Evolution of Mastery: New Chapters in the Creative Life of Robert Shteinberg
Welcome to our second interview with Robert Shteinberg, a tattoo artist and artist, whom we meet again after three years. In this conversation, we will delve once again into the creative world of his dark black tattoos to find out how his style has evolved since our last meeting, what new achievements and challenges have come his way, and what interesting stories have unfolded during this period.
Robert, I'm glad to talk to you again. What's new in your life over the past 3 years? Where are you currently working?
- A lot has happened during this period. I moved to live and work in Germany, honed my skills in acrylics, explored a couple of new painting techniques. I painted a lot of canvases, and most of them have already been sold.
I didn't expect such demand for my art in Germany. I was invited to a couple of exhibitions to showcase my work, but transporting canvases proved to be problematic, so I've temporarily put that on hold. I also gained sponsors who support my creativity, which has been a cool experience.
I work at "13tattoo" studio in Nuremberg. It's a big and cool team with great directors. In my experience, finding a team with good and reasonable leadership is quite challenging, but everything is going well now.
I remember you had plans to elevate tattooing in your hometown, Novosibirsk. How did you end up in Germany?
- Yes, indeed, I had intentions for that, but what's dead can't be resurrected! The tattoo community in Novosibirsk is just terrible; everyone hates each other and spreads negativity. However, it's essential to note that not everyone was like that; there was a reasonable portion of people, but it was so insignificant that it wasn't worth doing anything there.
For example, if you look at the tattoo community in Chelyabinsk, most people communicate and get along. I know many people from Chelyabinsk who confirm this, and it's genuinely cool! Novosibirsk had none of that, and I decided to leave and not waste time on organizing events and courses that almost no one would appreciate. Plus, I was fed up with the cold nine months a year! In the end, I packed up and moved to Germany.
I moved on an artist visa, similar to the talent visa in the United States but in Germany. I invested a lot of time, effort, and money into it, and it worked out. I was incredibly happy when I found out that my documents were approved; it was a WOW moment!
Your tattoos have become even cooler, darker, and more recognizable. Tell me about the evolution of your style.
- Thank you very much; I'm really glad that the progress is noticeable. I still spend a lot of time drawing. Even now, alongside work, I engage in drawing at home and take a portrait course. In our industry, there are no limits; you'll never get through tattooing with just the skill you have now. You have to constantly improve; otherwise, you'll be left behind because there's significant competition now, and you have to stay on top!
I think the progress in tattooing and drawing is evident from my first interview with your magazine. I wish everyone the same, to look at their work after years and be pleasantly surprised by their progress. I just looked at the works I sent before this interview, and it turned out quite well.
When we talked last time, you mentioned, "Amateurs look for inspiration. Professionals take and do." Do you still adhere to this principle? How do your projects come to life?
- Yes, I don't deviate from this path and continue moving along it. Inspiration is complete nonsense! It's just an excuse not to do anything. Yes, there are times when something doesn't go well in a drawing, but I distract myself, shoot and edit a video, read, play video games. After a day or two, it passes, and then everything goes beautifully again. You have to skillfully balance to avoid overloading yourself. But it's silly to blame your failures and unwillingness to do something on something abstract like "inspiration." Sit down - work, tired - rest, it's that simple!
I sometimes have creative problems, but people around me or clients often suggest ideas for new tattoos or paintings. Recently, my colleague suggested an idea for a painting, to create a baby Jesus. I really liked the idea, and I realized it. It turned out pretty good.
What plots do you prefer now?
- In this regard, everything is the same as before. I still enjoy creating dark images, but now I try to focus more on the narrative. I create paintings and tattoos with a plot, not just beautiful pictures. "Just pictures" have become a bit boring for me. Plus, with a plot, you're limitless; your plot can be anything, while a "beautiful picture" always works the same, following a template. I hope you understand what I mean.
Do you have favorite tattoos, clients, projects, or perhaps some unusual stories in your career?
- I'll tell you a story about how I made the most unusual tattoo in all my years of work. It was about 5-6 years ago. A man walked into our studio from the street without an appointment. The man looked very respectable, in a suit, carrying a case in his hands. He wore glasses, looked like a serious uncle, around 45-50 years old. Our administrator talked to him, came up to me and said, "There's a man who came, he needs a windmill on his heel," and I was like, "What? A windmill on his heel?" I was surprised by such an idea, but we realized it, and the man was satisfied.
There was also a story where a guy was getting a large inscription on his back from me. There was one letter left to paint, he asked to take a smoke break, I let him go, and 10-15 minutes later, he's gone. I call him; he answers the phone and says, "Sorry, the police took me, I can't talk!" and hangs up. I never saw him again, and he never responded to my messages. It was a strange situation.
Do you travel a lot for work? Where and with whom have you had the opportunity to work? Can you share your most significant experiences?
- When I first moved to Europe, I traveled a lot. I had a new city or country every two weeks, and I did this for an average of 2-3 months at a time. But these spots are very exhausting; you get tired of constantly sitting on a suitcase. Now I don't travel to different spots; I work in one place. I've made a lot of acquaintances, met many people, it would be tiresome to list them all here.
One of the spots is associated with a negative experience. A trip was planned for 2 weeks, a day before my arrival, the owner starts saying I shouldn't come, that there's not much work, only for one week, and so on. But I already bought the tickets, paid for the hotel, and I didn't want the money to go to waste.
I told him it's not a problem for me, that if I work for a week, and there are appointments afterward – great, and if not, then so be it. He continues saying the same thing, and at some point, he offers to reimburse my expenses for the hotel and tickets. I said, "okay, no problem."
And that's it! After that, he disappears altogether, doesn't respond anywhere. It started bothering me a bit, and I turned into Sherlock, thinking about what kind of nonsense he's pulling. I decided to write to a couple of artists whose work he had posted on Insta, asking how they worked with him. They all replied that they hadn't worked with him; he had invited them for a guest spot and canceled a few days before their arrival.
I think he did it to show people that a cool artist is coming, they would book appointments with the good artist, and then he would tell them, "Oh! That artist won't come, but I can do a tattoo for you instead." I think he was doing business like that.
Tell us about your convention experience and awards.
- I didn't attend conventions that often before this; I had been to five conventions, and I won three awards – one first place and two second places. Starting from the new year of 2024, I plan to attend more frequently because I also need to develop in this direction.
Conventions are a wonderful opportunity to meet other artists, sponsors, and establish further collaborations with them. However, as practice shows, another way for working with sponsors is YouTube. Many tattoo machine manufacturers reached out to me through YouTube. At one point, I had 11 tattoo machines from different brands sent to me for review on my channel.
You are Proteam member of three renowned brands in the tattoo industry. Can you tell us what this membership gives you and whether you can influence the development of the tattoo industry?
- I am confident that I can make a certain contribution to the development of these brands. Reviews can help optimize some products that may have always been a concern for me. Since I have a wide circle of contacts and my reviews reach a broad audience, it is also a wonderful opportunity for newcomers in the tattoo industry to make decisions in favor of certain products, especially for those working on a tight budget. I myself was one of such artists and couldn't afford to try all brands to decide which one suited me best. In general, working with these brands is a great honor and recognition of my efforts and contributions.
How do you assess your popularity now, and in your opinion, how can it be measured?
- I don't know, it's hard to say. "Popularity" is definitely present, but how to measure it, I can't imagine. But I have a story about how a German girl recognized me in a bar. I want to say that I was only recognized in Russia before this, because of YouTube, and this happened in Germany for the first time, and it was very cute.
We were sitting with my friend in a bar, having some beers, and it was getting close to closing time. For a moment, the bar was open until 11:00. We were sitting, discussing something animatedly. At some point, I see one of the visitors looking at me, covering her mouth with her hand, and saying, "OH! MY GOD!" continuously for a long time. I didn't understand what was happening and started looking around, maybe something happened behind me, I started turning my head, but nothing. Just nothing, I sit puzzled, look at this girl, and she comes up to me and says, "Ich kenne dich! Du bist Robert, ich habe dich abonniert und habe deine Tattoos und Bilder gesehen!" which translates to "I know you! You're Robert, I'm subscribed to you, and I've seen your tattoos and paintings!" and all this time, in between a couple of words, she keeps saying, "OH! MY GOD!".
We talked a little, she said a lot of nice words about my work, it was very sweet. And for some reason, all Europeans think that if you're from Russia, you love vodka. The thing is, at some point, she decided to treat me and ordered vodka, but I don't drink vodka, but it would be impolite to refuse, especially after such kind words from this girl.
What else are you interested in besides tattooing?
- My range of interests is constantly changing. At one point, I was sculpting masks, casting them in plastic. This process took a lot of my time. I spent approximately 80-90 hours on the first mask. It was the first time, and I had no prior experience. The second mask was a bit easier; it took around 30 hours, but I still had to put in the effort. Currently, I plan to learn ZBRUSH and create masks using a 3D printer. I also enjoy playing video games. Recently, I installed Cyberpunk and play it when I have time.
Do you have a goal in your journey? Share your plans for the future..
- I want to develop my style, promote it, and strive to be the best at what I create. Perhaps other artists will look up to me, and I might inspire someone to start something. In 7 years in tattooing, I've come from being a guy from a small village in the depths of Siberia that no one needed to a master who creates his own style, paints pictures, and helps brands in the tattoo industry make their product better. I think it's cool!