Interview with Coy Barrientos

   Hello Coy Barrientos! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. It means a lot having you here. Please start by telling us something about yourself and your background. When the affinity for art first began? Since my childhood, I've been drawn to the world of art like a moth to a flame. Crafting, drawing, and exploring different creative outlets were my favorite pastimes. My first real drawing book, not just a stack of loose paper, came into my possession when I was just five years old, and from that moment on, I was completely hooked up with art. Although I briefly attended art school during my teenage years, the traditional education system never quite resonated with me. Instead, I found that my true school was dedication – pouring my heart and soul into my craft, exploring new techniques, and pushing the boundaries of my creativity. Art became not just a hobby, but a way of life, a medium through which I could express myself and connect with the world around me.

Q: Do you have any favorite artists who inspired you to draw and maybe create your own style?
A: Absolutely, I've been fortunate to draw inspiration from a diverse array of artists throughout my journey. Alphonse Mucha was a significant influence, especially when I first started exploring tattoo art. His captivating Art Nouveau style left an indelible mark on my approach to design. Moreover, European and Japanese artists have played important roles in shaping my artistic vision. From the beautiful paintings of European illustrators to the dynamic compositions of Japanese masters from the Edo Period, I've drawn inspiration from several cultures. Additionally, manga and cartoons have left an undeniable imprint on my work. These diverse influences have collectively mixed through my art, guiding me to explore new styles and blend them in my own work.

Q: What got you interested in tattoo art? How it all started?
A: Since I was a kid, I've always been fascinated by tattoos and piercings. Heavy music was a big part of my life, and I admired how my favorite artists adorned themselves with tattoos. The aesthetic resonated with me deeply, but at the time, the world of tattooing seemed like a mystery to me. I had no idea how one could even begin the process of becoming a tattoo artist or what it required. It was something I admired from afar without ever imagining myself as part of that world. It was only when someone suggested that I should start tattooing, given my already decent drawing skills, that I realized the potential of turning my passion into a profession. Surprisingly, tattooing became more than just a career path; it became a lifeline. I immediately fell in love with the craft, and now, I can't even imagine a life without being able to tattoo. It's transformed not only my career but also my entire outlook on life.

Q: Was it hard to learn the basics? Did anyone help you or are you a self taught artist?
A: Learning the basics of tattooing was indeed challenging, but incredibly rewarding. I am primarily self-taught, starting at home with little knowledge, just watching youtube videos and going to tattoo seminars. However, I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have received an apprenticeship at a studio, where I had the opportunity to learn from experienced artists and refine my skills under their guidance. Their mentorship played a crucial role in shaping my journey as a tattoo artist, and I am forever grateful for their support and knowledge.

Q: What kind of tattoos did you use to do as a beginner?
A: As a beginner, I focused on mastering fundamental designs such as symbols, small motifs, and simple compositions. These included basic line work, small geometric shapes, and minimalist designs, you know just the usual nothing fancy. I also practiced shading techniques and experimented with varying line weights to understand how they work and how they affected the result. Additionally, I often worked on small-scale tattoos that allowed me to practice my precision and control and most important the confidence you are required to have in this craft.

Q: Did you have a period of finding yourself creatively?
A: Absolutely, finding myself creatively has been an ongoing journey filled with exploration, frustration and growth. Like many artists, I've experienced periods of experimentation, self-discovery, and evolution in my artistic style. I've learned that sometimes you just have to be stoic and have lots of discipline to get out of your comfort zone, try new techniques, and push the boundaries. I've learned to trust my guts, and be me, and find inspiration in unexpected places. It's just a matter of trusting in the process being consistent and eventually the reward will be given to you.

Q: I really love your style. It's a beautiful mix of the old traditional Japanese and some new vibe from you, very interesting. Would you give your style a name or?
A: Thank you for your kind words! I don't think I have a specific name for my style, I would describe it as a fusion of traditional Japanese tattoo with contemporary elements. I often draw inspiration from Japanese paintings, manga, and my previous work in neotraditional tattooing. If I was to choose a name I would love to call it Neo Irezumi.

- Why this style, what do you like the most about it?
Alongside my deep appreciation the Japanese artists have for their craft, it's the level of detail, complexity, and unwavering dedication they infuse into every piece that makes it for me. I think I approach my work with the same level of dedication, love and passion. Also, since I was a teenager I had close contact with Japanese culture as I attended a Japanese High School in my country. So I've always had respect for Japanese art.

Q: I believe every tattoo artist's dream is to have their own style (be known for) and with that, to have the creative freedom while working for their clients. Your clients already know what to expect and not only (the best from you) but also a unique design. You are not a tattooer, you are a tattoo artist! How do you feel about this?
A: I wholeheartedly agree. For me, having my own distinct style and being recognized for it is not just a dream, but a driving force behind my work. It's incredibly fulfilling to know that my clients trust me to deliver not only the highest quality tattoos but also designs that are uniquely tailored to them. Being viewed as a tattoo artist rather than just a tattooer is a tremendous honor. It signifies that my craft is not merely about applying ink to skin but about creating meaningful and custom works of art. I see my tattoos as art paintings on the skin.

Q: Do you negotiate with your clients when it comes to design or placement?
A: Yes, I'm always open to discussing design ideas and placement with my clients. I believe it's essential to collaborate closely with them to ensure that their vision is fully achieved in the final result. I always provide guidance and expertise based on my knowledge and experience, but I also value my clients' input and preferences. Ultimately, my goal is to create a tattoo that not only meets their expectations but also exceeds them, so I'm always willing to negotiate and find a solution that works best for both of us.

- Have you ever refused to do a certain design?
So far I have not, but most probably hate tattoos of any kind or tattoos that would compromise the integrity of any person would be something I would refuse.

Q: You are also very good at drawing. How important is it to have good drawing skills in order to be good at tattooing?
A: Thank you! For me, dedicating countless hours to perfecting my own style and approach to tattooing has been a labor of love. I Personally believe that to truly give back to this craft, I must immerse myself in the art of drawing, to create something you can uniquely call your own. For me, creation is everything - I can't imagine a life without it. It's my driving force, my passion, and my purpose. I think the hardest part of tattooing is the art part, creating something requires so much more mental processes, than just trying to make something look the same as your clients reference, but of course technique is a pretty important part as well, having both makes you an excellent artist. I think both are equally important at least for what I do.

Q: You sell some of your tattoo prints. Please write down your email and how/where my readers can buy some. They look awesome! I think you should design like a t-shirt collection or a whole catalog with your designs.
A: I have made t-shirt designs in the past and that's something I would love to do again. For inquiries or to place an order for a print, please email me at zhinztoken@gmail.com.

Q: Do you have any favorite tattoo you did that is like a creative "upgrade" and technically a bit challenging but still turned out really good?
A: It was such a wonderful experience when a client brought me a drawing of her 9-year-old niece and asked me to put my own spin on it. Seeing how happy my client was and the surprise and joy on her niece's face when they saw the tattoo was priceless. It's moments like these that make being a tattoo artist so rewarding. Creating connections and spreading happiness through my art is what it's all about. Also doing my own pre-drawn designs it's always an accomplishment.

Q: Most of your tattoos are full color. Do you prefer color tattooing?
A: I genuinely appreciate both methods. Each brings its own unique approach, and the process varies slightly. I enjoy working with multiple techniques. Above all, I prioritize providing my clients with the freedom to choose what resonates with them, ensuring their satisfaction with the outcome. However, when it comes to using colors, trust me I go all out.

Q: Any specific rules when it comes to ink application and skin types? Which ones are more difficult to work on?
A: I already have my own workflow, I know what color pallet I like, which is also something that has become part of my style so ink should not be that important, I think it's more important to know how to read the skin when you are working with it, and that's something only experience can give you. I'm pretty used to working with all skin types.

Q: What would be the dream piece you want to tattoo and who would be the client?
A: Dream pieces would always be full body pieces, it's almost like you are just painting but on the skin. These types of pieces require a lot of compromise from the clients, not only because they require patience but also because you have to commit with pain and make it your own.

Q: I must mention, the style reminds me of those beautifully designed japanese postcards, book covers and illustrations. Have you ever thought to try your luck in this field? I think you will be amazing! Or... "Just" an interesting comic book with crazy characters and cool storylines. Just an idea!
A: I've never considered exploring those fields before, but I'm intrigued by the idea. Thanks for the suggestion! Who knows, maybe I'll steal it from you guys, haha! On a more serious note, I'm currently working on a personal project and have plans to create toys featuring my characters in the near future.

Q: Where are you located? Please write down your contacts, social media links and studio address. Are you available for bookings?
A: I am Currently located in Costa Rica, I have my own studio called Token Tattoo Studio. You can visit us at tokentattostudio.com or also through my instagram @coybarrientos and book and appointment with me.

Q: What's your opinion about the local tattoo scene? Do you see progress?
A: It's always great to see the local tattoo scene evolve and grow. I've observed positive changes and advancements in recent years, such as increased recognition of tattooing as a legitimate art form and greater acceptance within mainstream culture. With more talented artists emerging and a growing appreciation for diverse tattoo styles, it's clear that progress is being made. Additionally, the availability of professional studios and adherence to health and safety standards contribute to the overall improvement of the local tattoo scene. Overall, I'm optimistic about the future of tattooing and excited to see how it continues to evolve.

Q: How is tattooing regulated in your country and do you think it needs improvement?
A: Working in a professional tattoo studio, I adhere to all state regulations and prioritize professionalism as a bare minimum standard. In my country, tattooing is regulated by a combination of health and safety guidelines, licensing requirements, and local ordinances. These regulations are in place to ensure the safety of both clients and artists, covering aspects such as hygiene practices, equipment sterilization, and proper disposal of waste. I believe that the current regulatory framework provides a solid foundation for maintaining safety and quality standards within the industry. However, there is always room for improvement. Continued education and training for tattoo artists on the latest techniques, safety protocols, and advancements in equipment can further enhance the overall standard of tattooing. I've given some seminars myself. Additionally, ongoing collaboration between tattoo artists, health authorities, and regulatory bodies can help identify areas for improvement and ensure that regulations remain effective and up-to-date with evolving industry practices.

Q: What is a good tattoo artist from an ethical point of view?
A: For me a good tattoo artist from an ethical standpoint prioritizes integrity, professionalism, and client well-being. This includes maintaining positive energy in the studio, fostering clear communication with clients to understand their needs, and being punctual to respect their time. Additionally, offering guidance and assistance throughout the tattooing process ensures that clients feel informed and supported in their decisions. By embodying these principles, a good tattoo artist creates a welcoming environment and meaningful experiences for their clients.

Q: What about the global tattoo scene? I think we, as a collective, are heading in a good direction. Many new, talented artists, tattoo conventions, seminars and opportunities. On the other side of the coin, sometimes this can blur the line between good, quality work and just fake publicity, zero talent and skills. However, overall I believe it's better than it was just ten years ago... What's your opinion?
A: The tattoo industry is changing, and like everything else, we have to keep up. Some people are in it just for the money, but I believe being a good artist also means being good at business. We're responsible for a service, and what we put on someone's body matters most. For me, tattooing is a passion. When you love what you do, you naturally do it well and enjoy the process of getting better. Becoming a tattoo artist has been a dream come true. I started as an apprentice and learned that growth takes time. But if social media or other distractions get in the way of doing great work, it's worth thinking about why you're in this business. Art doesn't stay in one place; it grows with the artist. I've seen more people taking tattooing seriously lately, both artists and clients. There's so much information available now, and it's making a positive difference. It's important to focus on these good changes rather than dwell on the negatives.

Q: How often do you participate in those types of events?
A: I've had the privilege of participating in numerous international conventions, including the Barcelona Tattoo Convention, multiple editions of the Mexico Tattoo Convention, and conventions in Costa Rica. Additionally, I had the honor of judging at the Mayagna Tattoo Convention in Nicaragua and will be participating as a judge at the upcoming New York Tattoo Convention this year. In addition to conventions, I've conducted guest spots at esteemed studios across Spain (Barcelona, Madrid) and Mexico (CDMX, Guadalajara), collaborating with places like Burial Art Gallery, BHORN Tattoo Studio, Inkinctv, Karbon Tattoo, and Goldline Tattoo, among others. I've also shared my knowledge and expertise through seminars, both conducting my own sessions and participating as a guest. These experiences have been invaluable in shaping my perspective and evolving as an artist. Beyond tattooing, my work has been recognized in traditional art magazines such as Beautiful Bizarre Magazine from Australia, showcasing some of my pencil drawings.

Q: The American tattoo scene is huge and very diverse. Oftentimes, the most influential artists are from some hotspot in the USA... As a young and talented artist, would you consider moving there? I think that would be awesome!
A: The American tattoo scene is massive for sure. For me, moving there could offer great opportunities for growth and collaboration within the industry. It's an exciting prospect to be part of such a dynamic community, and I would love to contribute to that diversity with my own unique style of tattooing.

Q: Would you consider working together with someone on a big scale tattoo like a full back piece? Tattoo collaborations are fun and sometimes a great learning experience.
A: There are so many tattooers I would like to collaborate with, especially since I know a lot of styles are so different from what I do. I think about all the fresh and new possible combinations we could offer.

- If yes, who would that be?
A lot of artist such as Jacob Sheffield, Kristina Taylor, Green Vesper (Tania), Ryan Ashley Malarkey, Bobby Johnson, Arlo Di Cristina, Rinat Mingazdinov, and so many others.

Q: With so much potential and undeniable talent, you can achieve so much. I bet your friends and family are some of your biggest supporters, am I right? How much does it mean to you?
A: Having the support of my family and my friends means everything to me. Their encouragement and belief in my abilities have been invaluable in my journey as a tattoo artist. Knowing that they stand behind me gives me the confidence to pursue my passion wholeheartedly and strive for excellence in everything I do. I am really grateful and privileged to be able to have the family I have, the blood and the chosen one.

Q: What would you recommend to those who want to try getting into professional tattooing?
A: For those aspiring to enter the world of professional tattooing, I would recommend starting with a strong foundation in art. Practice drawing consistently to develop your skills and find your unique style. Additionally, seek out apprenticeships or mentorships with experienced tattoo artists to learn the craft hands-on. I think it's not only for the best but also because along the way I'm pretty sure it's easier and faster than doing it all alone. Be prepared to put in hard work, dedication, and patience as you hone your skills. It's also essential to prioritize hygiene and safety practices, as well as to stay open to continuous learning and growth. Networking within the tattoo community can also provide valuable opportunities for growth and collaboration. Overall, passion, perseverance, and a commitment to excellence are key to success in professional tattooing.

Mr.Coy Barrientos, thank you for the interview,
It really means a lot,
Kind Regards
Fredrik Lindström
Editor at Skin Artists Tattoo Magazine