Ryan Smith and Jeremy Hanna, owners of Sullen, are trailblazers of the alternative apparel industry thanks to their passion for making tattoo-art inspired t-shirts. The connections they have in the tattoo industry created a strong foundation for Sullen, and much of their ongoing success can be attributed to these amazing artists who are part of the Sullen Art Collective, a family that has grown to over 100 members.
The Sullen OGs
Sullen Art Collective can’t be talked about until we recognize the artists who’ve been there since the start. Tom Berg, Carlos Torres, and Nikko Hurtado were the first three artists that Smith spent a lot of time with, drawing and collaborating. It was then that Smith realized that Sullen’s main focus for their featured artwork would all be hand-drawn, taking into consideration that not all artwork translates well into t-shirt designs.
You might recognize their names and/or their work. Ever watch the TV show, Prison Break, or that movie about Hannibal, Red Dragon? Tom Berg was commissioned to design the tattoos that you saw on that show and movie. His artistic talent comes from over 20 years of experience, not just from tattooing, but painting, drawing, and even working with companies for comic and game design. He really shines when it comes to black and grey work, especially with dark and macabre images – a style that’s very much apparent in Sullen clothing.
Carlos Torres is also extremely talented in black and grey realism; he continues to hone his craft and push his boundaries by working in a variety of different mediums. The Sullen shirt (shown to the left) displays what Torres does best – intricate detail with shading, rendering an image with subtle transitions that look soft to the touch. This type of work isn’t just tattoo-inspired; it proves the point that these artists are highly adept at what they do.
Specializing in colored portraits, Nikko Hurtado is another one of the artists along with Tom Berg and Carlos Torres that Ryan Smith collaborated with during the beginning years of Sullen. Nikko doesn’t hold back – his use of color is stimulating and rich, as shown with this oil painting, “The King”.
There are so many elements to this piece from the embellished chest, to the red highlights on the skull that is brought out by the red robe, to the reflection of a woman’s eye on the scepter. Looking at this piece and then seeing it transferred to another canvas, like this wallet, really shows how Sullen is successful in collaborating with artists whose work leaves a lasting impression. This same piece is also available on a T-shirt.
These three artists – Tom Berg, Carlos Torres, and Nikko Hurtado – were at the forefront of what is now one of the leading alternative lifestyle brands out there, and continue to play a big role in Sullen Art Collective. Jeremy Hanna stated in an interview with Inked magazine that these artists, along with others of the Sullen Art Collective, can deliver when it comes to appealing to both the tattoo and clothing industry. So much so that both Smith and Hanna have been tattooed by many of the artists from Sullen Art Collective.
The tattoo industry has really blown up these last several years, especially internationally with the number of conventions happening worldwide, making it more accepted and appreciated by the mainstream. It comes as no surprise that artists are still being discovered and recognized by others in the industry for doing what they do so well. Sullen Art Collective isn’t just limited to talented artists in the US; the family includes international artists as well, like Bullet BG .
Hailing from Lisbon, Portugal, Bullet BG specializes in black and grey photorealism and horror style. Like many of these other Sullen Art Collective artists, his ability isn’t limited – Bullet BG is incredibly talented in watercolor, oil painting, and pencil drawing. This drawing is another example of Sullen’s expertise in choosing an artist and work to be displayed on apparel. Available on both men’s and women’s t-shirts and accessories, this piece shows value in being versatile and desirable as something not just to look at, but also to adorn and show off.
Other Sullen Art Collective international artists that you may know, either by name or art, are Elvin Yong from Singapore, Macko from Italy, Rember from Guatemala, David Olteanu (an Australian who started his career in Disney animation!), and so many more. Let’s not bore you to death with name-dropping and never-ending lists.
One of the most exciting things about featuring these artists is showing off their talent through clothing that the Painful Pleasures family and you can wear. Art isn’t just for museums anymore, especially in this industry; we wear our art proudly on our skin and with our clothes, thanks to alternative brands like Sullen. If you missed it, check out our earlier blog post about who Sullen is and how it all started. It truly would take more than just a single post to talk at length about every artist involved in the Sullen Art Collective, but hopefully this has enlightened you on why they matter and why Sullen Clothing is the brand it is– a family driven by a burning passion for their craft.