Interview with Natasha Animal Tattooer

  Hello Natasha Animal Tattooer! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. Please start by telling us something about yourself and your beginnings. I got interested in tattoo art when I was studying to become a makeup artist and there were many creative people around me who gradually started getting tattoos. I got my first tattoo at the age of 17 and that session with the artist had a significant impact on my life. During the tattooing process I was fascinated and made a promise to myself that I would try tattooing as a hobby. This process captivated me so much that it has now become an integral part of my life.

Q: What type of tattoos you use to like?
A: I enjoy looking at various styles. I think it helps to broaden my horizons and explore new directions in my work.

Q: Any favorite artists?
A: I really admire Lukas Smuky and his horror fantasy style, I'm impressed by both the technique and the way he works with form. I also like black and grey realism by Thomas Carli Jarlier and Hugo Feist, especially their use of grey pigments. I'm a fan of black and grey realist Nesutopor. In lettering, I like to follow @tattoobyBoyko, and among realists, I appreciate the work of Sandra Daukshta, Walter Montero, and Sampaguita Jay.

Q: How long have you been tattooing?
A: I did my first tattoo in 2014. The first year was challenging as I was working at the theater, so I could only do tattoos once every two weeks, which slowed down my progress.

Q: Your style is color realism. To start complimenting each tattoo you did, this interview will be too long and I assume you don't have that time! But oh my! Every tattoo is simply perfect. I bet your talent played a key role here but I think it's also hard work or both? Honestly, how long took you to get on this level?
A: I believe the first five years were the most critical. Now, it's more challenging to reach higher levels, but I'm always trying to develop and explore new directions. There is always room for improvement in my work. I think a significant part of growth depends on how communicative and open you are as a person. During my formative years, I was quite introverted and hesitant to approach other artists for guidance. However, I was keen on understanding the technical aspects and tried to memorize how they positioned their hands during work.

Q: Did anyone help you learn the basics or you are a self taught artist?
A: Being very modest and reserved in the beginning of my career, I learned everything on my own through YouTube and forums. Each new tattoo provided me with significant experience. I learned from my previous mistakes and aimed to surpass my previous work, which was a strong motivator. I was inspired by the work of the artists I followed back then.

Q: Why color realism? What do you like about this style?
A: I've always been drawn to oil painting and working with color. I realized quite early that this direction ignited my passion for tattoos. It's something I can continually study. What's most fascinating is that I can incorporate it beautifully into the body, so it doesn't look like a separate piece or out of place.

Q: Would you try any other style? I think you would be excellent!
A: Sometimes, I create works in gray wash, it's a completely different world with different technical possibilities and I find it interesting as well.

Q: Most tattoos are beautiful portraits of animals. Most done with vibrant colors and interesting, detailed backgrounds. Every tattoo is a unique master-piece! Do you accept reference images or you draw the design for each client?
A: I prepare a unique design for each client. Having over seven years of experience, I ask a series of questions that help me get as close as possible to what the client wants. They describe their idea, the atmosphere, the mood they want the tattoo to convey, the emotions it should evoke and other helpful details. I rarely need to modify the design, in 90% of cases, we don't edit the design. Sometimes, I work with photos that clients send, but it's rare for a client to provide a suitable reference photo for an interesting and lively sketch.

Q: Talking about the creative process. How do you prepare your designs? Do you like these new stuff like procreate, Photoshop or you are "old school" and you draw on paper?
A: I prepare my designs using Procreate. I create collages from various photos and apply specific filters to achieve the desired effect. Recently, I've started using AI for certain details.

Q: In tattoo realism, precision is a must. The clients expect nothing but perfection. I guess this can create pressure, but for an experienced artist like you, there's no worry. However, I bet even you are super careful to match the main characteristics of the portrait. On which details you spend most time?
A: I think fur takes up the most time. Sometimes, if I'm working on a project without fur, I finish 2-3 hours earlier and find it somewhat surprising.

Q: I have my own opinions, but for the new artists that are still learning... Technically and creatively, what makes a good, portrait tattoo?
A: I believe both aspects are crucial. You need to pay due attention to creativity in your work, especially in these challenging times when AI has pushed the boundaries of creativity in all projects. Simply doing something basic and of good quality is no longer enough. AI allows less creative individuals to produce exceptional, unconventional pieces that are hard to achieve independently. Taking time to sketch is essential, but you also need to excel in technical execution. The industry is rapidly evolving, with numerous seminars and online courses enabling artists to develop technically much faster. You need to stand out with creative designs and the right AI setup can help with that.

Q: Your tattoos are very detailed. I guess it takes a few hours or maybe a few sessions to complete a sleeve or a whole back piece?
A: Yes, typically a sleeve with furry animals takes me 6-8 sessions. If I had the chance, I'd probably do 2-3 extra sessions, as there's always something to refine and perfect.

Q: I've seen few collaborations with other (great) tattoo artists like the brilliant Waler Montero. That is a mix of great energy, talent! What a happy client! How long you guys worked on that masterpiece?
A: Waler and I had two collaborations and we plan to work on more. We found a great connection and working with him is comfortable and allows us to create something new. Collaborations like these are incredibly inspiring to me. I believe it's beneficial to work with other artists and try to think in their creative space. Sometimes, I get very absorbed in details but such practices help me think more about the overall impact of the work and less about the details. Collaboration is a significant challenge - creating a cohesive piece that showcases the strengths of both artists while pushing us to our technical and creative limits. We worked for 3 days on our last collaboration at Gods of Ink. It was convenient to work sequentially, allowing one of the artists to rest while the work didn't stop. We had a robust working model that ensured comfort.

Q: Did you both work on the design idea?
A: Yes, we discussed the idea beforehand and exchanged references.

Q: Many awards, conventions... International coverage and respect. You totally deserve it. How much this means to you personally and professionally?
A: Thank you! I believe it's an invaluable experience. It's incredibly rewarding to know that your work is highly regarded. It gives me the motivation not to give up and continue creating. This appreciation inspires me. Above all, I want to share a piece of my soul with the world through each work and show people what I'm capable of. Awards, just like Instagram likes, provide the reassurance that you're not doing something terribly wrong. We all see how artists on Instagram get disheartened and lose motivation when their posts don't gain traction. At such times, there's strong disappointment in one's abilities.

Q: Any favorite career highlight?
A: There are so many of them! If I list them all, I'd need to write a book. One of the brightest memories is probably when Lou Rubino considered me worthy to be a part of World Famous. Every time I see that my work catches the attention of the artists I observe and admire, it's a strong motivator for me. I often feel like I'm dreaming when top artists interact with me as equals. I’m also very inspired when I see the happy tears of my clients in front of the mirror at the end of our session. It happened a few times before and it really makes me happy and gives me that assurance that I’m doing the right thing.

Q: I bet you are booked, but just in case we got a chance... Are there any available dates for the upcoming months? How we can book?
A: After moving to Germany, my bookings have increased and currently, there's a 6-month wait for a session. However, when I have cancellations, I try to reschedule those waiting earlier. This means that those scheduled six months in advance might get an opportunity within a couple of weeks.

Q: I guess you have few cute pets that are not only a good company but a great inspiration. Am I right?
A: I'm currently living in Germany without my pets, but I love observing the wildlife present in the city. I have my beloved cat who stays with my parents in Russia, ensuring they aren't lonely. My parents send me videos of her almost daily. I miss her, but I understand that given my schedule, it's better for her to stay with my parents. I fear she wouldn't handle the stress of a move to Germany. It can be quite stressful for animals, especially the flight.

Q: Now tell me about your own tattoos. Who had the honor to tattoo you? ;)
A: I have a tattoo on my neck by Stas Gromov and a sleeve by Sandra Daukshta. I'm very fond of both projects. On my other arm, I have two small tattoos that I plan to cover with a realistic-style sleeve.

Q: Being a full time artist can be challenging sometimes. Not only people expect the best from you every day, but you also need to be on time, get along with everyone, long hours... It could be energetically taxing. Do you have any interesting hobbies? How do you cheer up yourself?
A: In an ideal world, I need one day off now and then to recharge and disconnect from the outside world and devices. It's crucial to dedicate time to yourself, your body and soul. Unfortunately, I can't always manage such days, given my extensive travel and work schedule. I also have a deep love for oil painting, which is currently my most significant hobby. We have an amazing team at the studio where I work, @nbk_tattoo_duss, and once a month, we all go on outings together. One of the most exciting was a surfing trip, where we were taught to ride the waves on boards.

Q: I bet you will never get tired of doing what you love - tattooing. Tell me in few words, what do you like the most about this profession?
A: The process. It's fantastic! I enjoy thinking during the process and working towards a result. I read somewhere that it's the process leading to a result that triggers the release of endorphins, causing that feeling of "happiness." I love my work, particularly in the first five minutes after a session, when I feel great. But an hour later, I want to redo everything and feel like I can do better.

Q: Natasha, there are probably many more questions, but for now let's "end it" here... We will keep an eye on your work and you will keep surprising us with your next masterpiece. To sum up, Do you have any advice for the new artists?
Thank you so much for this interview! I was delighted to participate. To the new artists, I'd like to offer some advice, seize every opportunity, you never know what awaits you behind a new door. Developing in a strong community increases your progress rate by +80%. Travel for guest spots, attend conventions, watch techniques. Don't be shy and don't be afraid to try something new. The best results come when there's passion and love. <3

Best regards,