Phil Berge Talks Point to Point
Phil Berge Talks Point to Point
Phil Berge
Point To Point

Phil Berge Talks Point to Point

Always up for a good time, creator of “stop motion” tattoos, smooth, collected and ever-positive, Phil Berge made a big move for love and along the way found a certain calling…he’s also always ready for a fun traddy.

Phil Berge Talks Point to Point


Phil Berge tattoo artist
Photo Credit: Kim Martel Gilbert - @kim.martel.gilbert

Patrick Coste: Phil Berge! It’s been a while eh? How’s the FAAAAAMOUS animated tattoo creator doing? We quickly forgot about the pandemic with the world on the brink of WW3 eh?

Phil Berge: Lol, you’re starting off a bit strong here Pat! LOL. I feel good, like everybody I guess. It is what it is… Hard with all that news, but you gotta stay positive and have fun too. You gotta take time to feel good and be positive.

PC: Lol, sorry about that, but I maintain the “FAMOUS” title :P LOL… I hear you, regarding everything that’s going on in the world. It’s a sensitive subject for sure… Kind of hard to ignore it… How are you coping these days?

If I recall... You were new to Montreal, freshly relocated from Quebec City to be with your talented partner! How are things in your realm?

PB: Thank you Pat! Yes, I moved from Quebec city at the end of 2019 and the pandemic hit just a few months later… These days, I keep myself aware but I don't dwell on the news or world events. I try to do my thing, keep my nose to the grindstone and do positive work, waiting for the news, seeing what's up… But mainly, I keep my head above the clouds, you know? But yes, I’m definitely aware of world issues...

PC: That move was sort of a new beginning for you… But, you've been at it for a little while now. How did you get into this tattooing thing?

PB: Like most people, I drew a lot and went the graphic design route, but in my younger days I always did animation and that’s what I wanted to do. I was doing animation with my mom’s camera and doing stop-motion and all that… I applied to the Animation course at the CEGEP (college) in Quebec City, but the course was canceled so I ended up doing graphic art, then University. Didn’t really question it when I was 17/18, it was just par for the course, you know? But then at University I realized that illustration was what I loved, and what I was going to do forever and I had to find a way to make a living at it… I was into the graffiti/punk scene, so tattoos were always there.

At that point I was like, “Hmmm… What do I do now?”, so I submitted my portfolio to shops for an apprenticeship. Most declined, but I found a spot in Lévis, QC in a shop. That was about 10 years ago…

PC: Was it hard for you to get in?

PB: Yes and no… I sent my portfolio but didn’t have any luck at the beginning, but at some point someone took me in. He was taking on a lot of apprentices. I was expected to draw and clean with the mop for a year or so, as my drawings were ok but not that great… I always loved traditional-style tattooing and knew that I wanted to do that. I’ve never been a natural at drawing. You can’t ask me to draw Realism, I simplify everything. That’s the way it is, you know? My capabilities are limited, so I thrive with what I'm good at…

Anyway, after a week or two he was like, “Ok, when are you getting a machine? So I got a Green Monster of all things; the one you could build, and my first tattoo was on my friend. It was the worst I’ve done and seen, lol.

PC: Amazing! Are you still friends? LOL.

PB: Lol, yes! We look at it at times and laugh. It was a tuna fish saying “Tuna Superfan!!” Lol…

My first boss was there when I was tattooing but there wasn’t much supervision, so I dipped the needle too far, lines were… Well… And you can only imagine the rest…

I wasn't great. I’m slow. I have to persevere quite a bit…It’s never natural!

I’m ever grateful for my first chance. I knew where I was going… I went to a website called “Swallows and Daggers” where you could find stuff like do’s and don'ts, tattoo philosophy and more.

All I wanted was to have a foot in the door to tattooing, so I did that… After a while the shop was going to close, but that’s a story for another day. 0_0 At that moment the ship was sinking and I was seeking a new place. After about a year of apprenticeship, I found a new home at Quebec's Tattoo Shack and it lasted about 7 or 8 years…

PC: I learned the same way Phil… Same website, lol! So, Tattoo Shack! Yes, I believe it was about the same time we got acquainted. I think it was the second Chicoutimi convention, a small but great convention. Hard to remember… About 10 years ago? WOW …

So, leaving a small shop for a decent and fairly big one, must have been quite the difference eh?

PB: Yes, but all was good, people were nice. It was a great move. I learned a lot in those days for sure. I grew a lot. Lots of walk-ins, fast paced, always traditional but it was a busy old Quebec shop and I grew so much. It’s how I got sort of good at it, found the balance, did great flash and my own style of Trad etc…

Hand Tattoos by Phil Berge
A bit more classic work by Phil Berge - Photo ©Phil Berge

PC: Good people indeed and don't worry, your lines are sharp! Lol…

This brings me to a bit more recent history and your FAMOUS title, Lol… You’re the creator of “Stop-Motion” animated tattoos… Not like, 3D animation.

I’m not kidding here, I truly mean it… Tell us how that came about…

PB: Lol, thank you! Feels weird but it’s true from what I know... You now know that I’m passionate about the old stop-motion, I just dig it… I can’t draw Realism so the 3D animation is something I don't know…

Some old-school, stop-motion clay animation by Phil Berge - Video ©Phil Berge

The idea of making a “moving” tattoo, for me, was stop-motion. I always wanted to do it, but how? So, after a work shift, I was like, “I need to try this…”

The possibilities sort of evolved with the technology, you know? In 2011, 2012, at some point Instagram launched videos on their platform, so there came the opportunity to do tattoo videos instead of only pictures…

I looked online for an animation on Google, “walk cycle”... I found a small walking cat. It was 16 frames long.

By then I had good clients and friends, I was doing tattoos and I was asking, “Heyyyy I’ve got my needles out and all, would you like to get a little cat?” etc. This is how it started. I’ve got about thirty-ish done so far and I started doing them in 2015…

It’s very nice that people dig it and want to pay for it. I’m blessed.

A sample of Phil Berge’s very cool walking cat “stop-motion” animation tattoo - Video ©Phil Berge

PC: Fantastic story Phil, truly! We can see the results on social media, and I want to go back to that in a bit but… It doesn't take just one minute to do that, right? I mean, a flash tattoo can be slapped on fast enough, but to make a “stop-motion” tattoo, it must be another story?

PB: Correct! That cat took me about three months to do. Not sure if you’ve seen the clown animation? The one that undresses? That one took me nine months and is very popular on social media.

PC: More like viral AF…Lol!

PB: Yes, the ghost one got about twenty-three-ish million views…

PC: TABAR***! Speaking of social media… Your age group and social media go hand in hand, as you were sorta born with it and you briefly talk about the story when you started. Social media is a huge part of today's routine. Did you expect that much success?

PB: Of course not, but it’s what we all work on. I knew it was useful, but it’s a love-hate relationship. It’s very useful and it helped me here in Montreal for sure. I had great clients based in Quebec City. When I moved to Montreal I had, in a sense, to redo all that. I dropped my portfolio off at a few places and Tatouage Royal was the one.

But yes, the pandemic burst my bubble a bit, you know? Not being able to meet people, not going to conventions, music shows and all that. But the shop was nice, walk-ins were coming in, so it did the job well.

Koko the Clown “stop-motion” animated tattoo by Phil Berge - video ©Phil Berge

PC: Right, right… But it’s been tough, eh? Great shop though, that must’ve helped a bit…

PB: Yes, in the beginning it was, you know? After seven years at the same place, then moving to a big city where traditional tattooers are mostly great and in abundance…

At that time, my “stop-motion” tattoos didn’t pick up, so at one point I made the “Koko The Clown” one.

A friend asked me to do it. I was like, “Fuck it let’s do it!” It was sixty frames, the biggest I’d made so far. It was the only one available and I was like; it doesn't matter how long it takes, I’m just gonna do it. It ended up being seventy-five frames and very popular, and it got me a boost in my bookings.

PC: Those might look simple and perhaps they are, but it must take you a while to do one series…

PB: Koko took me about nine months to do. The last ten frames took about five months. The thing with Instagram is that the reach after a while slows down, so your visibility is less.

The latest one I'm doing right now, Felix the Cat, is about one hundred and sixty frames. I’ve got about sixty done and forty booked, so another sixty to tattoo, but guest spots and conventions will bring those back. And those stop-motions with a mix of social media have done really well now!

Felix the Cat flash sheet by Phil Berge
“Stop-Motion” tattoo flash sheet of Felix the Cat - Image ©Phil Berge

PC: Glad to hear that! You seem like an ever-happy person, lol and I’m glad you found the balance.

PB: It’s a rabbit hole… You can spend hours doing nothing there… I’m here for the fun part of tattooing. I'm dead serious about it though, but laughing and pleasing is fun you know?

Homer Simpson animated tattoo series by Phil Berge - Video ©Phil Berge

PC: I hear you. The tattoos become the memories. It’s not the memories that become tattoos, if that makes sense…

PB: Totally. It’s the history that comes with it…

PC: Phil, thank you so much! I’m so glad I got to talk to the “Stop-Motion” Tattoo King, lol…

PB: Lol! Thanks, it feels weird to own that title… It feels like I don't know if I should have that title or not. The last few years, you know, the phone game and reality is a bit hard to deal with but, really it’s all the people that keep it alive. It’s fun to explore and to develop… I’m creating my own road. There’s a whole universe to discover with the animation. I'm blessed. The only person I can outdo is me. Maybe the next one will be different, like my Bobby Hill plant, not the typical stop-motion. So yeah, I’ll keep on developing this and outpace myself.

PC: I say be humble, own it, embrace it, do it!

Phil, I hope to see you soon and can't wait to see you next stop-motion, cheers bud!

Amazing! - Video ©Phil Berge

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