Every tattoo artist has a style that they are known for, whether it be realism, old school, Japanese; you name it there is someone specializing in it. Vinny Romanelli of Red Rocket Tattoo
in New York City specializes in mini portrait tattoos. Tattooing for 11 years, Romanelli recently started doing mini portraits and they have quickly gained popularity as both a novelty and a way for those running out of room to squeeze in just one more piece.
Inked: When did you start doing mini portraits?
Romanelli: Less than a year ago, I just started it as a challenge to myself. I said “I wonder how small I can do a realistic portrait and have it look good and also be concerned with longevity, that it's not going to look like shit in a few years.” I did one on one of my co-workers; that was the first one I did. I've done enough of them where I shrunk it down to the size where I thought that I could pull it off, and it worked out. It came out really well. He was happy, I was happy. And I posted a picture of it and everyone kind of went crazy for it. They were like, "I want a mini portrait. I want a mini portrait of this guy and then that guy." It kind of took off from there. I've done a bunch of them now. Well over 30 of them I think.
Inked: Would you say a lot of people come to you specifically for that?
Romanelli: Not a lot of people, but some people I guess don't want a gigantic portrait, or they just want a --I don't want to call it a novelty, b/c I guess it kind of is--It's just a small version of a realistic portrait that people will like and they just think it's cool I guess.
Inked: What tattoo requests do you get the most? Like style or specific tattoo?
Romanelli: I usually only promote the stuff I want to do now as far as online and my portfolio, which is either photorealistic black and grey portraits, and custom American traditional stuff, which feels like the best format for tattoos. It's just what I like to do. What I like to draw is traditional stuff.
Inked: Do you get a lot of requests for stuff that you don't want to do? Like Tim Hendricks, apparently a lot of people go to him for roses, and he was going to make business cards that actually said, "Time Hendricks does more than roses."
Romanelli: If it's something that I don't want to do, then I usually tell them that I'm not really into it or I'm not well-suited for that. A lot of people will come to me and say they want a Japanese half-sleeve or a sleeve of this stuff, and I work with a couple of other guys who do Japanese really well and I would just refer them because I know that it could be done better. I don't try to do everything that comes my way to try and be the most versatile artist. You spread yourself too thin I believe when you try to be good at everything. I think you're better off trying to be the best at one or two things you really enjoy doing, because that's what makes it fun to do. But I get requests for a lot of tribal shit, and I'm like, "do you see any tribal in my portfolio?" Or I do conventions and stuff like that and people are like, "oh I want to get this stupid thing on my arm," and I'm like "I didn't come all this way to do tribal." This is what I specialize in and this is what I like doing. A lot of people that are I guess kind of naive to the business don't really know that they should just take the opportunity to do what this artist is good at doing. They just want a tattoo from anybody they can. I've been doing this for over 10 years now and I don't want to waste my time on stuff I don't like. There was a time where I had to do everything to learn and make money, but thankfully that time has passed. I still do walk-ins if I have time between appointments and if it's something that can be easily done and they're not annoying customers, then I'll do it.
Inked: If they're not asking for Clark Gable….
Romanelli: Well that's awesome.