Artists: Eric De L’Étoile
Eric De L’Étoile
When did you start tattooing?
I started tattooing 14 years ago. My good friend believed I could do tattoos and introduced me to a local shop owner. I started the wrong way, with no training at all. I practiced on myself and him! Luckily I impressed that shop enough for them to take me in. I wasn’t exactly an apprentice since I tattooed clients right away, but they helped me learn the proper way to push the needles and from that moment I worked really hard to get better. Before that, I was attempting to sell flash and drawings to shops around Montreal. It wasn’t a success due to the lack of professionalism in my drawing; it was still very amateur. I still sold a few anyway, but what I got from it was an understanding of how hard it was to get in; doors were shut many times. I will always have great respect and gratitude towards Nancy and her gang for giving me a chance; they really mean a lot to me.
You specialize in black and grey dark imagery. Your tattoos definitely have your own trademark. I see it especially in your biomech/organic textures. How would you describe your work? How did you get into this style of tattooing? What drew you to dark art and what drew you to biomech?
It’s in my nature to be drawn to the darker side of reality. Biomech, to me, represents the absolute failure of life on earth, our worst doom. Nothing else can be as much of a nightmare than our technological creations taking over life and ourselves and turning into this morphosis that takes over, crawls and dominates all. It could also be from alien invasion, we never know. I know it sounds like a sci-fi movie, but tell me one argument that says it’s not possible. Besides this vision of human stupid evolution, I find it very ornamental as art. The way it looks, the movement, the textures the depth…it’s just so cool looking. The artistic side of evil, morbid, dark realities and visions have always been part of me; I drew gory stuff when I was 10 years old. I got in a lot of trouble at school for scribbling everywhere.
I’ve seen you do some realism tattoos once in a while, even color realism, and to do this type of work one must have worked more than a few of those to understand color. Did you have any training in art before you got into tattooing? What type of tattoos were you doing back when you started? Did you start tattooing with intentions of creating dark imagery or did you find what is definitely your forte along the way?
Yes, from the beginning I pushed this style and tattooing made it possible for me to evolve. It is the reason why I got into tattooing. I don’t have any serious art schooling, which is why I try to learn everything I can everyday, and I find I’m lacking on some levels. And of course, like any tattooist, the first years I did any type of tattoos, a lot of color ones so I know I could push in that direction if I wanted; but it’s a lot harder for me and not my passion. That’s why I take color realism projects rarely; I really have to have confidence while looking at the image to be reproduced. It’s still fun I find, challenging and much more work, but I am not as passionate about it because I prefer creating, in my own dark way and with no colors.
There are tattooers that actually specialize in color horror tattoos. What do you prefer about black and grey tattoos?
I find horror color realism very impressive when it’s done right. But I’ve never found a color selection that works with my style; it’s just not as morbid looking. Not only because I always drew with black pencils and am used to it, but also I find black and grey leaves some room for the imagination. It’s an art on its own; it has a classic feel to it which I prefer. Every time I added some color to my pieces, it took the morbid down a notch, made it more “fancy.” I don’t know…maybe I will one day make a great biomech sleeve with colors that won’t look too heavy and opaque, but will stay dark, evil looking and smooth. You never know, but I prefer black and grey no matter what.
So, if you have the freedom to do a certain tattoo, what would it be? Any subject matter, body placement, or style you would like to work with?
Yeah, I would love to do a biomech that goes from the side of the face to the chest. It’s such a great placement with a lot of potential for a great piece. I’m always very inspired when it comes to placing a biomech on a different part of the body, instead of the usual sleeve. Shapes, bumps, curves are always fun. The impact of a large bio piece is much greater on a non-common body part for tattoos.
You are a custom work tattoo artist; you mostly create your own creatures. Where do you find your inspiration when creating a new tattoo? What goes through you dark mind?
A lot of things are going on in my mind indeed, but I don’t know really. It’s just natural to me. It’s what I like doing and when I see something in my mind, I try to draw it. Sometimes it works but other times it’s very hard. I find inventing creatures or demons more challenging than organic structures. Listening to the right music gets me in the zone, and that’s pretty much the only thing I need. Also, clients are asking for more and more complicated projects; they have a greater expectation than in the past, so keeping up with evolving requires vitamins!
I’ve seen many tattooers fail when they attempt to incorporate surreal elements into their tattoos. How do you make it work? How do you bring your vision from an idea to the actual tattoo considering skin and body flow limitations? How do you create the balance when incorporating biomech and still make it look like it belongs there?
That’s the best part of doing freehand! I mostly draw biomechs directly onto the body. This way I capture the body and how it should fit. From that, I just let myself go and see what comes out of it. Sometimes I do erase everything and start over, but rarely. It’s usually a one shot creation. Thinking about dimensions while making sure the flow is good and the structure stands out it the way I proceed. Using the body shapes as much as I can of course, this is how a bio comes alive and looks like it’s part of the person. The trippy effects usually appear involuntarily, or I don’t notice them until I’m done.
Is there anything that you are still looking to do or apply to your tattoo work, in the technical part or in your overall work?
For sure, it’s always a constant evolution and a challenge to make it better. I always find parts that I think I can do better, with more contrast, better textures, etc. The visions I have sometimes, they are not easy to re-create as I see them and that’s my goal and wish. Like any other custom tattoo artist, it’s to try to make all of my creations not look similar, changing the recipe, finding new ways, etc.
What or who inspired you in and out of the tattoo world back when you started tattooing? What or who inspires you today?
Like a lot of tattoo artists from my generation, I was very impressed with how Paul Booth was able to make a tattoo look evil. It’s pretty much why I wanted to tattoo, I saw that it was possible to do something like this with textures, dimensions and dark atmospheres. Also H.R Giger was a great influence; he is the artist I respect the most.
Any conventions that you regularly attend or countries you usually guest spot at?
Man, I love travelling. Unfortunately I had to take a break last year because of very awful back pain. I even had to stop tattooing for four months; it was a bad year. But now I am getting well enough to start doing conventions again this year. I go to Europe usually once a year to the London convention and Barcelona convention. I take the opportunity being on the other side of the ocean to visit my good friend Jack Ribeiro and his lovely family in France every year, too. This year I have some new plans; I’ve been invited to the Transylvania show for the past few years and finally decided to go. I am going with my friend Toxyc and we will do a collaboration on one of the guys that puts the show together. Should be a fun experience! I also got invited to the Perpignan tattoo convention in France, which I accepted too. I felt like I need to discover new places. Yeah, this year I will be in Europe for quite a long time. I can’t wait. It feels great to see friends and new faces. Tattooing without taking care of my studio at the same time, it’s like vacations sort of. Fun times! I was supposed to go to Josh Carlton’s Evergreen Tattoo invite, but I wasn’t able to make it. Too bad, I heard it was great! I hope one day to explore USA conventions, too.
I’ve seen some of your other artwork, including your paintings and sculptures. What can you tell me about that?
I started within the past few years to make skull/biomech sculptures. It’s fun to do and I have a great demand for it, which is cool. I found a guy that has buckets of bones and skulls just a little up north from where I live, so having infinite supplies makes it easier now. I paint, too, but not often enough. I have a few ones on the go that I like how they started. I just recently bought an iPad and started drawing with an app; it’s awesome! It has like an airbrush look to it, but without the mess; it’s fast and easy. I should be able to publish an art book in a close future.
What else have you been working on when you are not tattooing? Do you have any hobbies or talents?
Before I got into tattooing I was a musician. I played drums in two bands before and also I’ve been playing guitar since I was young. I can’t play often anymore but I do still pick my guitar once in while, but my wrist doesn’t like it too much. It needs to rest after all the tattooing, drawing, sculpting and painting! Too bad because it was a passion of mine, playing old school death metal and stoner/doom riffs. Instead I found a new hobby that has totally nothing to do with art and lets me take my mind off of everything with a good adrenalin rush: drag racing. I have an old 1970 Firebird Formula that I like do take for crazy runs in the summer. I am now changing the engine for a powerful 600 HP big block. I can’t wait to see how fast it will go on the track. I got a few buddies that do competitions on the weekends, I go there to hang out, look at the races and race my self a little. Loud muscle cars and fast speeds are killer.
If you were to recommend a movie, a record (lp/cd), and a book, what would those be?
I highly recommend the album Seven Bells from the band Secrets of the Moon, a powerful atmospheric black metal band. Neurosis’s Through Silver and Blood and Times of Grace are in my top 10. Powerful and dark music is very important for me; it takes me away and pushes the art out of me and inspires me a lot. There is a band called Red Harvest that I find fits biomech very well, too. Two bands from Montreal that are in my top inspirations are Towards Darkness and Longing for Dawn. Check these guys out, they are some of my friends, too, very dark, intense doom. As for reading, I’m not much of a reader anymore but the H.P. Lovecraft stories The Haunting of the Witch House, Call of Cthulhu, Dunwitch Horror, and Color Out of the Sky are all very interesting. For movies, I am mostly into UFO/universe and science series. I’ve been watching Unsealed UFO Files, Ancient Aliens, The Known Universe, The Universe, The Fabric of the Cosmos, and Space Time. I find it very important to understand how everything works, life’s origins, etc. It’s much more interesting than drama and fiction, although a good horror or sci-fi movie is always cool! Recently I saw Frankenstein’s Army. It is a very cool movie. The artist did the art, concepts, wrote, directed and produced the movie, great film.
Are there any projects that you are involved in these days? Any plans or anything we might expect from you in a near future?
I am currently in the process of changing my studio. I’ve been associated with my good friends from Nephtys Tattoo and it is now time for me to take things on my own. I’m changing the studio name for “De l’étoile Tatouage” and re-designing the whole interior. I’m making my studio into what I want, I’m even doing my sculptures on the walls and doors, making dark bio organic textures with tones of animal bones and skulls. It should turn out great, but a long process since I’m mostly focusing on my health by getting in shape and being pain free. Also I would like to add that my crew is super; I have amazing artists working with me and finally a great shop manager, my good friend Francis. With their support, the studio is becoming what I was hoping for when I first opened.