Getting inked has an unmistakeable sense of ritual about it - a veritable milestone, it’s a commitment to an idea to the extent that you endure the pain of inscription on your very skin, a marriage of ink and skin that is indelible and permanent.
Urban India comes with its own potpourri of associations with tattoo art, with patrons ranging from newbies to old-timers, the globally conscious youngsters waiting to leap onto to the seemingly Western bandwagon, to those making questionable decisions while under the influence; all of them unite under the hypnotic spell cast by the sweet whirr of the machine. Tattoo art is a much older, wiser mistress though, with spiritual connotations in some tribal cultures of the belief to follow the bearer into the afterlife. Slowly but surely, tattoos are beginning to carve for themselves their own niche in the cultural fabric of society - as an art form.
In urban areas, what once started out as a fad has grown to be a craft that is finally assigned its rightful artistic value. Patrons and artists alike are pushing the boundaries to bring an element of greater skill and art to their tattoo designs. We combed the parlours of the country to bring to you some behind-the-scenes glimpses from the world of the artists themselves; in this first volume are the stories of eight Indian tattoo artists who are taking the art beyond mere fashion, to a finer culture:
I. Zaheer Chhatriwala
Mumbai-based Zaheer Chhatriwala has his own studio located at Hill Road, Bandra (Studio Z, which specialises in niche and specialised tattoos) but Zaheer’s personal journey with tattoo art goes back much further.
”My tryst with tattoo art or art goes back a long way and has been unknowingly growing since I was a kid,” he says. “I knew I had the flare, attitude, skill and passion to be an artist, and this very sense of creative expression made me different from others with my outlook, which drove me to persevere, to do something great that would leave my mark on the world. My life has centred around this childhood dream, and since a very young age I saw art (sketching & painting) as a medium to express myself and really enjoyed the feeling as it was the most honest feeling of expression possible. It also made me realize that the thing you enjoy the most as a kid is the thing you enjoy when you get old, and so I knew I had to make this hobby into my profession.”
Zaheer recalls a stint with a graphic and product design course he attempted after schooling and college that really didn’t work out, and he returned to education only to pursue his graduation in the field of Fine Art. In the interim though, his curiosity for other mediums had grown beyond the known paper and digital forms of art and this is when he stumbled upon the world of tattooing. After a long period, replete with a series of setbacks and failures, the thought of being a tattoo artist while simultaneously pursuing a diploma in fine art re-ignited his childhood passion.
”One major aspect of tattooing that has driven me to pursue it all my life is that it has taught me one of life’s biggest lessons: that dreams and fantasies aren’t bound by the same rules as reality. But if we gain the courage to defy conventions, never fear failure, stop letting society interpret what you ought to be and stay true to ourselves and apply that belief to all aspects of life, our dreams and fantasies can coincide with reality and we can know true happiness!”
Zaheer accedes that being a tattoo artist has both its moments of fun and horror. “I’ve had encounters with the funniest to worst of people ranging from parents who can’t remember their kids’ names and birthdays, to semi nude sociopaths talking to themselves and running around in my studio. I’ve had a client who got an ex-lover’s face tattooed to win her back, and some bad experiences with orthodox religious people trying to convert me. I’ve also had irritating people call me late at night convinced that I sell drugs, and been drawn into the worst conversations to do with dubstep, in the past.”
When asked what alternate profession would’ve been an option had he not been a tattoo artist, Zaheer says, “Although I share a keen interest in music and human psychology... if not a tattoo artist, I don’t know what I would be, quite frankly. I didn’t achieve success in academics or sports, and it’s only through art that I received recognition for my skills and appreciation for my talents; being a tattoo artist is all I know and it has helped me establish friendships, develop wisdom, strengthened my will, increased my confidence, introduced me to my life partner and shaped me to become a man I never thought I could be...at this stage in my life I can proudly say I am in a field where I can make the choices I wish to make, be free and be the one to hold the keys to my own happiness and future.”
As for influences, Zaheer shares with us that while he is is always deeply fascinated to see the works of various artists, he doesn’t particularly look up to any, but does derive inspiration from varied groups of intellectuals, artists, musicians, athletes, stand-up comedians, social commentators, cartoons and other people who have chosen creative fields and achieved success.
”I am more inspired by the mindset or personalities of the artists than the gift they have offered to the world,” he explains. “Throughout my six years of being a tattoo artist, there is one thing I’ve learnt that I’d like to share with aspiring artists - that life as an artist is all about balance and simplicity, don’t lose yourself along the way with fame, fortune, glory or success; in the end, true happiness is the thing you can’t count - so don’t take yourself too seriously, be silly, have fun but work hard and stay honest. I am 24 and have achieved everything by just believing in the simplest of things, but none of my success has any consequence to my happiness, and the only thing that satisfies me is the love of tattooing!”
II. Duncan Viegas
“Getting into tattooing wasn’t a conscious decision,” Goa-based tattoo artist Duncan Viegas says. “It just sort of just happened really, I worked in a call centre in order to save up for a course in computer animation, but even then I would constantly draw while taking calls. That’s when a friend suggested I take up an apprenticeship with his tattoo artist, who decided to teach me after seeing my drawings.”
Duncan had been sketching, drawing and painting ever since he was knee-high and recounts, “My early interest in drawing and art was influenced by my love for comics and cartoons as a kid. As a child I loved the artwork in comics.”
”I was always interested in art. I’ve been drawing since I was a kid and knew I would one day make a career using this skill I’ve been honing over the years. I always wanted to do something art related and even though tattooing wasn’t my first choice, once I started, I realised this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
His designs began to make their way into doodles during college classes, desks with a geometric compass, then box cutters and over the years, his influences came from artwork featured in comics such as DC, Marvel and Image. Though never formally trained in art, Duncan has honed his skills through years of practice and plain old hard work. “I guess it was a good thing (not being formally trained) because sometimes you can get conditioned to think one way and loose the versatility that a tattoo artist needs to have, and can’t adapt to the needs of clients’ different tastes.”
After being a slave to the rat race for more than 3 years, Duncan was offered a tattoo apprenticeship and not wasting a second thought he dove head first into the world of ink. “During my first year of apprenticeship I had to continue working at the call centre to support myself financially. Working two full time jobs with just 3 hours of sleep everyday took its toll but it was my determination to pursue my dream that kept me going.”
7 years after that fateful day Duncan now has his own studio that he runs with his partner Dionne Tassi. Inkfidel Tattooin, founded March 2013, is situated in Assagao, Goa, and provides high quality custom tattoos and art in a variety of styles and many people travel from across the country to get their ink done by Duncan.
When asked to elaborate on his love for tattoo art, he says, “I don’t even know where to begin, it means everything and more to me. It’s given me a sense of purpose. To be given the responsibility to put your artwork on someone’s body for the rest of their life is the highest honour in my opinion and should therefore never be taken for granted. The clients will never forget you and will always carry a part of you with them. It’s that thought that keeps me wanting to get better and push my art forward.”
When asked about his favourite drawing style, Duncan says, “I try and not stick to a particular style and keep my style of drawing as varied as possible as it allows me to cater to a larger clientele base. But if I had to pick I’d say I like drawing geometric, realism and new school style the most.”
“As far as horror stories go, I covered up a tattoo that the clients brother had done using a sewing needle and acrylic paint. Needless to say, it was messed up really bad!” he recalls, when asked about interesting snippets that have stood out with clients. “One funny story that stands out is when I tattooed a woman who throughout the entire session kept making these sounds like she was having an orgasm! But as any professional should, I kept my cool and remained calm and composed even though it was a super weird situation.”
If not a tattoo artist, Duncan reckon he’d have pursued something that was still art-related.
”Maybe a painter, doing street art and murals or an illustrator selling my artwork as prints or t-shirt designs. But if not art then it would definitely be something to do with music. Its my second favourite thing after art. My taste in music is like my taste in art, it’s vast & varied.”
As for artists he admires, he claims there are too many to name but the one name that sits right on top with is Bob Tyrrell. “He got into tattooing fairly late, like me, but through sheer grit and hard work, it is possible to rise to the top and become one of the best artists in the world that many artists look up to.”
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”My advice to aspiring artists is to keep drawing! And no matter how complex or simple the design is, always give each tattoo you do 110% because you’re only as good as your last one!”
III. Gumani (Pia Meenakshi)
“I got a couple of small, silly and insignificant tattoos when I was in the 11th and 12th,” collector/painter/tattoo artist Pia Meenakshi, Bangalore-based professional illustrator and tattoo artist who runs the design studio GUMANI, tries to recollect her first tryst with tattoos. “I wanted to do something art related and relevant while I was studying; I joined a studio called Dark Arts in Bangalore and learnt tattooing under Pradeep Menon. It kind of came naturally to me to mix my skills in drawing with tattooing. I didn’t take too long to get used to the machine.”
Gumani (her studio and artist name) nurtures a deep love for the great outdoors that has helped her ‘find inspiration in Mother Nature’s secret stash of goodies’ and she occupies a great deal of her waking (and dreaming) time in the midst of wolves, skulls and plants amongst other things. Pia picked up tattooing from right from college, and loved injecting all things magical into her tattoo and illustrative work, with a penchant for the idea of feral girls belonging to wolf tribes, kids living in forests and secret dreams of escaping into the wild.
Having had the chance to work closely with her during the PUMA Collectors & Curators Event we hosted back in March last year, Pia’s had us impressed with her designs and when it comes to tattooing, she said that it was the fact that it was a really personal form of art that really made it stick.
”Personal in the sense, you get to closely interact with the client, and most of the time the designs were of sentimental value,” she elaborates. “Seeing the look of happiness on your client’s face, when you finished the tattoo and they saw their idea translated on skin, is a feeling I love the most. There’s so much value added to your work and your time when you work towards realizing someone’s dream of getting a memory tattooed.”
As for pursuing tattooing full-time, she came upon the decision when she started figuring out a style of work she was really comfortable doing.
”When I knew I had something new to contribute to the industry,” she pinpoints the professional milestone certainly. “I also work as an illustrator and I liked that I could translate my illustration into illustrative tattoos, whether it was just a visual design or a meaningful one. Also I like that you deal with a client, one on one, and once the tattoo is over, you can move on to the next one. That way illustration tends to drag on, and you can’t completely move on until the project is over and you get paid. Tattooing was a nice balance for my career.”
Pia seems really fulfilled but we just had to ask - besides the happy clients, chit-chats and memory-making, what have been some of the horror stories she’s faced as a tattoo artist?
”Haha, no real horror stories,” she replies candidly. “There are recurring issues with some clients. They believe getting tattooed sober is impossible and insist on being under the influence when they come for their tattoo. I usually send them back.
”There are also loads of annoying questions about how painful it is and I constantly have women freaking out over it the most and giving me a hard time during the tattoo, but when I tell them how it hurts (its like threading) – they tend to calm down,” she tells us. “But its mostly the male clients that are this complicated. They have all sorts of problems. Either its too painful, or they argue about how some friend did it elsewhere for cheaper or about how some long-lost friend came to me so they want a discount. They also feel weird being tattooed by a woman, only because they feel lame about themselves. Some men can’t understand that women can be as hardcore/ ballsy/ have a man’s job. I tend to notice this a lot.”
When asked what she’d be doing if not tattooing professionally, Pia says, “Maybe I’d sit and paint all day, but that won’t pay the bills. I do a lot of creative stuff on the side. I bind books, I make illustrative paper art, I learnt pottery, I work with leather. I like keeping myself busy with creative work. Everyone needs a break from the one thing they are doing, and they need to keep trying new stuff to keep your brain working.”
The likes of Jeff Gogue, Alison Woodward, Pari Corbett, Emily Rose Murray, Greggletron, Jaya Suartika, Javier Betancourt, Sasha Unisex, Brian Povak come up as names in the industry she personally looks up to, because of their clean, crisp illustrative work. When it comes to giving advice to other budding tattoo artists in the country, Pia says, “It feels weird to give advice to aspiring ones, because I feel like I’m the aspiring one. One bit of advice to anyone in any creative field is just keep doing it, it gets tough, you won’t make money initially, but don’t just give up. Making a name for yourself is hard, but it gets easier- all you have to do is keep working, keep practising. It will not only improve your work skills, but it will improve how you deal with clients, money and life.”
IV. Eric D’souza
Eric D’souza is the co-owner of Mumbai-based Iron Buzz Tattoos, someone whose work in ink has gained much admiration over his six years wielding the mighty machine. When Eric is not tattooing, he is busy sketching away with new art tools for disposal at all times and co-owner/ girlfriend, Aishin Diana Chang to keep him in check. Versatile as he is as a tattoo artist, he specializes in Realism style which is most commonly known as 3D tattoos.
“I’ve been an artist since childhood; winning art competitions in school, painting t-shirts, body painting, designing school and college event banners; but tattooing was never a part of my career option as a child,” Eric tells us. “I once came across a friend with a tribal tattoo and I was so intrigued with the art that I started doing temporary tattoos at college events and during lectures. Yeah - I wanted to be cool to attract attention from the opposite sex, no kidding! But I had to be serious about art someday so I started looking for apprenticeships, and eventually landed a job at one of the reputed tattoo studios in Mumbai where I spent more than 5 years learning and upgrading my skills. That’s when I decided that tattooing will earn my bread and butter from now on.”
Eric likens tattooing to religion, to which he dedicates most of his time.
”Being a tattoo artist in India isn’t easy for not many understand the difference between money and skill but if you keep those things aside, tattooing has opened up my views and opinions towards Art,” Eric shares. “The other aspect about tattooing I love the most is the boost in morale when my followers appreciate my work and I am thankful to all the people I have met in my 7 years of tattooing, and the ones who carry my work on their body for the rest of their life - now that’s a high!”
So what were some of the funny incidents along the way?
”There was an instance where a client walked in with his brother to get a tattoo and he asked me to show him designs that suit his personality. Funny how he expected me to read his brothers personality when they just entered 2 seconds ago. Anyway, we go through a series of tattoo pics on my design folder and we stumbled upon a folder called ‘Zodiac tattoos’. FINALLY! The brother was interested in a photo which had two beautiful ladies sitting with their back facing each other. My client asked him if he was a Gemini to which this guy quickly responds by saying “I’m a VIRGIN!” to complete silence from the rest of the room.”
”I can go on and on about funny stories,” Eric says. “But the one that stood out the most was when a client asked me to tattoo a butterfly on his Gluteus Maximus - yeah, I did smirk at that but this is romance, the reason being that his girlfriend always wanted to get a tattoo but being diagnosed with a skin disease she couldn’t get tattooed so her boyfriend got the tattoo for her. That’s the sweetest gesture from a partner.”
As for an alternate profession, Eric says that, if not a tattoo artist, he would be ‘either a senior reservations officer at one of the Airline companies or a tour manager showing my fellow Indians how beautiful Europe is’.
Citing his mentor Sameer Patange and ex-colleagues/friends Deep Dacreep and Duncan Viegas as major influences from within India, he says he also follows tattoo artists Jeff Gogue and Victor Portugal.
“The one piece of advice I’d like to give aspiring tattoo artists is that there will come a day for their share of fame too, all you have to do is stay determined and work hard each day. And if you want to reach your goals faster, get a proper apprenticeship from an experienced professional tattoo artist who will not only give you a platform to expose your skills to the outside world but also share all the knowledge he/she has gained over the years of hard work.”
Eric has won 3 awards so far in the realism style of tattooing, making him India’s first International award-winning tattoo artist, and has also recently won the Best Achievers Tattoo Artist of India at the India International Delhi Tattoo Convention, 2014.
V. Lokesh Verma
“I started out in 2003 when I wanted a tattoo and realised there weren’t any in Delhi,” Lokesh, founder of Delhi-based Devil’z Tattooz tells us. “I was always artistic, I could always draw - so I tried my hand at it, and strove hard to buy myself a tattoo machine, from the States, for which I even took up a part-time position as a DJ at a local bar. I was doing my MBA at the time and I started realising that people really liked my work and by word of mouth, it got really popular and I decided to stick to it. My first tattoo, an ambigram, was one I did myself.”
Lokesh has been quite the globetrotter, having worked in some of the leading tattoo studios in the world including Paul Booth’s Last Rites Tattoo Theatre, NY, Tommy Lee’s Monsters Under Your Bed, Cologne, Germany, Alex de Pase’s Off The Map, Italy. Lokesh, who was also one of the first people to start tattooing in India, is a self-trained artist and has been fascinated with sketching as far back as he can remember. An amalgam of tattoo styles ranging from traditional to new school and portraits, constitute his portfolio, but Lokesh personally enjoys realistic tattooing the most and specialises in colour and black and grey.
“It’s one of the most unique art forms that you can express yourself through,” he tells us. “It’s creative and there’s a lot of artistic freedom. It’s also not a 9-5 job, and has always been very exciting for me.”
When asked about some of the funnier aspects of tattoo art, he recalls, “There have been quite a few customers who come in wanting to get old tattoos fixed, generally something in Chinese or Hebrew that’s been mistranslated. I try and look up the actual words and correct them. There was one tattoo I covered up that was supposed to mean ‘courage’ in Chinese, but the word that had been inked in meant ‘spaghetti’. He found out three years later.”
If not a tattoo artist, Lokesh supposes he’d go back to being a DJ, although he’s probably going to keep his options open as he’d dabbled in a variety of things before taking up tattoo art as a profession. Some of the tattoo artists he lists as his first influences include Bob Tyrrell and Paul Booth, while an Indian artist he really looks up to would be New York-based Anil Gupta.
“There was no one to teach me when I started out,” Lokesh shares. “To young tattoo artists, I’d suggest learning under someone rather than starting off on your own. Your technique might not be right, and it’ll take longer to learn by yourself - under the guidance of an experienced artist, you’ll probably learn faster and better.”
VI. Vivek Dauze
“Tattooing happened to me accidentally, but I suppose I was always drawn to art even as a child,”
Vivek Dauze, who is a tattoo artist at Devil’z Tattooz, says. “Professionally, I have trained as a mechanical engineer, and I could visualise the machines - which is essential in the profession. It was only during the course of running my factory, where we used to manufacture machines and dyes, that I came in contact with a few tattoo artists who needed supplies to be made.”
This was nearly a decade ago, and it was difficult to procure equipment for tattooing in India because there was no standard for it. One day, caught in the middle of an argument regarding a logo that stretched on for half an hour, Vivek decided to pick up a pencil and sketch the different designs being discussed.
”That was the turning point,” he says. “After seeing those designs, the artists were quiet for some time. After that silence, they told me that I wasn’t meant for engineering, and that I needed to start tattooing, because I could put people’s ideas on paper. That’s when I started designing for them, as well as manufacturing tattoo equipment.”
It was during the course of six months after Vivek began his contract with the tattoo artists that he learnt about how to improve the functionality of the equipment; the variable power, needle configurations, and a few other things, and came to know about practical tattooing procedures such as machine settings and power.
”I used to watch people while they were tattooing,” he recalls. “One of the artists used to teach people how to tattoo, and because of my designing abilities, students also consulted with me. Eventually, I started picking up how to tattoo just from watching at learning. And once I picked up the machine, designing was something that took the backseat, as tattooing took the first.”
Vivek recalls that his friends laughed, while his family was left spellbound at his new career choice, not knowing to justify it. “They weren’t comfortable with my new chosen profession initially, not understanding that tattooing was a respectable job. They expected that in a few years, I would return to my old position. Now that it has been nine years, and they have seen the progression of my work they have finally accepted it; and even my mother has expressed interest in her first tattoo!”
Over the course of his decade-long career, Vivek has noticed a tremendous change in the tattoo industry. “As far as the tattoo artists are concerned, they have become more and more hygiene conscious, and the quality of the tattoos has improved many times over. And as far as the clients are concerned, due to all of the media exposure in recent years they are more open to realistic tattoos, and personal thoughts and feelings being made into designs.”
”When I first started, tribal and Old school was the only thing anyone was getting. No one was open to anything more complex. At the time the artist who experimented with realistic tattoos ruined them - even the portraits looked like tribal designs! That was one of the reasons I decided to tattoo, because I knew that I could do better!”
Today, Vivek specialises in traditional tattoo designs, especially paisley, with a distinct ethnic touch that are as intricate as they are beautiful, and Lokesh Verma, founder of Devil’z Tattoos, tells us that there is a cult following for these designs of Vivek’s, amongst their clientèle, especially with visiting tourists in Delhi .
Describing his usual clients as ‘a mix of young students, corporate workers, rich brats, and the wannabes’, he adds, “Other than that, there are also serious set of art collectors who come up with some interesting and complex ideas, and few even go a step further by giving us the freedom to make something extraordinary.”
”The most exciting thing about tattooing is the medium - creating artwork on someone’s skin; having someone put their trust in you to make something astounding. The toughest part is that, we are not supposed to make mistakes, and sometimes when the clients have unrealistic expectations and want a design to be copied exactly, it can be difficult to manage those expectations, because every artist has a slightly different signature style; we are not copy machines, each tattoo will look slightly different.”
“I personally believe that tattooing is a very serious art,” Vivek says. “But I don’t think that it is widely accepted, or thought of that way by the common person in India - not yet. There is a transition happening here, more people are opening their minds and perception. But at the moment, it’s not yet thought of as a different artistic medium like painting and drawing.”
VII. Alex Shimray
“My tattoo journey began in 1999, when the Olympics were on and I was watching a basketball game,” Alex Shimray recalls. “I noticed that one of the players had this tattoo of a barbed wire on his bicep and wondered out loud how tattoos were made. To which, a classmate, this girl, replied that she knew how to make one. The next thing I knew we had decided that she would demonstrate this knowledge of tattoo making on me. It was to be done with the graphite rod of a battery, finely powdered with the help of a razor blade and mixed into some hair oil to make it resemble some sort of ink. The only problem we had to overcome was that she didn’t know how to draw anything, let alone a barbed wire. So I drew this barbed wire onto my right arm, with my left hand holding the ball point pen. She then simply traced over my freehand crooked little sketch of a barbed wire onto my arm by first dipping the needle into the ink and then piercing my skin with it. Thus began my headfirst ride into the world of tattooing.”
Alex Shimray definitely had an interesting introduction to tattooing. Born in the Ukhrul District of Manipur and belonging to the tribe of ‘Naga Tangkhul’, he was brought up in Dimapur, Nagaland. His first ‘conventional’ tattoo on himself was practised in Pune, where the first tattoo machines were bought. After freelancing as a tattoo artist for four years in Koregaon Park, he came to Delhi and eventually joined Devilz Tattooz.
Alex specialises in colour tattoos at present, and has been inspired and fascinated by tattoos since childhood, as the traditional culture of the Naga tribe itself has a very significant tattoo history. He wants to be known more as a contemporary Naga tattoo Artist, with expertise in a fusion of trendy and traditional tattoos.
”I guess the best part would be doing what I love to do,” he says. “It’s odd because you give pain to people from all walks of life and you still never get punched or cursed at. Instead you get hugs and appreciation. It’s an intimate process. People let you into their deepest secrets, sorrow, pain, happiness, and dreams, and let you take all of these and translate these into an artwork on their bodies. Permanent artwork that they take with them everywhere. It travels the world with them. Lives with them. Dies with them. And becomes a part of them. What could possibly be more exciting?”
“It’s also a huge responsibility and a challenge at the same time to really do justice to the trust that people put in me, to make these indelible marks on their bodies. It’s still an overwhelming feeling and has made me a much better person than I ever was before.”
When asked about interesting anecdotes with clients, Alex says, “We get incredibly funny and ridiculous clients on almost a daily basis. But a few do stand out.
”Drunk people make awful clients as a rule. This one guy at a studio I previously worked, (let’s not name any names here) came in slozzered asking to get a religious prayer on his back. I was hesitant to even start the tattoo but relented at the request of the owner of said studio. The guy kept squirming and swearing and grumbling through the tattoo and eventually passed out cold on the chair. In his inebriated state he must’ve forgotten that he was getting a tattoo at all because he suddenly woke up, shoved my hand away and glowered at me angrily. I am a patient man. That day however, I put my machine down, left the half done tattoo and the stupid drunk angry man walked out of the studio and went back home with an unfinished tattoo which he never came back for again.”
As for an alternative profession, he tells us, “A boxer! I can imagine myself in the Olympics – Alex Shimray,a NAGA gold medallist!”
Jeff Gogue, Alex De Pase, Guy Aitchison are a few of the tattoo artist he really looks up, who remain constant favourites.
”No novel advice to give [to budding tattoo artists] as such, to get anywhere in this field, like any other, you have to learn to love hard work, and have to give all your focus to each piece of work that comes your way. Never assume that you know enough - because then you’d never learn and grow.”
VIII. Vikas Malani
“I discovered my talent for body painting and drawing tattoos at quite an early stage of my life, during my college days when I won several awards in inter-college competitions,” Vikas Malani, co-founder of Body Canvas tells us. “I started making tattoos professionally in 2001, at my place in Mumbai. In 2003, I opened my first studio in Versova, Mumbai. Now, the company has 16 employees, and runs studios in Mumbai and in Delhi.”
Vikas Malani initially used to work for a BPO company in the day, and make tattoos by night.
“Being completely exhausted after the day long work, somehow tattoos still managed to keep me awake. There is something called job satisfaction…this satisfaction was always a driving force, that fuelled me to pursue tattooing as my full-time profession. I have my art on the canvas called ‘Body’, my art doesn’t need exhibitions for demonstration and manifestation…it travels from one city to other and is cherished by millions of people. This is all what I love about my passion – tattooing!”
When asked about horror stories or funny snippets he might’ve come across with clients, Vikas smiles slyly.
”There are many, I can actually write a book called ‘True stories while tattooing’. Firstly horror stories...when people get their beloved’s name written, and immediately realize it’s a wrong name. But we know how to convert these horror stories into happy stories (whew!!). Once a boy came in for a tattoo accompanied by his mother. His mother was telling me to convince her son to not get the tattoo… at the end of the day, both mother and son left the tattoo studio inked. Well the charm of the tattoos didn’t end here, they came back as the grandmother also wanted a tattoo (laughs). There are many stories about the mission and passion of BodyCanvas.”
When it comes to where Indian tattoo art stands today on an international level, Vikas says, “We are evolving. Indian artists are using quality machines, colours, and are coming closer to creating an art form equivalent to International standards. A lot of thinking actually goes into the art of inking. This realization is now happening in India.”
If not a tattoo artist, Vikas Malani says he’d have been a chef. “Art is still there! Beauty of art runs through my veins and arteries.”
Some of the artists he looks up to include Silvano Fiato, Jo Harrison, Jason butcher, Alex de pase,. Boristattoo Wien and Mike Devries and as advice to aspiring artists, he says, “Do your work with passion and dedication! Love what you do, and learn from what you do.”