Passion, art and a recession-proof biz, tattoos are more than just ink on skin. This was evident at a tattoo festival held in Delhi recently, which attracted the biggest names in the business. About 60 artists from India and across the globe gathered to exhibit an artform that is slowly evolving in the country. With varied designs, they catered to eager enthusiasts, most of whom carried with them pictures of their desired patterns. “Tattoos are fuelled by passion and creativity. Tattooists pour in a lot of love, focus, passion and hardwork to give you a beautiful piece of art that is going to stay with you for the rest of your life. And when you look at tattoos as a retail business, it is one of the largest and biggest in the world… and it’s recession-proof,” says Ireland-based Martin (he goes by one name only), who is organising the first international Goa Tattoo Festival due to be held from January 15-17 in Goa.
From the US to Taiwan, every artist at the fest had a different story to tell through their tattoos. Here, we look at some of their work, as they tell us what inspires them…
PJ Vincit (Sweden)
A tattoo artist for the past 13 years, Vincit, who does realistic colour art, says his style came to him over the course of many years. “When I started tattooing, I couldn’t do nice, clean lines. Back then, my colours were also sloppy. However, realism has always come easy to me. So I just stuck with what came to me naturally,” says Vincit, who says his inspiration is Spain-based tattoo artist Robert Hernandez. In recent years, he says, there has been a vast improvement in tattoo craftsmanship, with many impressive artists coming up.
Ona Navarro Cots (France)
Known for her characteristic mix of techniques and styles, Cots, who is originally from Spain, says her work involves a mix of dotwork and engraving. Cots, who has been making tattoos for five years now, says a tattoo should be done in such a way that it looks the same even after 10 years. “I take inspiration from everything around me. There’s a lot of inspiration in Asia especially—the fabrics, temples, goddesses…” she says. Talking about the evolution of the tattoo business, she says earlier artists made use of limited styles like Maori or Japanese, but now are becoming quite experimental.
Paul Booth (US)
Booth, whose tattoo style is black/grey macabre, has been in the profession for more than 20 years. He has even inked wrestling legend Undertaker and members of the rock band Lamb of God. Booth, whose favourite tattooist is Switzerland-based Filip Leu, says his inspiration comes from the world around him. “If you want to become a tattoo artist, learn from somebody knowledgeable. Don’t try and teach yourself,” he says.
Andy Shou (Taiwan)
Considered a master in Oriental art, Shou says his inspiration comes from his educational and cultural background. However, in his own words, his work is not 100% ‘original Chinese’, as there are a lot of western elements and a touch of modernity as well. Over the past 25 years, Shou says, there have been some major improvements in the business of tattoos—more focus on health, cleanliness, better tattoo machines, etc—which have made the artist’s job easier
Ru Hwan (North Korea)
Hwan’s dominant tattoo style is abstract with colour. A tattoo artist for almost five years now, Hwan’s other styles include black and grey art, and portrait. He usually follows pictures and makes tattoos based on them. “Tattoos in India involve a lot of geometric stuff. In Korea, there are a lot of sharp designs,” he says.
Anil Gupta (US)
A big fan of the late surrealist Swiss painter HR Giger, Gupta, whose tattoo style is biomechanical and realistic, shifted to New York from India in 1991. Despite the fact that the art form is still in its infancy here, Gupta says people in India are more aware of tattoos now and are willing to experiment. Talking about his tattoo style, Gupta says, “I am a generation that saw The Terminator and Star Wars. Seeing the robotics, biomechanoids and cyborgs made me think in a different way. It was very inspirational.”