One might learn something from staring at the tattoos of Italian artist Michele Volpi (previously). The composition, detailed dot work, and precise lines of his tattoos transcend both ink-infused skin and science textbooks. The Bologna-based tattoo artist relishes in scientific books—from Frank Netter’s painterly medical illustrations to the exquisitely rendered biological specimens and marine life of Ernst Haeckel. He often visits bookshops during his travels to discover and acquire these new sources of inspiration.
Volpi’s customers seek him out to tattoo an array of botany, astronomy, physiology, and chemistry-based compositions. Sometimes customers let him choose the branch of science, in which case he renders his favorite subject—anatomy. Even then, Volpi combines subject matter like in his tattoo comparing the shape of a human pelvis to that of a butterfly or another that features a human skull being stretched absurdly through a wormhole.
The artist tells Colossal that his “dream is to make a scientific book with all of my conceptual scientific illustrations that I love.” View Volpi’s body of work and booking information on Instagram. For those not ready for the permanence of a tattoo, there are prints of his pen-and-ink, anatomical illustrations available in his shop.
Share this story
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.
Share this story
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.
View this post on Instagram
Share this story
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.
Share this story
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.
Share this story
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.
Share this story
Editor's Picks: History
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.