Artists: Sergey Shanko
What year did you start tattooing?
I took up tattooing 7 years ago. However, at first it was all about practice; I started working fundamentally 5 years ago.
How did you get into tattooing?
I became fascinated with tattooing after having a look at the works of foreign artists. Since we had no skilled tattoo artists then, I attempted to execute a tattoo by myself on my own leg. Of course, no good came of it. Trying to make progress from session to session, I was carried away by this occupation.
What was your first shop experience like?
I acquired my first experience as a tattooer in a small beauty parlor held by an acquaintance of mine. As usual, the first attempt proved to be a failure: it was of no use to me. However, the rumors are spread quickly in our town. Probably, due to this very fact soon I was involved into tattooing business.
Do you have any special training?
Yes, it didn’t elude me. An art school I attended has served as a strong impetus for me. Nevertheless, then I considered it to be awful. We used to draw pots, dossals, antique heads, and it didn’t make any sense for me, because I longed to become a cartoonist and tried to execute sketches (comic strips) everyday. After graduating from school I entered a design school and fundamentally got down to studying. I concentrated exclusively on drawing as all the other subjects were of no concern to me.
How do your describe your style?
I suppose I can’t answer this question: my colleagues and friends could do this instead. For sure it’s realism, but I try to make my own contribution to it.
What led you to work in realism?
I often recall this moment. It had happened before I bought a tattoo machine. Best of all I was imbued by Nikko Hurtado’s works and once said to myself, This is the goal I really want to reach. Since then I’ve been striving to achieve the equal results, making tattoos to friends and acquaintances of mine totally free of charge.
Do you prefer color or black-and-grey? You do a fair amount of work in both styles, what particular factors make you choose one over the other?
Generally I try to execute only colored tattoos since they are most eye-catching and constitute a great interest to me. Some clients themselves come up with good ideas, but they want to have exclusively black-and-white works done. Of course, I never refuse.
What sets you apart from other artists?
I cannot say yet since I can’t judge from the outside. Presently it’s probably a distinctive pattern my clients and friends immediately recognize. My progress in tattooing was much triggered by World Famous Ink due to its wide color palette.
Your drawings have an amazing, 3D quality to them. Has this skill helped you add depth to your tattoo work?
Absolutely. I always attempt to practice my drawing skills; I believe that every tattoo artist who wants to do their best should practice drawing. In my sketches I try to develop my own style—I experiment with the background and add various elements into my works. Perhaps, drawing gives one much more practice as compared to tattooing since one has an opportunity to repaint or to supplement their work.
How have you branched out from tattooing?
I’ve got a favorite hobby and six years ago it should have become my main preoccupation. I’ve been riding BMX since I was 14, and during the first six years I was seriously engaged in it. Now I try to devote much time to riding, but still not as much as before.
How is working in Toronto different than working in Russia?
During my lasting practice in Russia I developed a certain style in colored tattoos. In Canada, clients are eager to capitalize on the quality of my work, but they wish to execute tattoos based on their ideas which are mostly black-and–white. Certainly, as an artist I don’t really like this, but still I consider it to be a great advantage since I’ve got an opportunity to try my hand in something new I haven’t experienced yet.
What is it that makes you love realism so much?
The thing I’m attracted to the most is the feeling that occurs while you’re adding the final touches to your work; you witness the tattoo as it is coming to life right before your eyes. This feeling is hardly compared to any other. Probably it’s also one of the main reasons for me to execute only realistic works since I don’t find myself in any other styles.
What advice would you give aspiring tattoo artists?
One of the main tips I would give is as follows: do not seek to make money on art. The main rule I’ve been following up to now is to work upon ideas and tattoos you really like and sometimes to execute works free of charge. Try to capitalize on every work getting out of it as much practice and quality as you can. Perhaps, it’s the straightest way to success. If you’re obsessed only with money, someday your inspiration towards art and the tattoo artist’s career will come to an end.