California’s Dillon Forte is one of the leading tattooers in the sacred geometry style, who developed an affinity for this ancient artform growing up. Today, his work has caught the attention of celebrity clients such as Usher, who flock to his intricately crafted designs that transform the human body. We sat down with Forte to learn how he began his career as a tattooer, where he finds inspiration for his designs and what he hopes to tattoo in the future.
How did you get into tattooing?
I’ve been creating art since before I can remember. Painting and drawing has always been a way of life. When I was 16, I got my first tattoo and knew I wanted to pursue tattooing as a career. I spent two years seeking an apprenticeship, until I convinced my now friend Mark Freitas (White Rabbit Tattoo) to give me a chance.
What was your first shop experience like?
Tattoo shops come in all different shapes and sizes. My first experience of being tattooed in a shop was a very traditional, classic, Americana type vibe. I got a dagger and ribbon reading “Die Trying.” As a skateboarder, I felt compelled to have a talisman that might help me overcome obstacles. I’ve since blacked it out and have a more Yoda type ideology, “There is no try.”
What was the first tattoo you did?
I did a little candle on my ankle. I guess symbolically you could say to illuminate my path but I don’t remember the reason at the time. I didn’t have rubber bands or a nipple/grommet on the machine, I had literally no idea what I was doing. I’m surprised it’s still there.
What are some of your favorite sacred geometry designs to tattoo?
One of my favorites would have to be the “Sri Yantra,” hence the name of my studio. The Sri Yantra literally translates to holy instrument or machine and is a tool to help you realize your highest aspirations whether mental, physical or spiritual. The four upward triangles represent Shiva and the five downward represent Shakti. These triangles are meant to balance the hemispheres of your brain and create a symbiotic homeostasis in the body. Geometry can be a powerful tool, aiding in restoring harmony in the world.
What inspires you as an artist?
I’m highly inspired by the mathematics of nature and the ancient wisdom traditions. I believe there is much to be gained from the study of all past and current cultures and further into antiquity antediluvian civilization.
What’s your process for creating an original design?
Every piece is different. Depending on what direction, I’ll implement different techniques. I’m currently working on a proprietary software that should make creating geometrical designs much more efficient and user friendly.
Which tattoo artists do you admire most?
Whang-od. She is the last and oldest practitioner of Kalinga tattooing. I think the past can teach us valuable lessons for our future.
What kind of tattoos do you look forward to doing?
I really look forward to the large scale projects I’ve been doing, especially larger black work pieces. My work at times can be very intricate and I try to still maintain the highest level of legibility.
Is there a tattoo that you haven't done yet that you are dying to do?
I’d love to complete a full body suit. Most of my work is made using needles as small or smaller than a human hair so to complete an entire suit would be a monumental achievement and require admirable dedication.
What’s up next for Dillon Forte?
I’ve got a ton of side projects going but I’m most excited about my new company, Eco Tattoo Supply. A single source for single use sustainable products. We are focusing predominantly on compostable and biodegradable ways to reduce waste in the tattoo industry.