There’s a herd of people who place stock in the fact that the body is a canvas in dire need of decoration. While it’s an ink-credible thought, tattoos serve as more than just a funky art, but rather have deeper emotional connects. Whether it’s the name of a long lost lover etched into your skin forever, or a legendary fire-breathing creature, or a Celtic knot that’s left to decipher, every tattoo tells a tale. If you’ve walked into a tattoo store with nothing in mind, and walk out with a story inscribed on you forever, join the club. Bingedaily spoke to some of India’s best tattoo artists and here’s what they have to say about this very bemusing art!
Allan Gois - Aliens Tattoo
Allan Gois is a tattoo artist and director at Aliens Tattoo, a studio in Mumbai. Specialising in realistic and hyper-realistic tattoos since 2014, Allan learnt from one of the pioneers of the tattoo industry - Sunny Bhanushali himself. For this tattoo artist, his work is all about his clients’ stories and their imaginations. “I majorly engage in mythological tattoos, which have their roots in Indian mythology such as Lord Shiva, Budhha, Aghori, mantra’s etc. These are realistic tattoos which take around 2 consecutive sessions to finish, translating to a period of around 8 hours.”
Having won multiple awards at international conventions, and having been featured in an international tattoo magazine - Total Tattoo Magazine, Allan is now all set to pass on the passion to others aka teaching tattooing. “I believe anyone can become a tattoo artist if they have the passion to learn. We have a tattoo training school in Mumbai and I have a dream that tattooing should be recognised as a career option, just like engineering and other fields.”
For Allan, the best part about being a tattoo artist is being able to wake up every day and work on yourself. “Every day is different. You meet different people daily and the best part is, that a tattoo artist can travel and work at the same time. Life is fun if you are a tattoo artist.”
Zaheer Chhatriwala - Studio Z
Ever since a kid, Zaheer knew he had an artistic side to him. “I was attracted to the aesthetic appeal of my idols, and tattoos just struck me. That’s how my curiosity for the field grew.” After a painstaking journey of reaching out to local artists, hoping someone would offer to train him, Zaheer had the fortune to be picked up by Sameer Patange, the owner of Kraayonz tattoo studio. Today, 12 years later, Zaheer is his own boss, with a studio of his own.
“Tattooing isn’t a fashion or a style statement but rather, a bolder form of self-expression,” says Zaheer. Having always believed in this philosophy, he engages in custom work based on his clients’ ideas, concepts and experiences. “I aim to make the entire tattoo process more personal and meaningful, the non-conformity to make your own choices with your body.”
Zaheer speaks of tattoos like they are commitments, memories, cultures that have a deep history and beautiful languages of art. “My style has evolved over the years from the more traditional outlook of tattooing to what I do now. I see myself doing abstract, geometry, patterns, designs and creating my own unique style in the process.”
One would seldom imagine themselves giving their mom and grandmom a tattoo, and that’s just what this tattoo artist did! “It was a milestone for me,” he says “as it meant they had finally accepted me as a tattoo artist and were proud of it.”
“Tattooing holds a sentimental value as it has taught me a lot about life and allowed me to grow as an individual. I’ve had the privilege of meeting amazing people and learning from their experiences. I cannot describe just one highlight of this journey, as to this day, it seems one continuous high.”
Karthik Bengre - Sculp Tattoo Studio
Born and raised in Mangalore, Karthik Bengre is the creator of Sculp Tattoo Studio. After spending years of training to gain expertise in his field and expanding his skills in different styles of body art, Karthik started this venture. Sculp Tattoo Studios has brought together tattoo artists coming from different backgrounds, united with the same drive and passion for art. Tattoos to Karthik have always been a form of self-expression, a medium to tell a story, and a daily reminder of a fond memory.
“Tattoos pave the way for us to bring our imagination to fruition. The tattoos we don on our bodies are the most personal form of art, they are an inherent part of our lives,” he says.
Karthik accepts there’s a profound something in letting creativity flow and trusting the process. A specialist in free-hand and custom work, he says free-hand flows on the body, an effortless beautiful work of art. Through tattoos, he aims to put across the great pieces of art that are created by the artist in collaboration with his client. “Being a tattoo artist is a learning process. I’m truly blessed to meet new folks every day and learn a little something.”
Lokesh Verma - Devilz Tattooz
“Seeing the client’s face light up with happiness after I’ve completed the tattoo is always the highlight of my experience,” says Lokesh Verma, a tattoo artist who started out in 2003 and is now the founder of Devilz Tattooz. The biggest chain of tattoo studios in Delhi/Gurgaon/Noida NCR, this was started by Lokesh after observing a lack of professional tattoo shops in Delhi/India. GQ magazine rated it as one of the best tattoo parlours in India.
Ask him to pick his style of tattooing and he says it is colour portraits. “Every piece is different and it’s a thrill to finish every tattoo.”
“My tattoo profile now mostly consist of realism colour portraits but I have done almost every style of tattoo. With every different portrait, there is a challenge, but that is why this style is fun!”
Archana Nakhua Bhanushali - Ace Tattooz & Training Academy
Nikhil and Archana Nakhua Bhanushali, the founders of Ace Tattooz & Training Academy share their journey of viewing the art of inking as not just something funky and fun, but rather moving. Ironically, this duo’s story began over a tattoo. The two then went on to start Ace Tattooz & Training Academy, one of the biggest studios in India and it’s been a decade of growth and learnings. “Archana not only tattoos on skin, but rather looks for the story in every inking. The best part of the tattoo process is knowing what others have overcome, looking for the motivation in every day, and bringing a smile on the client’s face,” says Nikhil.
Archana is a firm believer in the tattoo being not just a design, but a journey in its entirety. “The scar is made for a reason, to tell a story. It is heart rendering to hear people opening up about what they’ve gone through. In an atmosphere of no judgement, every client feels a connect with the tattoo artists at Ace Tattooz.”
Nikhil and Archana recount numerous anecdotes of how people share bits and pieces of their lives, as they are being inked. “Our profession is about giving people the happiness that is so rare to come by these days. There is no bias, just beautiful art taking its course. The tattoos are a testament to how people are willing to let go of their past and create something new.”
We ask the duo how tattoos have begun gaining popularity. They say it has to do with the meaning of the tattoo. “A person’s first tattoo is a fashion statement, but then once you get started with getting yourself inked, you go into the deeper meaning of tattooing, which is your life.”
Having had a list of celebrity figures as clients, Nikhil and Archana have only climbed up the ladder. Archana was awarded for the Best Female Tattoo Artist In India in 2014, and that only raised their spirits further. The duo is now starting their venture of semi-permanent colouring for eyebrows and lips, another stepping stone in their journey.
Sudhir Rao - BodyCanvas
Having been inspired as a child by his grandfather, an oil painter, Sudhir Rao would steal his pastel colours to fill his sketchbooks. He is now a full-time professional tattoo artist with BodyCanvas Tattoos and Piercings and has been inking people from all over the world for a decade. A magician before becoming a tattoo artist, Sudhir goes by the name ‘wizard’ and loves putting the magic touch in everything he does. “If you want to be inked with a touch of magic, you know where to stop by!”
Speaking of his work, Sudhir says he is an ardent lover of concept tattoos. “People come up with ideas and I translate those on to their skin and bring those ideas alive. This is much more eventful than merely picking up an image and inking it. The tattoo should connect and resonate with the person and reflect his thoughts and ideas.”
For the ‘wizard’, dream-based tattoos are where his passion lies. “Dreams do not have boundaries, but rather a whole lot of layers like the human mind. As tattoo artists, we etch these emotions on to people’s bodies and give them something to cherish for life.”
“As tattoo artists, our job is not all about the glamour, but rather a responsibility. We need to be super hygienic and take notice of the fact that people give themselves to us. We need to be true to ourselves and our art. There’s no other job that will leave you with this level of satisfaction. As tattoo artists, we give something to someone which will stay with them forever.”