While you may not recognize his name, you’ve certainly seen his work. Chris Rigoni is a Perth-based tattooer who’s one of the leading mixed style artists in the world. Having mastered a handful of diverse styles, including but not limited to, realism, illustrative, geometric, and traditional, Rigoni crafts one of a kind designs with a multi-dimensional flair. And while today, he’s an international powerhouse that’s sought after by a growing pool of clientele, he wasn’t always the forward-thinking innovator crafting viral tattoo designs. That’s right, like every artist who’s achieved success by finding a niche, he started off as a dime a dozen tattooer looking to make an impact on the industry. And we got the chance to learn how he became the creative mastermind he is today and his best advice for artists looking to mix contrasting styles into a cohesive tattoo.
How would you describe your signature style and how has it evolved over time?
A few years ago, I decided I wanted to find myself as a tattooer as a way of keeping myself from getting lost in the crowd. I also knew I needed something that would keep me challenged or I would get bored. So I decided to focus my energy on realism. I was interested in breaking it down and finding my own way of developing it, so it would heal cleanly, solidly, and age well. This is something that is still and always will be an ongoing process. And to define it as my own, I needed something simple that I could carry through all the tattoos to make them easily recognizable as my own. Something that was contrasting to the muted, more organic color and shape of realism. Sharp angles and solid blocks of bright color. Geometric patterns. Texture with dot work. It has just been an ongoing process of trying to re-imagine things while keeping the fundamentals of the tattoo healing as saturated and clean as possible with strong contrast to define areas I want to hold up over time.
What made you decide to mix styles in your work and were you met with any resistance from old timers in the industry?
It wasn’t something I was seeing much of at the time, realism mixed with contrasting styles. And I felt like there were already a really strong group of extremely talented realism artists and I wasn’t ever going to be one of them. But if I were to compile ten images of realistic tattoos, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell who did what easily from a glance. I wanted to be able to do something that quickly and simply made it recognizable as a Chris Rigoni tattoo. I’ve had a lot of great support. I’ve mostly worked with younger tattooists, so regardless, it’s been a supportive community for sure.
What are the rules for mixing styles and where do other artists go wrong when attempting it?
I definitely am not an authority on mixing styles, but I think every apprentice should focus on trying to make themselves a well-rounded tattooist for the first part of their career. Don’t worry about focusing on one thing, don’t be about the trend. Become a tattooist, not a one-trick pony. I had this pushed on me heavily by my bosses and I’m really grateful for it now. I was able to somewhat get a grip on traditional, dotwork, greywash, neo-trad, and even a small amount of new school, etc. So I could come into developing a style with that to fall back onto. I’ve met 10-year tattooists that don’t put greywash in their designs because they can’t do it.