Interview with Nikita Kuzmenko | Tattoo Style | Poland 30/11/2021

  Hello Nikita Kuzmenko! Thank you 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? Hi im Nikita Kuzmenko, I'm from Ukraine but for last 6 years I've been living in Poland. I started tattooing when I was studying in university in 2010. I met one guy who was with me in historical medieval club, where we made medieval armory and fight with each other. I was bored so when I heard that he does tattoos I just asked him to teach me.

Q: Was it hard to learn the basic skills? Did you have any help or you're a self taught artist? What type of tattoos you use to do as a beginner?
A: Well, at that time when I started there was not so much information about tattoos (in Ukraine). That guy just showed me how to prepare the machine, few needles and how to start tattooing. It was just 3 hours and that is all. After few years of practise, I realized that he didn't know anything. For two years, I was tattooing at home after studying in university. I didn't even realised how tattoo machines work. I got money just to buy some needles and it was one client in a month. There were dark times. After two years, I found my first studio, I started learning the correct way. Watching how another artist is working, ask questions and gain experience. But I didn't have that kind of teacher who will sit with me and show me everything. I think that is even better, because I tattoo how I feel and not like how somebody would tell me. As a beginner, I was tattooing everything but mostly I liked outlines, neotraditional stuff and new school.

Q: Your style is really interesting. I like how you combine black and color ink. I also like the dark note too. A mix of gothic and realism is always nice to see heh. How would you call your style? Is that something that you prefer or your clients want those types of designs?
A: When somebody ask me to name my style or any tattoo style, it makes me laugh. I remember how old metal bands write their style like “satanic, gothic, neo black metal” you know what I mean. So I don't try to name my style. I'm just trying to do tattoos how I like. Clients come by with their ideas and I'm trying make a good design from it. Sometimes, I tell them that it is going to look bad and offer them some of my ideas. Not always you can vibe with the client, and when you, then you go home happy.

Q: Tell me more about the creative process. Do you draw sketches for each client or it is free hand design while tattooing?
A: I don’t, we have practice in our studio that we are doing the design on the day of the tattoo session. It saves a lot of time. I just prepare some reference images and create the whole design in photoshop or on ipad with the client. Sometimes I add some parts with marker. I can change the whole idea for the sleeve after the first session, always for the better.

Q: How important is to be open for ideas from your clients meanwhile still maintaining your own style?
A: Very important, but sometimes but not always. Everything depends from one to another client, but it's true that sometimes it's difficult to offer some "extreme" ideas. Some people want just "a tattoo” not an art. For some ideas you must say NO at the moment when you talk with the client.

- Any weird, funny requests from your clients?
A lion in space, dressed like astronaut and smoking weed also leaves of weed flying in space to with the Earth on the background.

Q: I really like the lettering on some. It's a really cool, decorative element. It reminds me of graffiti, a bit underground but still looks good. How long does it take to work out a nice, big piece like a tattoo sleeve or even a back tattoo?
A: Most of my clients want some big pieces from me. I can do a sleeve in 6 sessions but it depends from skin to skin, details and size of client. There was that one time that I made a full sleeve in two weeks. It was nice experience but difficult.

Q: I was amazed when I saw some of your artworks I believe on canvas? They look awesome! Do you sell them? If so, please let us know how we can buy some.
A: Thanks! I'm trying to draw more often but I don't have time. Usually I draw on paper with Copic sketch markers. Recently, I started experimenting with some materials, last artworks have golden parts. I sell them on tattoo conventions but if you want to buy, you can write me on instagram, I always answer to everyone. In the future, I want to go more on a pro level, less tattoos more art.

Q: Tattoo collaborations are super fun. It's not only a great way to spend some time with colleagues but also to learn a lot. I saw some collaboration with Awesome Work!! Tell me more about this.
A: The collaboration with Oxi was great, thanks to that collaboration I come back to color tattooing. On the next tattoo convention, we want to collaborate with two other artists. It's very difficult experience, because it’s difficult to work with somebody. You must think all the time where are the hands of the other artist and how to ink some parts because it must be in the same style. Most important part of the collaboration is preparing the whole design. You must connect your vision and style with another person, find a golden middle ground. With Oxi it was easy because our taste is quite similar. I would like to collaborate with artists on conventions, because I like to see people's reaction when they see the finished work.

Q: How is the tattoo scene in Poland nowadays? Is it growing, do you see progress? In my opinion, you guys are awesome!
A: The tattoo scene in Poland is strong. For the last 10 years it's been growing all the time. Even when I started tattooing, we already heard about highly skilled neotraditional artists from Poland. For the last five years, Poland had a big booster because there are a lot of tattoo artists that came from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, 2\3 of them are high level artists, so they showed how it's done and shared their knoweladge. But I met a lot of super talented guys here and I'm happy to work with them. I see fire in their eyes and we don't stop learning and growing. Also Poland has a very good artists like Beksinski for example.

Q: We live in uncertain times now with the pandemic going on. How are you? How does this affect you as a person and as an artist? Are you available for bookings?
A: It is hard for everyone but for some it's a chance to do something different, learn something new. Finally, I found some time to draw for myself. Also, we met in closed studio and drawing together, teach each other. I feel that my skills got better in drawing and tattooing. Everything depends on how you manage your time, so one day when we stop drinking on lockdown and start drawing hehe. When there is less work you give more power to every tattoo. Everyone can have an appointment (in near two months) at “Nie mow mamie tattoo” Gdansk, Poland. Juliusza Slowackiego 89/5 email or on insta niemowmamie_gdansk .

Q: If not tattooing what else would you choose if you can turn back the time? What are some of the other hobbies or interests that you have?
A: It's difficult to imagine what would I do without tattooing. Like I said in the beignning, I was in medieval club so when I was 16 years old, I thought that I'm gonna be a smith. After finishing university, I thought that I'm gonna be an engineer and making medical equipment. Also I learned to play on saxophone but I don't have time, so this is not an option :)

Q: So far, what's the best part of being a professional tattoo artist? What you're most proud of?
A: The best part is when you can tattoo your design on the client's skin exactly how you imagined, and the satisfaction when you're taking a photo of that tattoo when it's done. Also I'm happy when clients rely on my knowelagde and experience so I can offer them some interesting ideas.

Q: What would you say to the young people who are scrolling through Instagram wanting to become a tattoo artist?
A: Don't stop believing heheh (nice song). Drawing! Drawing all the time. Your beginner skills don't matter. When I started, everyone said tattooing is not a profession. I just wanted to tattoo, so I kept working really hard. Do it for your soul not for wallet. And last one, ask the right questions.