How did you start tattooing?
I started tattooing in 2000, in France. I always drew since I was a kid and an old friend of mine told me I should try to put my drawings into a skin. This friend of mine kept going to tattoo studios showing my drawings until a shop took me as an apprentice. I first tattooed my sisters who keep begging for a cover up now!
You specialize in custom black and grey and roughly 99% of your work is pretty evil and dark in subject matter. What drew you to that style?
I believe it’s safe to say that. I grew up with comic books, video games and I’ve always been a fan of Sci-Fi movies. I was very interested in the shapes and textures of monsters and creatures. There are no rules when creating monsters; I can add any shape, depth and dimension I want. My father in law once asked me if I was sleeping well at night! (Laughs)
Most of the artists who specialize in black and grey have incorporated red (color) over the years, not only for bloody purposes. Why do you think this has happened? Have you ever attempted to do any color tattoos?
Adding one color to a black and grey tattoo brings a good contrast to the piece. It doesn’t need to be red. I like to use it because black and red has always been associated with dark imagery. I’ve seen Victor Portugal adding turquoise or yellow and it looks pretty cool. Yes, I’ve tried doing color tattoos but I feel more comfortable working on the gradients of black and grey.
You have that notable style of your own, and as I see it your technique is pretty different to how other artists approach skin. It is like if you sculpted the skin, you put the blacks, created contrast and make the image suddenly come out using the person’s own skin to create that illusion of depth. Plus you do this with straight black. What can you say about your technique?
As you mentioned, I use straight black, no water or grey wash. I do the tattoos the same way I draw with a ballpoint pen. I realized a couple years ago that by using grey washes, my tattoos were getting very light after a year so. I was trying darker and darker grey washes until the point I realized I didn’t need it. I’m not saying that the use of grey wash will make every tattoo too light in a year, just for me it worked out this way.
I have seen all of these amazing evil sketches along the years, but from what I know and have seen I don’t think you’ve ever used a stencil. Or have you? You are known for your fully custom freehanded work, and honestly it is amazing to see those few sharpie lines come to life, full of textures and depth. What is your creative process like? What goes through your mind to come up with the ideas you come up with?
I used stencils when I first started when people used to ask me for tribals (yes, I’ve done it), then I started doing stencils of my own drawings until I felt comfortable enough to do freehand. Since then I enjoy it so much more because I have more freedom to work with people’s shape and skin. I usually don’t know what the client will have until they sit in my chair. I honestly can’t explain what goes into my mind. I never know what the piece will actually look like until the last minute. I listen to their ideas and just go with the flow, I guess. I am lucky to be able to bond with my clients so they feel comfortable enough to let me be creative and do the best piece for them.
About two years ago I saw that you did your first portrait ever. My first thought was, did he use a stencil? How did you feel about making that step? Have you continued doing it?
Yes, it was a Tom Waits portrait I did for a tattoo artist in Cannes, France. He gave me a picture of a sculpture of Tom Waits, not an actual picture of him. Even though I told him I wasn’t sure about it, he insisted for me to do it, so yes, I used the stencil. Portraits are really hard because as I explained before, with monsters I can make them look the way I want, there are no rules, but a portrait you have to be very true to the image. Not sure I would do it again but if there is someone else crazy enough to ask me for a portrait I can think about it!
I know you have always been a Spawn and comic fan, where do you usually find inspiration? What or who inspired you in and out of the tattoo world back when you started tattooing? What or who inspires you today?
Oh man…haha. Well, Paul Booth inspired me when I first started, no doubt about that. Although I take most of my inspiration from stuff that is not related to tattoos like movies, comic books, video games and even nature; the shape of trees, insects and sea creatures.