Artists: Manuel Woodpecker
What year did you start tattooing?
I started in 2003 at 18.
How did you get into tattooing?
At 14 I started airbrushing, but after a while I felt that this was not the best art form for me. I did it for a few years longer until I started tattooing at 18. The reason was that a lot of my friends asked me for drawings for their tattoos. At this time we had four tattoo studios in my city, and none of the “artists” drew the images—they only had maps. So it was easy for me to collect clients who were interested in my self-made drawings.
What was your first shop experience like?
My first shop experiences were positive. The first five years I was alone in the shop. I had enough time for thinking about everything, and so I found my own style without other influences. Business is not so easy—it is more like a war. But it makes me happy all the time because doing it is a big challenge.
What is it like being a tattoo artist in Austria?
Austria is a good place for working as a tattoo artist because the people here are easy and open to trying out new things.
Do you have any special training?
I have no special training. I have visited many conventions in the last year, met a lot of great people and artists. And sometimes I work together with Hungarian people—these are very creative people.
What conventions have you done recently or are planning to go to this year?
The last year I’ve been in Brussels (Belgium), Schaffhausen (Switzerland), and Bodensee (Germany). The next two conventions I will visit are Bregenz (Austria) and St. Gallen (Switzerland). Moscow (Russia) and Krakow (Poland) were also in my plan for this year but it wasn’t possible for me to go to either because for Moscow I didn’t get the visa and for Krakow I had no time due to a guest artist in my shop.
You have a very interesting new-school style. What drew you to that particular style?
For me this is not really a new-school style—it is more like an ugly toy style. At first I made a lot of toy and doll tattoos, like in the color tattoo book from Edition Reuss. They sell the books all over the world. This was a big springboard for me into the tattoo scene—it helped me to grow up. Now I’ve changed my style into a trash/sketch style.
What inspires you as an artist?
I get the most inspiration from nature and animals. This is mostly a big theme in my works— when you walk around and open your eyes, you will find the biggest inspirations in the smallest things.
What sets you apart from other artists?
I draw everything that I do myself, and most tattoo works that I do are freehand with a pencil on the skin. Most of the time I need only a few minutes to draw a sketch or make a great plan for a tattoo. This is also a reason why my style changed more into a trash/ sketch style.
What other mediums do you work in?
I draw a lot and make paintings with oil and acrylic. I also like to work with wood and sculptures, but unfortunately I have no time for this.
What was it like having your own shop at such a young age?
A lot of people ask me this question because I opened my first shop when I was 19. Most people at that age have too much fear to do this. But for me it was the best time of my life. Now, nine years after opening my first shop, I have a big store on two floors and seven working places for four resident tattoo artists, one piercer, and a lot of guest artists. Sometimes I try to remember how I was when I started my first tattoo shop as a “child,” but there has been so much that has happened in between and too many experiences for me to remember what it was like back at that time.
What tattoo artists do you admire most?
I have no special artist that I admire—I like many different artists. It is important that an artist has his own style and doesn’t copy another.
What kind of tattoos do you look forward to doing?
Most of the time I make big projects like a whole arm or a whole leg. For me it’s really cool when my clients give me the way with their idea and wishes. So I make a lot of different things.
Before someone gets a tattoo what advice do you give them?
Shut up and trust me.
Is there a tattoo that you haven’t done yet that you are dying to do?
I want to make a whole arm in black-and-gray with a bad tooth fairy, a bad Easter rabbit, a bad Santa, and many more legendary creatures from children’s tales. And I’m also searching for a whole back for some stories of the Brothers Grimm.
What was one of the strangest pieces you’ve ever tattooed?
I had a project with a guest worker—Gino Fuchs—in my shop. We made two animal fighters with robot bod- ies, but the deal was nobody knows what the other drew, and also the client didn’t know. We showed the drawing to each other 10 minutes before we started tattooing. So the animal robot weapon fight began—Gino and I worked together at the same time on one leg.