Interview with Elen SOul | Dark Style | Moscow, Russia | 06/02/2020


 Hello Elen! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions for our magazine. You're very creative individual with some very interesting, a bit dark approach to your art. Really inspiring. I like the fact that you say that you do only unique designs, so that tells a lot more to the client (or a potential one) before getting into your studio. I guess tattooing is something that you really enjoy and you're an inspiration to many out there.

Q: How and when did you start tattooing? Was it hard for you to learn the basics skills?
A: I have been tattooing for 7 years already. I became a tattoo artist accidentally. I think this profession chose me. I never had a goal or a dream to become a tattoo artist. I always considered tattooing as some sort of a “game”. But something made me keep that profession for many years. Once, it was a cold Russian winter day. My friend and I were walking down Arbat Street in Moscow where my future tattoo shop was located. We got cold and decided to come inside to buy piercing and to warm up. I remember how I took their business card and came back in half a year because I needed to buy something else. And they offered me to try myself because they had an open tattooist position. I didn’t think much and decided to try, and I've never regret my decision. Since I have been drawing from the day I was born it was quite easy for me to learn how to tattoo. Of course, that process took some time and energy, but however I learned all of the basics pretty fast. But sky is the limit so I am still learning some new tricks.

Q: You do lots of dark themed designs. Either is on skin or on canvas, it's really cool to see someone doing one particular style, it becomes almost like a trade mark. People know what to expect from you when they make an appointment. How did you find your style? Were you like always impressed by those types of things or?
A: When I was a kid, I loved to watch horror movies. I was scared but was still watching. Of course, all of those mystical forms stuck in my head. And the music I was listening to. Pink Floyd for example. I was a kid, and their movie “The Wall” blew up my head. I don’t know if it is a good or a bad thing. My entire childhood I was attracted to mystical things. I loved tales of Brothers Grimm. I was inspired with all of those melancholic illustrations. Of course, all of that formed my art style when I grew up. As I said, I have been drawing my entire life, from my early childhood, and I always preferred pencil drawing, or better yet charcoal, to add more darkness. I bring that concept to my art now. Melancholy, darkness, notes of depression, philosophy - all of that is very close to me and most importantly I believe it is absolutely beautiful.

- Dark themed tattoos even back when you were starting? How much did you experiment while figuring out?
I was always striving to make realism and right away I began trying to tattoo my dark sketches. But at the same time I had to do everything - old school, new school, graphics, and etc. Unfortunately, a tattoo artist, even if he has already became a professional, can’t always do only what he wants. Because his “canvas” can talk and can have his own opinion. And you have to comply with him. That’s why I prefer to draw on a real canvas. You don’t have to ask if he likes the idea or not :-) “He” always likes everything. I am a 100% free and don’t have any boundaries. That’s when the real, pure art is born.

Q: Tattoo apprenticeship is very important part of the journey of one professional tattoo artist. Did anyone help you along the way or you trained yourself by working really hard?
A: I never had a real mentor. I was getting all the necessary information from everywhere I could - from my colleagues while observing how they work, Internet, magazines and so on. When I had new information I was sort of training myself while tattooing. I was getting new experience and knowledge through mistakes and constant trying. Many thanks to my hard work with no days off.

Q: Did your best friends got a tattoo from you back then or they are more comfortable to get tattooed now, since you mastered your style?
A: My friends were getting tattoos from me back then and they still do. To be honest, a number of people who wanted to get a tattoo were always the same despite my level of experience. I think that it is not about the tattoo and its quality but about me. I am a very cute and a nice girl lol.

Q: Very nice bold, black lines combined with white ink really makes the final result to look great, almost like a poster not something done on skin. Really nice! I bet took you a lot of time figuring out what is the best way to do all those techniques of proper ink application... Especially when it comes to portraits... My favourite, oh it has to be the portrait of Kurt Cobain. How much time does it take you to finish a portrait tattoo? Or just a very complicated design with many details etc? Do you take a few sessions with the client or there are such clients who are brave enough to sit and get all done in one day?
A: The tattoo of Cobain is a special story. I was doing it for my good friend in the hotel room which is not the best space for work. But I am not afraid of such an extreme conditions. I had no stencil so I made the entire thing freehand. To be honest, there are no difficulties or some sort of magic for me to do portraits. I have been drawing portraits since I was 16, so it is quite simple for me. Things are more complicated with conceptual and serious sketches, when I have to add some sort of meaning to it, make it unusual, understandable for people and at the same time visually attractive and professional. Usually, work with the sketch takes much more time that tattooing. You can work on a sketch for weeks and tattoo it in one or two sessions. I am always trying to finish work in one session because I don’t like to stretch time. I work very fast. Besides, when the tattoo takes a lot of time, I burn myself down and by the last session I lose all interest. So it is better to finish everything at once.

Q: Being talented and creative is very important for one artist. Sometimes it's very difficult to stay up with the schedule and get new ideas every day. How do you "cope" when the inspiration is just barely there? How do you get inspired?
A: I prefer not to work at all if there is no inspiration or certain mood. It is just a waste of time, an attempt instead of art which has to bring positive emotions. Sometimes, in order for me to get into a right mood, I have to turn on the right music or just go for a walk while listening to it. I love walking around the city and listen to my favorite songs. That inspires and calms me down.

Q: The talent for drawing, I bet gives you opportunities to explore more in other mediums such as digital painting or even doing different type of tattoos? Ever thought of doing something different?
A: I tried myself in all the styles. I prefer experimenting beyond tattooing since there are still a lot of boundaries in tattooing itself which sometimes drives me crazy. I want to do something bigger. I love to draw with different materials and on different things. I love digital art but unfortunately I usually don’t have a free time for that. Right now I focus on oil painting. That gives me freedom which I don’t have in tattooing. Tattoo “lives” with the person his entire life and painting can outlive a person and become “immortal”. Such thoughts inspire me a lot. It gives me feeling that I can create something big and important. Besides, I love to create designs for posters, prints, and t-shirts. In the future, I would like to publish my own sketch book. I think this is a very good idea since for many years, very often people around the world use my sketches for their tattoos.

Q: Mother of wolves? Really? That has to be another cool stuff we don't know about... ok tell me? What's going on in beautiful Russia? Haha
A: It happened that way that my art and I both are being associated with this animal already. Many years ago, one of my sketches with three satanic wolf heads became very famous. That’s how it all happened. After that, I began making wolfs one after another one. And then I realized that we have a lot in common.

Q: How do you see the tattoo scene there, do you see progress, like many new artists, events almost every year, I definitely see a major progress!
A: Absolutely! The Russian tattoo scene is constantly progressing. We have a lot of really cool artists. But I think that this is just a very beginning of something big. At this point, yes, there is a progress but still the industry itself is at the level of its establishment. If we compare the tattoo scene with the art business, the tattoo scene is just a small sprout when the seed is still very deep in the soil. And it looks exactly like that on a global scale. We still have a lot of room for progress.

Q: Speaking of learning and progress, I'm fascinated by the fact that you also teach young people to paint, tattoo. That's awesome, tell me more please.
A: One day I realized that I am pretty good at teaching people. In the past, I used to teach my friends how tattoo or draw, or I was just advising to some people. Later, I announced that I would teach people officially, however I am not taking a lot of students. I have a very serious approach to teaching which is very different from what people are used to. I have only one-on-one classes and I take only a couple of students with whom I work for about a year. I focus a lot on the academic drawing. You can’t create a good quality, professional product without the knowledge of a simple art base.

Q: What would you say to those who are willing to try getting into this business?
A: Draw as much as you can. Everything starts from there. Everyone can copy and only a few can create something individual and unique. The main enemy of those who are starting is fear. Fear blocks our possibilities. Don’t be afraid of anything, you just have to try and keep going. If I knew this 15 years ago, it would be much easier for me to reach my goals.

You can find Elen on Instagram as elen_soul_tattoo

Ms. Elen Thank you so much for the interview,
Take care and keep up the great work.