Artists: Dan Dimattia
41 Rue du Pot d’Or
4000 Liege, Belgium
What year did you start tattooing?
I started tattooing in the early ’90s, back when there were no tattoo magazines at all in Europe and no internet to show you how to set up your own tattoo machine.
How did you get into tattooing?
When I was a teenager I was fascinated by these blue marks that older guys had on their hands and arms. It was nothing exceptional artistically. Instead, it was rough, bold, and powerful, and it showcased their worst side. So when I was around 13 years old, I decided to put a tattoo on my arm. All on my own, with my compass and ink, there I was, big dots after big dots, on my left arm. I made a cross, and underneath that, a square with a big dot inside. It wasn’t a masterpiece, but that tattoo gave me the confidence that I didn’t have yet at that age. After that, many years passed and I never thought about tattoos anymore until the moment I started to travel around Europe and came across a guy in Sweden who had a tattoo with fine lines, very artistically done. From that moment on, I really understood that I wanted to do that and make a living doing tattoos.
Where did you apprentice?
I couldn’t find any apprenticeship in Belgium. At that time tattooers were older guys who didn’t like competition, and they were very tough. So I taught myself how to tattoo by starting on my own leg and
then slowly on customers. At that time, I used to do all sorts of tattoos—unicorns, red Indians, roses, and dolphins. I learned to reproduce tattoo flash, and that was great training for me. After a while I felt confident enough to do neotribal tattoos that were becoming very popular around 1995. With time, I became more and more interested in that particular style. I continued to evolve and improve my style up till today, and I am still using black ink almost exclusively, plus occasionally some red that I think fits very well with black.
Do you have any special training?
I started to learn by tattooing on my own legs and then slowly on people. I think it’s a good start but
you need to be very courageous, ’cause you know that you will have to get it covered up sooner or later. I still haven’t covered up mine yet. The best way is to spend time looking at other tattoo artists at work, to get an idea of how the machine works or how the artist positions himself while tattooing, because that is a very important aspect of the trade. Start by small tattoos and then slowly going to bigger tattoos—and at the same time do a lot of drawings, because it is a big part of the learning process.
What conventions have you worked at? Have you won any awards?
I have been working at the New York City tattoo convention for 11 years, Milano tattoo convention for five
years, and London since the beginning. I have also worked at the Sacramento convention, Montreal convention, New Jersey convention, Woodstock convention, Singapore convention, a few in Holland, France, Germany, UK. I have won a lot of prizes, most of which are first-prize tribal pieces, and I am very proud of that.
How do you describe your style?
My style is very neo-tribal, which references a lot of ancient cultures like those from South America, Africa, Indian, Assyrian, Persian, great ancient design, pre-Columbian, Moorish ornamental, and Chinese lattice design, and also medieval ornamental, ironwork design, and optical geometric patterns. I use these references and personalize them into a modern expression. I also like South Pacific tattoos, like Polynesian tattoos. What I like is the meaning that the motives signify. I’m attracted to the symmetry and repetitiveness of these ancient designs, and I like to bring a new dimension to it. Recently, I incorporated a lot of dot work into my works.
What inspires you as an artist?
I am driven by the passion to breathe new life into designs that are 5,000 years old and translate them
into tattoos. I like the abstractness and the geometry of it. I like to work with the shape of the body and make the tattoo design look like a piece of clothing that is protecting the body. I am inspired by patterns from all over, like ancient designs on pottery, designs on African masks, shields, Oriental carpets. I have always been a sort of rebel, and I always liked to challenge the norm. That inspires me from within to always step out of the box.
What tattoo artists do you admire most?
I admire all tattooers who do great work, no matter what style they are into. Because I understand the complexity of it, so I can appreciate the tattoo itself. I like tattooists who stay humble and simple. I admire the
ones who do it for a living and who aren’t always searching for glorified recognitions. I like tattooists who appreciate their customers and feel like they are a part of them, not the ones who think that they are better than everyone else. I have great admiration for tattooists who have traveled the world and understand
the value of humility, and who have a great sense of humor.
Is there a tattoo that you haven’t done yet that you are dying to do?
Not really. After so many years I am quite happy with all I have done, and I am still looking forward to my style continuing to evolve and engross me. I don’t really plan how this is going to happen but rather I let the clients’ demands guide me and continue to translate it in my own way.