Interview with Hiram Casas | Realism Tattoo Style | USA 16/03/2022

 Hello Hiram Casas! Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for our readers. It really means a lot. Tell me about your beiginnings... Do you have like formal art training or? How did you learn the basic skills?
A: I’ve been involved in arts since I was a child, my oldest memories are filled by scratched papers and crayons. I do have a formal art education. At a very young age my parents noticed my obsession with drawing and I started to take lessons after school, I did that for many years until in 2005 I was accepted at the St Alejandro Fine Arts Academy where I received tuition in painting, sculpture, art history, etc… and graduated in 2009 as a digital arts specialist. Drawing has always been my hobby and my passion so I cannot say it was hard to learn the basic skills, but some of the Art Academy assignments were definitely tedious for my young and immature self, I will always appreciate the patience of my mom and teachers.

Q: Every start is difficult, even for super talented people. What was the most challenging part of becoming a tattoo artist? What kept you motivated?
A: When I started tattooing, I approached this new technique with the same curiosity as the other art disciplines that I was already involved in. It was a new hobby to me, cool and edgy, and I wanted to learn how to do it. To give you some context: Tattooing in Cuba was in a legal “limbo” and while it wasn’t necessarily ilegal to tattoo, there was no licensing from any department to validate the practice of it, so there were no formal tattoo studios in Cuba that could offer an apprenticeship. If you wanted to learn you will either have to know a tattoo artist willing to teach you or just go and try to figure it out by yourself. I’m a self taught tattooer, I learned watching tattoo reality shows like Miami ink and clips from YouTube, pausing and rewinding to try to figure out how deep the needle was supposed to go into the skin and the amount of voltage to run my cheap tattoo machine.

Q: What type of tattoos you use to do as a beginner? Who gave you the trust?
A: I did my first tattoo on my little sister, nothing complicated, I understood I was a beginner and took it one step at the time. Many of my friends suffered from my inexperience before I attempted to do an intricate tattoo. At the very beginning I did a lot of simple tribals and line work. Stars where trending back in the day so I tattooed plenty of those. I was also fascinated by koi fish and Japanese tattoos, but it took me a long time before I could do a decent one. Having an art background definitely helped me, because I understood shapes, structure, dimension, and my hand was trained, but I was aware of the permanent aspect of tattoos and I forced myself to be respectful with the craft and trust the process.

Q: Today, your work looks awesome. Your hard work really paid off. I bet you inspire a lot of young people who want to try getting into this business. We watch the Ink Master Series featuring you. Oh Ghosh, I guess this opportunity really sets you apart from many artists out there. How this experience changed you as an artist and maybe even as a person? Would you say it taught you a lot about tattooing, and overall team work?
A: Thank you! Ink master was definitely an interesting experience, a good one for me, It tested not only my tattoo skills but also my resolve and ability to confront different situations and I appreciate that. I enjoyed the competition and learned from it. I don't necessarily think it changed me as an artist but definitely added tools to my arsenal and I’m a more mature individual because I had the opportunity of being part of the show.

Q: What was the funniest part of being part of Ink Masters? What was the best part?
A: The funniest part of the show for me was the trash talking at the common areas, I don’t like when people are disrespectful but I definitely appreciate the creativity of some of the contestants when they have to critique a tattoo and I enjoyed being part of that dynamic. The aftermath of the flash challenges was also fun!

Q: Is there anyone you look up to?
A: I admire a lot of artists, I like all kinds of styles and I appreciate hard work and dedication. I’m blessed because at Basilica Tattoo I work with a solid team who are constantly pushing to get better and that motivates me to keep learning and grow.

Q: As an award winning artist, how much the attention and the acknowledgement of your talents means to you? Do you have any favorite award, or an award that you consider as a stepping stone?
A: That’s a hard question. I believe all artists create for the recognition. That’s what feed our inspiration. Maybe some artists need thousands to know and compliment their work while others will only need one person to appreciate it and that will be enough to fill their motivation. To me, art is intention and communication, a back and forth between the creator and the spectator. I don’t believe an art piece is finished until is seen by somebody, I think a painting that was created and destroyed before someone could see it, never became art. That’s just my opinion. I definitely appreciate the recognition when I do good work as I appreciate the honest criticism that will make me improve when I don’t. When you are in a competition, wining always feels nice and awards are the souvenirs of winning, but that only means you did better than the competition that specific time. I try to stay humble, keep learning and not allow awards to feed my ego.

Q: I see beautiful black and gray tattoos, would you change something, let's say try color tattooing? Or maybe try a completely different style?
A: I always enjoy experimenting with other tattoo styles, I love the creative process of trying new things and be able to explore different graphics solutions. I like Neo traditional, traditional, abstract tattoos, trash polka, geometric… but I think all these styles require time and dedication in order to master them. I always remember that time when I was working at a walk-in studio and had to do all kinds of tattoos, It was fun and I learned a lot. Back in art school I really enjoyed drawing portraits and realism, this conditioned my style of tattooing, I decided to focus on becoming the best I could be in what I do and after years of only exploring one specialty, I still believe that there is so much to learn.

Q: I've seen a few drawings... the Chris Cornell... omg so beautiful! How much the drawing skills play a big role in tattooing? Since almost all of your tattoos are portraits, do you draw for your clients like a sketch before the session or a good reference image can be used?
A: Thank you! Drawing is the foundation of all graphic arts, and like every discipline is mastered by repetition, training your eye, your mind and your hand. Drawing has always been my favorite thing to do. Tattooing is just another medium to create art, without that foundation I wouldn’t be able to do the kind of intricate work that I enjoy. Most of the time when I approach a realistic piece I prefer to use a "real" reference or photograph instead of a hand made drawing, but all realistic artists should understand at least composition, contrast, dimension and balance. All these concepts where introduced to me by drawing a lot while growing up.

Q: Many people think that being a tattoo artist is a lot of fun, and I bet it is for most time, it's definitely a job that can give many opportunities not only for self development but travel and career advancement. However, tattooing is also very responsible job and it requires a lot of patience and simply hard work, even for the talented people. What's the best and what's the most challenging part of being a tattoo artist?
A: I believe I have the most fun career in the world and I’m really fortunate of being able to do my hobby as a full time job. We create art pieces everyday while having the opportunity to meet interesting people. Tattoo artists become designers, salesmen and therapists in each tattoo session and that makes the job fun and challenging at the same time. I understand I have a responsibility to my clients, and they expect certain level of quality, that’s why patience is as important as creativity. Throughout the years tattooing has strengthened my tolerance and I’m a better artist because of it.

Q: Tell me a little bit about the "Basilica" Tattoo Studio. How many resident artists are working there and how is the overall work vibe there? Are you happy?
A: Basilica Tattoo was founded in 2016, is located in Las Vegas, Nevada and is one of the most beautiful and welcoming shops you could ever visit. I’m proud to be one of the two owners of the studio and we have a team of artists that are always pushing to achieve greatness. We are always motivating each other and sharing techniques to improve our individual work. Basilica is famous for being one the best realism studios in the west coast, but our diverse and versatile crew creates custom and unique tattoos in many styles. We are a family here and you get that vibe as soon as you walk inside the studio.

Q: What would would you tell to all the young people who want to try getting into this business? What they should be aware of?
A: For all those talented young artists that want to be part of the tattoo industry: trust the process and respect the craft, draw often, you don’t have to create masterpieces every day but a simple sketch in your free time will be enough to keep you creative and to train your hand. Be curious, ask questions and don’t be afraid of experimenting with new styles. Nobody knows anything from birth, so is ok to fail, try again and fail a little better each time, it takes time and discipline to master the technique but this is one of the most rewarding careers you could pursue. Good luck!