When it comes to black-and-grey, Eric Marcinizyn is one of the industry’s heavy hitters. He’s become world renowned for his effortlessly smooth shading and ability to create faces so beautiful they defy what we thought possible. However, like every great tattooer of yesterday and today, he needed to start somewhere and spent “tens of thousands of hours” perfecting his craft. And of course, we can all say that Marcinizyn’s time was very well spent.

How did you get into tattooing?

When I was in the 5th grade, my best friend made a tattoo machine out of a cassette player motor. He was 13 or 14 years old at the time, I was a bit younger. I remember he tattooed the Operation Ivy guy on his leg and did various other punk rock tattoos on friends. I wasn’t gnarly enough at the time to get something, but I was definitely hooked. When I was 16, I had a friend whose father was a tattoo artist, and he had been tattooing from a very young age. I would hang with him a lot when he was tattooing, sometimes make his stencils for other people he was working on. The first tattoos I ever got were from him. The first time I ever picked up a machine was one of his and the first tattoo I ever did was on his leg. For all of that, I am forever grateful. Thank you, Steve.

What was your first shop experience like?

I walked to Tidewater Tattoo in Newport, Del. from the skatepark to watch some older friends get tattooed. I was probably 13 at the time, oblivious to the more interesting side of whatever was going on, I’m sure. Probably shouldn’t have been allowed in there though.

Do you have any special training?

Tens of thousands of hours of trial and error.

What brought you to work in black-and-grey?

I had a couple of trips where I didn’t pack my colors right and lost all my clothes when the ink bottles exploded. So I stopped bringing them. Moving forward, I found that the black-and-grey process was much more peaceful and therapeutic for me. The rules of elaborate color work didn’t line up with my creative process, and ultimately led me to develop a style in black-and-grey. At this point, my style is tailored toward practical technical application in the black-and-grey medium, with most decisions made for the best long-term outcome. 

What inspires you as an artist?

I live a life to be inspired. When I’m creating a piece, my senses are aligned to evoke a range of emotions and the drama between them. The range of experience I have in life, the good times and the bad times. Success and failure. Agony and ecstasy. Sometimes, I do things just to know what it feels like. So that I know first hand; so that I can revisit it. So that when I’m trying to express that emotion in a work of art, I know exactly when I’ve hit the mark. Once I blew $150K in one day. It was ballin’. On the flipside, I’ve been broke as a joke, in a way most people could never dream of. Or comprehend. One of those feelings God blessed me with, the other I earned on my own. Sometimes we are blessed with adverse experiences and although we may not welcome them, they play just as much a part in who we are, and the perspective we bring to the table in any given situation. For me, in this, I have found my voice as an artist. Sometimes you laugh your way to the bank. Sometimes you cry yourself to sleep. Sometimes it’s all in the same day. What is life?

What sets you apart from other artists?

A friend once told me, some people talk because they have something to say, while others talk because they just have to say something. I asked him, “Which are you?” Either way, I’m a more walking, less talking type of guy.

What kind of tattoos do you look forward to doing?

I’m the last person responsible for changing you from who you were when you walked in my door, to who you will be when you walk out. I look forward to changing people's lives. If it’s not that serious to you, then we aren’t meant to be working together.