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For centuries, tattooing has been a part of many distinct cultures and civilizations across the world, from the Americas to Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands. Over the years, these tattoo communities have evolved and today they’re united as a global culture through the power of social media and online commerce. Akbar Tawakkal, also known as Ata Ink, has flourished through the globalization of tattooing and attracts clients from around the world to his studio in Jakarta, Indonesia. We sat down with Akbar to learn more about his humble beginnings as a tattooer and to understand what his prospective clients can expect out of his tattoo experience.

Take us through your upbringing and how you discovered your love for art.

I studied visual communication design at a University in West Java. While I studied, I discovered so many different kinds of art—such as music, painting, drawing and design.

How did you get into tattooing?

I got my first tattoo when I was 20. A year after I got my first tattoo, I bought my first machine. It was very cheap. A couple of months after I started tattooing, one of my friends who owned a tattoo shop asked me to work at his shop. There, I discovered more about tattooing and he taught me a lot.

How would you describe your signature style and where do you find your inspirations?

My signature style is color realism. I get inspiration from many other good artists and I’m always looking to explore more inspirations. I’m particularly inspired by women, space and futuristic imagery.

Do you prefer tattooing in black-and-grey or color?

I prefer color. I love when I play with many different colors within one tattoo.

What does your design process look like and how do you work with your clients’ ideas?

I make the design very close to the deadline. If I get free time, then I’ll prepare the design first. But for the most part, I do the design the day before the appointment date or on the appointment date. It typically takes two to seven [hours] for each design, depending on the size and difficulty. I need all of my clients to trust me, that’s why they shouldn’t worry if I do the design on the day of tattoo.

Aside from tattooing, do you work in any other mediums?

Yes, I designed the logo of my shop, our t-shirts and other merchandise. I also designed the interior of my shop all by myself.

What is the tattoo community like in Indonesia?

There are so many tattoo communities in Indonesia, every city has their own community. But we are all still one and we support each other.

What are some of your favorite pieces you’ve tattooed?

One of my favorite pieces is the one that won Best Tattoo of the Day at the Australia Tattoo Expo in 2018. It healed very well and I still can’t believe it’s my own work. My client takes very good care of his tattoos.

What do you hope to tattoo more of in 2021?

I hope that I will be able to do more colorful and free-rein designs in the future.