Artists: Ron Russo
What year did you start tattooing?
I started tattooing around 13 years ago.
You do excellent work in both color and black-and-gray tattooing styles. When you first started working professionally in the tattoo world, which style was more interesting to you?
Blackand- gray was definitely my starting point. I watched my mentor do a large amount of black-and-gray, so of course I thought it was cool. It just seemed easier at the time than doing color tattoos, but now that I attempt to do them both correctly I realize that they are two different worlds, and you can’t look at one as being easier than the other. This learning process came with becoming a better artist and understanding value. I did end up becoming a color tattooer and I love the challenge of using color, but I love to do black-and-gray just as much. I’ll do black-and-gray when I think the piece calls for it. I try to do what’s best and what will make the best tat – too for that person.
Another thing that we love and respect about your work is that there is always what we’d label a “Ron Russo trait.” You definitely have a style of your own. For many tattoo artists, finding that style could be the hardest part of their career. So how did you find yourself, both in your style and in your technical approach?
Well, I’m not too sure how it happened. Maybe through trial and error and watching others I admire work. I have the opportunity to work around some badass artists, and talking tattoos is one of my favorite top – ics. My technical approach is my main focus, maybe even more than the style thing. My main goal is to saturate every tattoo that I do to the fullest. I like to use as many darks as possible. I’m also very picky with keeping my work super clean.
As a tattoo artist do you feel that there is more you would like to learn or apply directly to your tattoo technical approach?
I’ll go to my grave not learning as much as I really want when it comes to art or tattooing. Every year I try to set goals that will improve my work. I go back and look at a lot of my work and see what I really don’t like about it and work from there. I’m always after new ideas, things that others aren’t doing with their work. For my technical approach, I’d really like to work on placements and flow with the body.
What is your favorite medium to work with besides tattooing?
I paint and draw any chance I get, but that’s not enough. If I have a cancellation I go right to working on a painting. I like to paint with oil the best but I enjoy painting large-scale acrylic paintings, not to be perfect but more for the mental exercise of it. Lately I’ve also been drawing with pencils, which is a whole new world for me.
You also do a lot of fund-raising and giving back to the community. You even had a painting workshop for kids. What sort of additional activities are you involved with these days?
I did a thing for a while on Saturday mornings painting with a bunch of kids. It’s really cool to watch them get into the whole painting thing and listen to their ideas. I had them all do a huge paint – ing collaboration with acrylics. Like 10 kids on this huge canvas going crazy! Most were painting skulls and fire. [Laughs.] Most of the fund-raising and charity you see that comes out of my shop are done by my wife, Geena. She just did this huge thing on Christ – mas where she wrapped 300 gifts for the whole Wilkes-Barre Head Start.
We really enjoy anything that comes from the tattoo community, whether it be art shows, books, T-shirts—whatever! Are there any upcoming projects you are working on at the moment that we can start getting excited about?
I’m actually in the process of working on a book with Jinxi and her husband, Steve. It’s a limited horror book that’ll be out in a few months. The book is called Diabolico. It features the best horror-related tattoo artists out there, such as Paul Booth, Paul Acker, Tommy Lee [Wendtner], Dan Henk, and many more.