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With over half a million followers, Valentina Riabova is one of the most sought-after artists in Germany. However, if you asked her, she would tell you that she isn’t driven by the goal to become world-famous or make as much money as possible. Instead, this color realism artist is continuously inspired to perfect her talents as a tattooer using the training she developed as a fine artist. We sat down to learn this ever-evolving artist’s perspective on developing a signature style, tattooing a self portrait and where she finds inspiration for her coveted horror designs.

When did you decide to pursue a career in tattooing and which artists were influential in your decision to become an artist?

To be honest, I wasn’t always interested in tattoo culture and at the time I started, I only had a couple tattoos. But, I’ve always drawn, painted and studied art. One day towards the end of 2012, I realized that tattoos were a kind of art, but very few built something artistically. They were mostly copies of pictures. I thought to myself that it was possible to make my art look good on skin because you can build the image on any canvas. I can’t say that I was inspired to start tattooing by someone in the industry, because I barely knew anyone in the first year of my tattooing attempts. But I was inspired by my painting teachers and the classical artists of the past.

How would you describe your signature style and how have you developed over time?

For the most part, my style is color realism and my approach to tattooing is based on different experiences I’ve had from painting school.

How does someone become a world-renowned color realism artist?

I believe becoming world-renowned shouldn’t be the goal of a tattoo artist. I feel the same way about money, and the more you’re focused on it, the more likely you won’t make a lot of it. But the more an artist gives to other people, the more they get back. It’s all about your inner energy, your passion for your job, your priorities and your desire to work.

In the past, you’ve tattooed your own portrait onto clients. What’s that experience like?

It feels nice, of course. You also know your own face the best, right? So in that way, it’s even easier.

Where do you find inspiration for your horror tattoos and what’s your favorite horror movie?

It’s weird, but I don’t really watch movies. Though, I do like “The Poughkeepsie Tapes.” But in the end, that movie is more psychological than true horror. My inspiration mostly comes from inside, probably non-liberated aggression that more or less everyone has.

Beyond tattooing, what other art mediums do you work in?

I like working in a few different mediums such as painting, sculpture, modeling, pole dancing and Japanese Shibari. I really like playing drums, but I unfortunately didn’t succeed in music. However, I might come back to it one day.

How do your skills as a painter help you as a tattoo artist?

Painting and tattooing have a direct connection. Painting is a base teaching method for tattoo artists and makes the technical side of tattooing easier to learn.

What’s your favorite city that you’ve traveled to for tattooing?

I really liked Rome. Vienna and Paris were also very nice. But I feel more of a connection with nature, rather than cities. The landscapes of Sweden and Switzerland are amazing.

Follow Valentina Riabova on Instagram @val_tatboo