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Italy has given us many great artists—Michelangelo, Raphael, Caravaggio, Botticelli and Da Vinci, just to name a few. Following in their footsteps is tattoo artist Alessandro Capozzi. Instead of painting the ceilings of chapels or sculpting with fine marble, Capozzi prefers to apply his artwork onto skin. Capozzi is a celebrated black-and-grey micro artist whose work is not only appreciated within the tattoo industry, but by celebrity clientele such as Demi Lovato. We caught up with Capozzi to understand why he loves black-and-grey, where he finds inspiration and what went into designing Lovato’s custom tattoo.

What do you love about black-and-grey?

Compared to color tattoos, black-and-grey tattoos tend to be more cohesive due to the negative space, which is determined by the client’s skin color and characteristics. It’s beautiful knowing that everyone’s unique coloring can make their artwork personal and different from everyone else. Black-and-grey tattoos can suit anyone's style, as they can be as visible and striking or as concealed and dainty as the individual wants them to be.

How do you tell an average black-and-grey tattoo apart from an amazing one?

The way you can distinguish an exceptional black-and-grey tattoo from an average one is by the amount of thin layers that the artist has added to the artwork. An amazing black-and-grey piece will also contain a wide spectrum of grey shades, use a fine-line technique and showcase intricate details. An average black-and-grey tattoo is often flat, lacks a sense of dimension and has a limited grey scale.

When did you start doing micro tattoos?

I’ve only ever done micro tattoos. I was often critiqued by my peers for trying to concentrate so much detail on such a small scale but I feel like now, as a movement, micro tattoos are starting to gain their well-deserved recognition. I continually try to push the envelope by creating smaller and more complex works of art. As for what inspired me to create micro tattoos, I’ve always been under the impression that tattoos should be for everyone. Tattoos should not just be seen as something rebellious or alternative, but as a refined and elegant work of art—almost like precious jewels. I want tattoos to be a refined accessory and I would like to elevate the aesthetic of tattoos in society.

What role does contrast play in your work and how do you achieve good contrast in your tattoos?

I would say contrast plays a significant role in the way I achieve a sense of realism in my artwork. Given that I tattoo primarily in black-and-grey, having a wide variety of shades allows me to create a life-like effect and distinction between the subjects. Contrast is a very lengthy process that requires several thin layers in order to create an illusion of three dimensionality. This type of depth is much more simple to attain when tattooing in color.

How did you meet Demi Lovato and what was your process designing that tattoo?

I met her in the VIP lounge at an Ariana Grande concert. I was invited to this event by Scooter Braun, who I had recently tattooed, and he introduced me to Demi. There was an instant connection from the start when she confided in me about how she would like to memorialize the triumphs she’s made and how she’s overcome many obstacles. By intently listening to her open up about her life I was able to visualize the main characteristics of the tattoo I would create for her. I view this step of the tattooing process as a collaboration between the artist and client, so that each becomes emotionally invested in the artwork.

How do you think your tattoos will age over time?

The aging of tattoos depends on the client and how well they take care of their skin. Someone who is disciplined at moisturizing and protecting their tattoos using sunscreen will have a gorgeous piece for the rest of their life. I’m actually in the process of developing a product that will address these concerns. That being said, after several years it could be worth coming back to do an occasional touch up.

Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

On an artistic level, I absorb the rich imagery all over my hometown (Rome, Italy), particularly the ancient times as well as the baroque period that is then translated in my art. I also find inspiration through my travels and I love incorporating these two vastly different worlds into my designs. Looking at New York as an example of the perfect architectural contrast to Rome, I try to juxtapose hyper-modern attributes like geometric shapes and patterns seen in New York to the classic and organic flow of the antiquity present in Rome. I believe it is imperative to study all forms of art in order to have a well-rounded perspective.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

If I could go back in time to chat with my younger self, I would probably tell him to not follow mentors’ guidance verbatim and continue to think outside the box no matter how much others may judge him for taking a different approach to tattooing.

If you weren’t tattooing, what would you be doing with your life?

If I wasn’t a tattoo artist I would most likely have studied medicine to become a plastic surgeon because of my love for ‘sezione aurea,’ (The Golden Ratio). It’s essentially the aesthetic perfection of beauty within the art world but it’s also the definition of instinctual human attraction to symmetry. Hence one of my inspirations for the name of my studio in Rome, ‘Aureo.’ (Aureo/a is Latin for golden.)