interview with Samuele Briganti | old school tattoo style  19/06/2013

Hi Samuele, thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions for our readers. Please start by telling us something about yourself and how you got into tattooing? Are you self-taught?

Hi, thanks to you for your interest in my works; I've started tattooing when I was really young, I was in junior high and I was about 13 y.o I don't know exactly why, but I've always been fascinated by tattoos, my grandpa was a sailor and he had some tattoos on his arms but he died when I was 2 and I don't remember what he had, and I have no pictures of his arms.
Probably in my subconscious, I've always had this passion because of him.

However, when I was a kid (in the 80's) rarely happened to see tattooed people, but when sometimes on the beach I spotted a tattoo I was very curious on how the drawing stayed put on the skin. I was 5 or 6. Few years later I tried to tattoo my own arm with my mom's sewing pin and some china ink; I've tried different times and every time when the scab fell no sign remained underneath. It was very frustrating!! Till one day, I was extremely motivated and I poked with more intensity; well after few days I realized that the little bluish stain was still there, and nothing I could do would have removed that mark.
That was one of the happiest days of my life.

Then I've started tattooing my schoolmates, and you know, the town I live in is very small, so after few years lots of people they knew I had this passion, and many of them asked me to get tattooed. I used to work in a tiny tiny room in my parent's house; I went to school in the morning and spent the rest of my time drawing, and sometimes tattooing.

I never asked for money, the fact that these guys (because my first customers were almost exclusively men) would donate me a piece of their skin to learn, well it was worth more than money. Basically I've learned by myself, until I've met a guy who was 10 years older than me, and he managed to buy a tattoo machine; which was something very hard to find here. Together we learned a lot, but sadly he died very young.

To talk about your style could take a whole year. Seriously, I've seen a lot of artists in my life, but your designs are something that I find really touchable and fascinating.

Well I really thank you, 'cause I believe this is one of the best compliments a tattooer can receive.

Q: Old school tattoos are really remarkable designs in your portfolio. Do you remember when the impression for this kind of work first began?
A: I've always loved tattoos, all kind and style, and honestly my first years of training were all tribals and classic subjects popular in the late 90's. But sailor's tattoos fascinated me the most, so when I opened my studio (a couple of months before high school diploma) I've started studying this style and sometimes some of my good friends would let me tattoo some traditional subjects.
Since then traditional style has been my fave, because it's bold and simple and the design will remain beautiful even after many years.

Q: Do you have any special reasons why you choose the old school designs as your main creative line?
A: One of the reasons is because it's a style that allows you to express deep motivations with few lines and few colors.
A tattoo, in my opinion must be solid and readable, freshly made as well as after 20 years. I like the fact that you don't need 20 shades of the same color to achieve a beautiful piece; only 4/5 colors put in the right place, and trust me it's no easy job!!

Q: Would you say that old school tattoos are your specialty?
A: They surely are what I love to draw and tattoo the most. The old tattoo masters like Bert Grimm, Owen Jensen and even Sailor Jerry knew it all about tattooing, and I do my best to learn from them, studying their drawings and trying to know as much as possible about their life.

Q: What is most difficult in doing an old school tattoo?
A: Ehehe, you know many people believe that old school tattoos are easy business, 'cause yeah it's true, designs are very simple, sometimes! Well the difficulty is exactly in where to put those few lines, lots of black and some colors. Drawing old school is very hard, the line between a simple solid drawing and a bad drawing is extremely thin. I had to study many years to achieve a good balance between simplicity and strong lines. Likewise when tattooing, lines must be perfectly straight, the black must be put in the right place and amount, otherwise you only get a mass of crooked strokes instead of a tattoo!!

Q: Since your style is well defined would you change something or start working on something completely different?
A: Actually I always try to put something different in my drawings, sometimes I find inspiration in old books, and sometimes the customers crazy requests helps me a lot! (laughs) However if I ever have to change completely I would definitely buy a piece of land to grow a vegetable garden! Or perhaps I would graduate in architecture and build an eco-friendly house.  


Q: Nowadays, people are coming up with many creative ideas for a tattoo. What was the most bizarre request ever that you can share with us? Any crazy experiences with the customers on your mind?
A: Yeah sometimes way too creative, and since I prefer traditional style I try to keep that line; however sometimes bizarre requests help me creating something that in the end I really like. One time a friend, wanted to get a tattoo that would express his feeling of paranoia , and it was very hard to put in drawing such a feeling. In the end I came up with the idea of a man walking alone in a street, all surrounded by a key-hole like frame. We both liked it a lot.

I've also tattooed a list of ex-girls' names crossed out, like the old sailors used to do; apparently that piece, has been very appreciated by people; nothing fancy, but weird! I've tattooed under the foot of a friend as well, I told him the piece would eventually completely fade, but it was in the name of a sad love story, so it was perfect. I notice that when people browse my portfolio, they often are more impressed by this kind of tattoos rather than beautiful chestpieces or backpieces.
But those are walk ins customers.... you know.

Q: Let's say a few words about your recent tattoo project - "Samuele Briganti's Sketchbook, also know as "Back To The Roots". What was the basic idea?
A: "Back To The Roots" is a short movie about my life and job, it was shot by Fabio Grande a very talented young filmmaker who took care of the shooting and postproduction. We shot the documentary in 3 days, and during this days he was kinda invisible, I just worked as I usually do, and he asked me some questions; it wasn't like shooting a movie at all. The result is really impressive, I thought "oh when did he shot this scene??" most of the time, I didn't even remember having him around. However I've published a limited edition dvd with my latest sketchbook, and soon it's gonna be published online too on my website.

Q: What would you say that sets you apart from the other artists out there?
A: I think I shouldn't be the one to answering this question :D

Q: What keeps you creative?
A: The love I put in my job; that before being my job is my passion. Trust me, sometimes I'm tired and I need few days off, but when I'm on holiday after 3/4 days I feel the need of tattooing.
The constant research, and the awareness that I can always do more and better, is also a good starting point.

Q: In a few words, what are the most important things that every single artist should know in order to become successful and respected?
A: Well, it's hard to say 'cause I don't think that there is a standard attitude that one should have, but in my opinion the willingness to learn and keep learning's very important; no matter from how long you do this job, the day you'll think you know it all, it's the day you'll make a bad tattoo.

Please feel free to share your feature plans and your website.
I'm now working on a benefit project for Maurizio Fiorini, an old Italian tattoo artist, friend of Herbert Hoffmann; it's a book of paintings of Italian tattooers, both old school and new.

At the end of May I'll also be for my first time in the USA and I'm very happy to visit the country where so many good artists lived; I'm anxious to visit the Nu-Pike in Long Beach 'cause Bert Grimm worked there and I'm sure this trip will give me lots of creativity!!
I'll work at the London Tattoo convention in September, and I hope to travel in northern Europe this summer.
Thank you for this interview, and i hope my words can motivate some young tattooer to work hard, and never give up!
instagram: samuelebriganti