Interview with Ivan Justice | Realism | Germany 12/01/2023

  Hello Ivan Justice! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions for our readers. Please start by telling us something about yourself and your background. Do you have any formal art training? I am 36 years old, I am coming from Serbia. My style is dark black and grey realism. I started tattooing all by myself. I was in a tattoo shop as an apprentice for a month or so where I learned the basics of how the machine works and some other basics. I did not have money back then so starting tattooing was very challenging, like buying the equipment and learning. I do not have any artistic background actually, I never drew in my life. When I was starting I had a friend who was in the art university and he thought me a lot, basics of shading, anatomy, etc. At the beginning I was asking him to print out some random outlines of different objects and I was taking it home, shade it and give it back to him for a critique and I learned a lot. After that it was only hard work by myself, a lot of of practicing, drawing and tattooing. After I improved a bit, I left Serbia and came to Germany. In Serbia the tattoo scene back then was not developed and without the money or someone to learn from I knew I had to go somewhere where I can improve and be a better tattoo artist. I left everything I had there in exchange for my career. After I came to Germany everything became easier, I worked for a tattoo shop which made my visa and I was doing conventions, saw and met a lot of amazing artists, I went to seminars, started painting and I improved drastically. I'm still improving and learning, and I will never stop. You can always learn from someone and I am always very excited to see how other artists are working and exchange opinions about work.

Q: What made you start tattooing? Did you feel inspired by someone?
A: For me starting was really an „accident“. I was in a tattoo shop with a friend of mine, she was getting a tattoo and I was in a waiting room and I was thinking how cool would it be to be able to tattoo. After talking to the tattoo artist there he convinced me I can tattoo even if I do not have artistic background and it turns out he was right. But… I can also tell you that the way from non artistic background in addition to no money is one very rough road and only with persistence, hard work, a lot of sacrifice and a lot of passion you can overcome all this. I did not have any role models because I did not know the tattoo scene. What kept me going is only my passion and love for tattooing and art.

Q: How long have you been tattooing?
A: I started tattooing and learning in 2016.

Q: As a beginner, what type of tattoos you use to do?
A: As a beginner I did everything, it did not matter to me, I was just happy I can tattoo. From the beginning I knew I wanted to do realism because that was the most amazing style to me.

- Was it hard learning the process?
The learning process was very long and hard, I wanted to quit so many times at the beginning because I was not getting the results I wanted. I thought it was not for me but because I love it I just kept learning and pushing forward. I begged people to let me tattoo them at the beginning and many of them said no and now they want an appointment with me. I developed my stye during years and it took a couple of years to reach the point where I am now but I can’t say this is the end of learning curve, we learn as long as we live and there is always a room to improve ourselves as artists and as people.


Q: Why tattoo realism? What do you like the most about this style?
A: Realism was always the style that impressed me. I just love it, for me it was always the only choice since beginning. In my style I use a lot of heavy black, it is so fun for me to play with the contrast, combine it with details and white to get some amazing effects. It calms me, I loose myself in the process and forget about everything. For me it is living and loving what I do.

Q: Tattoo realism is no joke! I bet you can play a little with the other styles, even little mistakes can be corrected with some cover ups here and there. It's doable. However, with tattoo realism, that seems impossible. This style requires precision and quality. What type of tattoos are the most challenging to do? Human portraits, animals?
A: That is true, it takes a lot of patience to do that. It needs to be perfect from the beginning to the end. I think human portraits are the most challenging but also the most fun to do. If I do animal portrait, there is a lot of hair so I have freedom to play with the hair, it does not need to match every single hair from the reference photo. If you do a human portrait there is no play for me. I only play with contrast and some light but that’s it. Because the smallest mistake can make the portrait look completely different from the reference photo.

Q: Talking about precision, how long can take to finish a big portrait tattoo?
A: Well it varies from the size, placement and skin quality. Portrait can take anywhere from 6-7 hours to multiple day sessions depending on all the other factors.

Q: I've seen a lot of artists who do black and white tattoos, but for some reason, the tattoos look too dark and in time it looks just like a bad printed image. Hah!
A: Yes, the look of the tattoo after it heals is the most important. For me it does not matter how dark the tattoo is when it is done, what matters is how it will look when it heals because that is the result the client is going to have to the rest of the life. And it takes experience and knowledge to know how it is going to look when it heals. You must know your ink set, your technique and the skin. The thing you can not predict of course is how the client takes care of the tattoo but this is a different topic.

I like how you mix both black and white ink but really the white parts are just creating that vibrant look...
The usage of white as well as the techniques of how to put the white in is a key. Everybody probably already heard the stories how the white ink is going out after some time or how it becomes yellow. I think knowing the techniques of how to do the white is very important so this does not happen.

Q: People expect perfection and precision here. It's challenging especially for new artists, no matter how talented they are. Technically speaking. But what about the creative part? Do you feel like there's still a room for some creative expression here?
A: I think there always has to be a room for creative expression because this is why we are called tattoo ARTISTS, this is why we love our job, because we can create art. Many clients these days can not understand that unfortunately.

- Do you draw some sketches before the session or try to add something original to the original reference image, just to make the design more unique?
Yes, I always try to do that, I use multiple references combined in order to make the design unique.

Q: Talking about creativity, some people just want a good tattoo, but they are not sure what they want. What do you?
A: I always have some ideas I would love to tattoo so I ask them about that. Basically if they come to me they come because they like my style so there is usually no problems finding a design in that case.

- Have you ever refused to do some designs?
Yes, many times unfortunately. There are some things I don‘t do like lions, clocks, compasses, doves, etc… Basically all standard designs, already seen million times is not something I want to do.

Q: To be a tattoo artist, is as many will think very fun and rewarding. This profession will give you so much more than a boring 9-5 job. Tattoo conventions, seminars, guest spots... lots of cool experiences. What do you cherish the most?
A: Well I am thankful to God I was blessed to be able to enjoy all of that. I can not separate anything, the whole experience is just amazing. You meet so many interesting people, clients and artists, you get to talk to them, you learn a lot. Also conventions and guest spots are really fun, you always experience something new. Besides enjoying all of that, you get to do what you really love and what fulfils you. It is just an amazing path.

Q: Where are you located now? Are you available for bookings? Please write your email and studio location.
A: I am currently located in Germany, you can book an appointment with me over my instagram @justicetattooart, my email or my website

Q: Sometimes, it can be a challenge to be creative and do your best... How do you manage a busy schedule? Where do you find your inspiration when you just need some time off but you're still booked and there are people waiting on you?
A: Well that is something I still struggle with. Sometimes you just need a brake, but it is not possible to cancel the appointments. It is hard but the inspiration are always the cool projects and the passion I have for tattooing. If I feel I need some time off I am looking to book less in the upcoming months in order to escape another burnout.

Q: Do you have anything you would like to promote?
A: I would like to show my painting which I am planing to do more.

Q: What would you tell to all young people who will see this interview, and will be inspired to try getting into this business?
A: Work hard, be patient, learning the process is long and hard, but don‘t quit. Note that to be successful there is a lot of other things you need to learn besides tattooing itself. Have in mind that if you're looking at good artist working, it may seem easy but it took him many years and many practice and experience for it to look easy. Be ready to fail, be ready to be disappointed and be persistent, never quit your goal, and if you really love tattooing you will make it.

Ivan Justice, it's been a pleasure,
Thank you for the interview,
Kind Regards
The Team