Italian sculptor Fabio Viale inks his marble reproductions of iconic sculptures with heavy scenes of ancient stories, swirling waves, and foreboding clouds. Each vine, flower, and dragon-based composition is settled on a darkened backdrop that tends to envelop an entire back, leg, or shoulder, triggering an uncommon amalgam of material and form.
Viale doesn’t paint the marble but rather infuses an arm or chest with color and pattern in a manner that’s similar to tattooing a human body. He collaborated with chemists to refine the blended technique and said that “not surprisingly, each natural material has its strong personality and difficulties connected to it.”
In an interview with designboom, the sculptor spoke about merging art history and what he terms the “‘criminal tattoo,’ imbued with symbols and representations that derive from artistic imagination.” Viale says that by reproducing classical works rather than creating his own busts and marble statues, he’s able to better understand the original artist and the sentiments behind the iconic pieces.
It is a meeting between life and death, between the sacred and the profane. A combination, the relationships between these two sets, results in a solid bond that creates energy: The preconception we have of classical beauty and the hardness inherent in a certain type of criminal tattoo provoke gasp and wonder.
In comparison to the original Roman sculpture, Viale’s Laocoön is missing one boy on his right side. The main writhing figure is covered from mid-thigh up to his neck and down to his forearms with dark illustrations that include the seven deadly sins in “The Inferno,” which was painted by Giovanni da Modena in the 15th Century. Both the sculptor’s “Venus de Milo” and pair of hands are covered in code often found marked on Russian inmates.
To follow Viale’s work that fuses art history and more contemporary ink-based illustrations, head to his Instagram.
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Based in St. Petersburg, artist Sasha Unisex often begins a bold tattoo concept by painting a prismatic wolf or a cherry blossom-speckled origami crane with watercolor. She fills arrangements of stark shapes and precise gradients with crimson, cerulean, and tangerine hues. When the tattooist recreates her inky animals and florals on her clients’ bodies, the chromatic foxes and cats—which sometimes are outfitted with a plaid hat and pipe—look strikingly similar to the original watercolor paintings.
The artist often shares details about her travels and process, in addition to comparisons of her various wolves, cats, and lions, on her Instagram. If you’re not quite ready to commit to a permanent companion, though, Unisex offers temporary tattoos, prints, and apparel in her shop.
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Italian artist Michele Volpi tattoos highly detailed conceptual pieces using black ink and the negative space of his clients’ skin. With a surrealist style and a monochromatic palette, Volpi inks diagrams of insects, plants, and human anatomy that resemble vintage illustrations borrowed from science textbooks. With precise lines and controlled dotwork, each tattoo looks as if it were printed rather than done by hand.
Born in Sant’Elpidio a Mare, Italy in 1991, Volpi tells Colossal that he discovered the art tattooing 5 years ago and fell in love. While attending technical school, he also practiced various art styles to fulfill a desire to have his “fingers in many pies.” A friend recommended buying a tattooing starter kit, and Volpi said that it changed his life. After learning the basics and experimenting with techniques, the young tattoo artist found that line and dot work were among his favorites. “My style was influenced by geometries, nature, surrealism, and the sciences,” Volpi says. “I like to push my self every day finding inspiration from all around me and trying to go beyond the shallow in what I see. The world of art is endless and I can’t wait to discover it with my passion.”
Volpi also translates sketches to paper to create handmade works of art. To see more tattoos and for appointment booking information, follow the artist on Instagram. To browse and buy his watercolor bookmarks, head over to his Etsy store.
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Tattoo artist Makkala Rose creates dramatic botanical designs on her clients’ skin, incorporating richly toned flower blossoms, unctuous fruits, and life-like animal portraits. One recent commission involved completely covering a client’s back with a chiaroscuro “painting” featuring three burning candles, reflective glass and crystals, piles of ripe fruit, and a hanging bat on an inky black background.
Rose’s first love was painting, the artist tells Colossal. “One of my first memories was smearing bright purple paint from the pot onto a fresh sheet of paper stuck to an easel, and my love and fascination with art and creating has never ended.” Now that Rose spends most of her time tattooing, her background as a painter has come into dialogue with her ink work. “The feel and the mood brought through by my color palette and my style of tattooing is influenced by the way I like to paint and now vice versa as I spend a lot more time tattooing, they lend interestingly to each other,” says Rose.
The artist also has a strong personal connection to flowers and gardens (Rose tells Colossal that floristry would be her backup career), and she seeks to imbue her tattoo work with the joy that blossoms bring her. She spends time perusing different bouquet designs, photographing flowers in public gardens, and researching new plants and flowers to expand her repertoire, though peonies and blackberries are perennial favorites.
To create her most recent backpiece, shown above, Rose explains that she personally collected all the materials for the composition, from individual flowers to pitchers and crystals. She then arranged everything in a composition (minus the bat) and worked with a friend to take documentation photos in preparation for the tattoo design.
Rose hails from New Zealand, and travels frequently for her tattoo work, most often across the U.S., U.K., and New Zealand. See more of her designs on Instagram. Rose is usually booked several months out, but you can find out where she’ll be next on her website. If you enjoy Rose’s designs, also check out Esther Garcia’s inkwork.
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Turkish tattoo artist Havva Karabudak (who goes by Eva in the U.S.) creates incredibly detailed illustrations on clients’ limbs, all carefully rendered within the confines of perfect circles. The artist, who splits her times between residencies in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, has been honing her craft for almost nine years. Previously, Eva worked as an art teacher and muralist; she got into tattooing through a friend who worked in the industry.
Using almost impossibly small lines, Eva inks interpretations of famed paintings by Matisse, van Gogh, and Klimt, as well as Hokusai’s The Great Wave woodblock print and Maurice Sendak’s illustrations in Where The Wild Things Are. The artist also specializes in water scenes and evening skies, giving a suggestion of infinite depth to her petite tattoos.
Eva is currently booked through November, but you can see more of her recent illustrative tattoos on Instagram.
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Chicago-based tattoo artist Esther Garcia creates inky black backgrounds on her clients, which are interspersed with delicate floral designs. Sweet peas and garden roses, along with butterflies and birds, emerge from black palettes edged in stylized patterns. Garcia, who is largely self-taught and has twenty years of experience as a tattooer, is known for her lush botanical designs and her artistic project-based approach to tattooing. She shares with Colossal that her current series of black background tattoos began as a solution for cover-ups (a new tattoo deliberately designed and placed to obscure an older one that is no longer wanted).
“I found it meditative and very enjoyable to make a smooth saturated surface where there was chaos before, but pretty soon I was looking for ways to make it a bit more ornamental,” Garcia explains. “I am very influenced by Dutch master paintings of lush florals and fruit, and I love the depth and richness that a dark background offers. It turns out to be a great way to evoke delicacy in a tattoo, and doesn’t need to involve cover ups at all.”
In addition to continuing her tattoo practice, Garcia is also working on a textile and commercial design collaboration with Chicago designer Kyle Letendre, and a traveling workshop series to educate younger artists on cultivating a unique style and sustainable business. You can see more of Garcia’s tattoos on Instagram, and see what upcoming projects she has available on her website.
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Amsterdam-based artist Giselle Quinto embroiders the quiet moments that occur as one finds solitude. Quinto presents subjects left alone with just a potted plant or floral background. The works are created with precise black lines that outline a range of hairstyles, from short pixie cuts to a cascade of curls being held casually by a woman’s hand. Color tends to be used sparingly in her designs, often only used as an accent for plants, flowers, lips, and cheeks.
Quinto explains in her bio that her practice “brings an anarchic view to classic embroidery, revisiting old traditions and transforming it in protest for equality, where all have the right to be and live whoever they are.” You can buy your own piece of Quinto’s through her online shop and follow her photo shoots behind-the-scenes on Instagram. (via Brown Paper Bag)
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