tattoo interview with Strielkov Yegor by iva kancheska 12/12/2014 

Hello Strielkov Yegor! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions for our web magazine. Please start by telling us something about yourself and how you got into art?

Q: Your art is very unusual. You seem to be passionate in creating dark artworks, featuring some of the most controversial subjects such as grotesque, absurdity, BDSM and many more. How would you explain your style?
A: I work as a tattoo master for several years and had tried a whole lot of styles. But I am an artist in a first place, and the art that lives inside of me is very disturbing. Thus, one fine day, I decided to create my own style based on my own experience; this style would embody the simplicity of Old School, the elegance of graphic tattoo, and the aesthetics of grotesque and of the dark side present in everyone. I defined this style and labeled in the Dark School. But it was not so straightforward: I had to work hard researching the characteristics and the history of styles that would become the parts of my own style. For example, I had researched the Old School; there was very few information about how it was created, but I've understood that the Old School is not the original idea of several masters. It emerged from the Japanese traditional tattoos, the Hawaiian ornaments, the USA Army symbols, the jail tattoos and so on. With the medieval etchings it was a way simpler. I don't make trash. Trash means indifference to your material.

I agree that the themes of my sketches are quite controversial, but I try to stay within the limits of non-disgusting.

Q: Since when the fascination for that kind of style first began? What's your biggest inspiration?
A: From the early age I was into the cartoons of 1920-30s, the horror movies, the trash art, the ages of Gothic and Renaissance. The beginning of the 20th century interests me the most, especially the times of the WWI; I'm inspired by the medical sphere, the ideal, purely functional forms of surgery instruments, their frightening clings. When I created the first proto-Dark School sketches, I asked myself: why such artists as Hans Gieger, Gottfried Helnwein and others (including some movie directors) were allowed to create something beautifully disgusting, and I'm not allowed? So the development and refinement of the Dark School style had started. Naturally, some dozens of sketches went directly to the trash can: I had understood that something was wrong with them. Then I worked out some rules for myself: while sketching, I shouldn't turn to personalities (I have no celebrity portraits), I shouldn't repeat the traditional tattoo motives (I break this rule time to time and sin with images of lighting houses, sharks, roses etc.), and I shouldn't make porn (this rule was broken several times too). Also I don't use the religious symbols (including the satanism, which I consider religion as well): all signs on my pictures are fake, the sets of geometrical figures.

Q: Being a creative person must be a blast but then, having a talent is a second gift. Would you say that as an artist, you are able to tell your opinions for some subjects or simply express even more?
A: From early years I live with the pencil in my arm; I draw as long as I'm conscious of myself as a person. Maybe this can be called the talent. For most of my sketches I've thought up a story. I made the series on the Grimm brothers' tale about Seven Little Kids: in seven different coffins lie seven different goatlings, who were killed by the evil wolf in seven different ways. Behind each of my work there is a vast sense and a long story, in each picture there are lots of small details, so each picture looks different each time you see it, depending on the viewer's condition. Each viewer puts his own senses in the pictures; some of my clients made them tattoos simply falling in love with a sketch, with no obvious reasons. Maybe by means of this or that sketch I have looked into their soul.

Q: What's the actual message that people can/should read in through your art?
A: I show the world which everyone wants to conceal. There are 7 billion people in the world: each has own story, own skeleton in the closet, own secrets. Often I think that I don't even know the secrets of my friends, not to mention the people I see outside, in transport, in windows. Dark School is about our inner side, the side not lit by the sunlight: that's why only you can see it. This is not some kind of a message to the people: it's the people's world, our own personal world.

Q: I guess, working on those subjects in not an easy step, have you ever been criticized? If so, how did you respond?
A: Most of the Ukrainians are extremely superstitious, so it's quite hard to work with people who don't want to see such tattoos on themselves, even if they actually like the pictures. I mentioned that most of my sketches make people quite shocked: I think that they see there themselves, their secrets, so they don't want their secrets to be revealed. There was no harsh criticisms on the Dark School; even if I encounter some critical points, I try to be not very angry on that. If a sketch succeeds in causing emotions, would they be positive or negative, the main point is already reached.

Q: Some of your artworks feature some sexy nudes, who is your target view when it comes to creating something really explosive/explicit?
A: The circle of my fans is quite narrow, but I can say that most of my fans are people free from the superstitions and prejudices in areas of religion, beliefs, and sexuality; these are people with the objective views on the world, people with nothing to lose. They know that the life is not eternal; or they are very uncommunicative people, but wanting to embody some moments of their life in the Dark School tattoo. For myself I draw the sketches that show my phobias, or the sketches dedicated to different eras of my life, my alter-egos. My friend Maria had spent most of her life in hospitals; as the reminder she decided to make herself a tattoo of dropper, starting on one side with the needle in the vein, ending with the web of blood vessels in the form of a wristband. Nobody, except for her and her close relatives, will understand the symbolism of this image.

Q: Having a unique style must make you proud, have you tried to reconstruct any other style into your own?
A: As I've already mentioned, Dark School was influenced by various styles, from the traditional to the new (trash polka, neotraditional). Now I'm working on the Japanese sketches in Dark School style. The stylistics are mainly Japanese: the same snakes, demons, geishas, koi, samurai, and so on, but their rendering is not traditional. I try to entangle there the themes from pink violence movies, Japanese horror films and horror manga, my special graphics, symbolism, and colors included. There's a lot of fun, but it's quite hard to switch between the styles. Well, it would be ideal if I'd talk to the traditional Japanese tattoo masters and gained some experience of making the traditional sketches.

Q: To be honest, I think you should try publishing a book. That would be a very eye-opening, creative experience for many other. Have you ever planed to expand your creative work in other medium, outside the drawing paper?
A: I've got two full-scale albums in Dark School style: they are logically interconnected. The first album is very precious for me, because in it there are my first works in this style; the second album succeeds the first logically. I named these albums “Grotesque,” but I couldn't do without my mysteriousness (I couldn't call them like “part 1” and “part 2”). So I labeled them 1901-1914 and 1914-1927: each album represents a 13-year period of the early 20th century. Almost all sketches do not leave the borders of this or that period: it is evident from the costumes, images, technique, and the events depicted. Indeed, there are some troubles with popularizing the style: I need to catch the right time and the right place. Also our team is working on the BDSM alphabet: it would be the large book with illustrations, each letter depicting either the action, or the BDSM-device. There is, actually, a lot of ideas: I want to prepare lectures on the Dark School aesthetics and the history of the style; there is the plans for the album dedicated to the WWI, but fought by the insects: the title will be “The Entomology of the First World War”, with the uniforms, the weapons, other war devices, the blueprints adapted for the needs of arthropods. I have several sketches, but it's just a someday-project as for now.

But I'm not simply the tattoo guy, I'm a professional artist as well. This summer I had created the picture series called “TAGS”. This series are canvas-and-acrylic depiction of the events happening now in Ukraine, with their outcome very unclear and not so good. This series had represented the Ukrainian contemporary art on the largest contemporary art fest of Scandinavia in Danish town Aarhus. The colors and the symbols are pretty much the same.

Since childhood I'm obsessed with the idea of drawing a comics; but to create the plot was always a bit too much for me: I'm OK with creating a general mass of characters, with the world setting, but not with the plot. I tried to collaborate with several scenarists, but they reject working with me because my ideas are not so standard or without a good reasoning at all. That's why I've started to create my own absurd world and in the nearest time I'll draw the comics – maybe the first comics in the world without a plot, scenario, linearity and all this stuff. I hope it will be something new in the comics-industry.

Q: So many ideas are hart to keep in mind, even harder to realize... What would you say that keeps you motivated in your professional career? Is that a person, a progress idea?
A: Many ideas come to me literally out of nowhere, when I'm in the transport, or eating, or walking the street, or listening to the music, or watching the film. There are ideas which came to me in a dream: for example, the chihuahua in the BDSM-muzzle. If the idea is born in the circumstances when I cannot draw it, I try to make a memo in my phone or in the notebook; if the image was born in my head, it cannot escape: it will certainly appear on the paper, in this or that way, changed or not. When I draw an image, I create a story for it. There are lots of images still not depicted, but they wait for their moment. But most of all I'm influenced by my muse and my assistant in all of my deeds.

Q: Any wise words from your own experience in this job?
A: The most important thing for artist is to do what you like, but considering the potential customer. You, as an artist, are meant to be original; but it is better for a master and a customer to agree with their ideas, so they could get their mutual satisfaction.

Q: What are some of your plans for the near feature?
A: A good friend of mine once said: hey, you need a special subculture for your sketches; and I thought that behind every subculture there's a man or a group of people who were the roots, so why wouldn't I become the source of inspiration for a group of people too? This is my main plan. Also I'd like to show my style to the world; this summer I'd got a chance to do it in Europe, but my plans are limitless. I want to print my books and make more and more tattoos, to bring people the pleasant pain and the painful joy. Peace!

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