more on his iPad during the lockdown period as art supplies became more scarce.

With tattooing requiring prolonged close contact Nielsen has had to become accepting of the fact that the Tatocalypse will continue until New Zealand’s Covid-19 response reaches level two. He misses it a lot though and can’t wait to be reunited with the usual tool of his trade.