Flawless Graphics Tattoo with Architectural Background by Alena Zozulenko
You can often hear that paintings are a reflection of the artist's soul. In this case, by the painting, we, of course, mean the tattoo. Do you think it is possible to say that a tattoo is a kind of reflection of the artist's inner world? We will allow ourselves such an interpretation, at least in relation to the hero of this interview.
Considering her works, which are very clean, geometrically verified, and at the same time elegant and very light, of course, it is difficult to imagine what kind of individuality and views their creator possesses. But after talking with this tattoo artist, it immediately becomes clear that these illustrations and tattoos came from under her "brush".
In this article, we want to introduce you to the magnificent graphics and a very interesting tattoo artist from St. Petersburg - Alena Zozulenko. We must admit that we were very impressed with the inner calmness with which Alena tells us about what she manages to do between numerous tattoo sessions. And we were amazed because we are sincerely surprised how one person can combine so much work, hobbies, learning and development in his life, and not go crazy (figuratively, of course). We hope that this interview will prompt you to tear yourself away from your smartphone and rush to meet your goals and dreams.
- Alena, hello! Tell us a little about yourself and how and when did you decide to become a tattooer?
- Hello! I am an architect and graphics artist, I have been tattooing for over five years. I graduated in architecture. For many years I have been successfully working as an architect and have developed projects for residential and public buildings throughout Russia. In parallel with this, I created graphic and painting works. My clothing prints and tattoo designs were very successful.
I love learning new things, so at some point I decided to try myself as a tattoo artist and devoted several years to studying techniques, tools, safety standards, and finding my own personal style in tattooing.
- Where do you get the plots of your tattoos?
- Today I create my projects in the "graphics" style. I really love the black tattoo - there is something classic and traditional in it. In general, I am not constraining myself with any frames and I like to do both story and ornamental projects. And although there are not so many ornamental works in my portfolio, they are no less interesting and very meditative for me. My passion for architecture often prevails over me, and I like to drag engraving techniques and plots with turrets into my projects.
- Where do you get the plots of your tattoos?
- I most often based projects on the ideas of clients, so the plots find me on their own. I rework their idea in my graphic interpretation, taking into account the location and select the most advantageous scale. In my opinion, in a tattoo, a lot of the plot component should come from the client. People love to fill everything with meanings and symbols, I have no right to deprive them of this opportunity.
But it also happens that they follow my aesthetics, and here I myself choose the plot and idea, which will be implemented in the future. And I have a very wide range of ideas - from floristry and mythology to classics and ornaments. In addition, I always have a bunch of ready-made sketches in store, for which I am constantly looking for daredevils.
- What difficulties did you face as a tattoo artist on your way?
- The most difficult thing for me was the realization that my body has a resource, and I will not be able to work endlessly. I've never encountered this before. Not many of the tattoo artists say this, but we all sooner or later have health problems due to our hard work. Sometimes I get carried away at work, I lose track of time, and then I am as stiff as a board the next day. I had to revise my equipment and add sports and training to my schedule. Among colleagues, we even share tricks on how to work more cunningly so that your shoulder does not get jammed in the morning. I already have a whole box of orthopedic gadgets at home (smiles).
- What equipment and paint do you use now?
- By my temperament I am a bit "retrograde" and I am rather hard on something new. I would even say that you should persuade me to try new items! In this regard, for the first three years I worked with one piece of equipment, and in case of a breakdown I bought the same one (smiles). But over time, due to problems with my hand, I switched to a lighter and more convenient format of tattoo machines (PEN type) and cartridges. Now for the second year I have been successfully cooperating and am the ambassador of the Toolbrance brand, a manufacturer of equipment for tattoo artists. I use the Absolute tattoo machine, it is very versatile and easy to sterilize. In addition, they are rapidly evolving, and have expanded the line to fully autonomous operation with a battery and a pedal. Working without a bunch of wires is a delight!
As for the paint, here I probably will not be original - I do not have such a diverse palette, but I use World Famous and Allegory ink as the main black in my works.
- Who are your clients? Do they have something in common?
- I have a very cool profession that allows me to meet a lot of cool and interesting people. I have worked with artists, designers, actors, historians, photographers, bloggers, doctors, restaurateurs, musicians, stylists, ballerinas and even porn directors - and others.
Fortunately, I live in St. Petersburg, and our city is very unusual. I tried to find a correlation between my clients and decided not to look for it, but just enjoy the fact that such cool people trust me.
- Have there been any funny, maybe crazy incidents at your sessions?
- Oh, yes ... There were plenty of curiosities (laughs). Probably the brightest of them happened to me in Europe. A client booked up for a project on his chest. On the day of the session, a young man came, he liked the sketch, we picked up the scale and prepared to transfer the image. I asked him to take off his jacket to prepare the skin for the transfer. And at some point I noticed he had my tattoos on his arms. I began to dig around my memories and remembered that I once did these tattoos, but only for a girl.
As it turned out already at the session, the client really used to be a girl, and in a year he managed to change his gender to male, and we just covered the scars after one of his operations with this tattoo.
Another funny story happened in the last studio. A famous blogger came to a colleague to get a tattoo. At some point, a girl flew into the studio, into the working area, as it turned out to be later she was his fan, and began to ask for a photo with him. We did not even have time to react, she quickly slipped through the door with my client, then we had to take her out and closed the door. No one understood how she figured out his whereabouts.
During the break, the young man went outside and took a picture with her. She was on duty in the courtyard of our studio for another whole week, sometimes she came up and asked when he would return to the session. It was a little scary, especially for this blogger. for us it is rather a rare performance, but for him it’s everyday life.
- Have you had any experience of collaborating with other tattooers? Tell us about him
- Most of the collaborations in my career fell on a covid year, probably because many artists were isolated at some point and partly our industry stopped for a couple of months. This gave me time to think and prepare interesting projects.
And probably one of the most memorable for me was with Vladimir Arinkin! This is an amazing tattoo artist, designer and painters, he has now moved to Austria! He organized a large-scale art project with tattoo artists from several countries. As a result, we got 13 graphic works, which are later planned to be presented both in printed format and at the exhibition.
- Are there tattooers who inspire you?
- I must confess that I live according to the Old Testament dogma - “do not make yourself an idol” (smiles). Partly because, unfortunately, I don't quite have time to follow the success of my colleagues.
- How do you evaluate your popularity, success? And how do you think it can be measured?
- Specifically, it will probably be difficult for me to evaluate my popularity myself, so as not to be biased. In my opinion, you don't need to strive for popularity in your work, but rather strive for harmony with yourself and your work. This sounds a bit like a bit of esoteric bullshit, but it is a more robust approach. Popularity is also different - "black PR is PR too!" And in our vast, where there is no institution of reputation as such, the problem of popularity and fame is often solved only by money, and may not be connected with quality in any way.
- Do you prepare any personal events, activities?
- Since mass events are temporarily canceled, I actively exhibit my graphic works, paintings and designs on online platforms and exhibitions in the USA, Europe and the UK.
In early May, BOOMER Gallery in London hosted the annual ARTSY MOOD exhibition for which they selected exhibitors from around the world. My botanical graphics were presented there. As a result of the selection, they held a week-long exhibition. It is a pity, of course, that I could not be present personally, I think I would have had much more impressions. Otherwise, I just had to send my work. And in the near future another exhibition is planned, now the selection of participants is in progress.
I also actively cooperate and work with two Russian stores of interior prints. And in my free time, which I now have very little, I paint and spend in the art workshop at the Academy of Arts n.a. Repin.
- Apparently, you are an incredible workaholic, and you are constantly in development. Where do you get so much strength and inspiration for creativity, work, and personal development?
- I would say that I work quite impulsively and can change the field of activity, and alternate. It's easier for me to share the load. Now I am still leading a project in my main specialty - architecture. Unfortunately, I cannot share some recipe for finding inspiration and strength, here you probably just need to love what you are doing. Getting enough sleep, eating right, playing sports and not forgetting to rest - this is probably the only secret. But I really like to go to museums and read, though I mostly read popular science literature.
- Tell us about your experience of participating in conventions. Do you think they are needed?
- I remember well the first time I got there. Then I was engaged in tattooing for only 4 months and applied for participation. What was my joy that my works then passed the selection and I was allowed to participate. This very much spurred me to work even harder then!
I walked for a long time and looked at the work of other tattooers, I remember one artist made an indelible impression on me - he made thick lines in one pass. I stayed close to his stand for a long time. Now, of course, it's pretty funny to remember it.
I recently analyzed my participation in conventions and realized that I tried to attend at least two or three a year. It’s not that small! I remember that it was very exhausting - preparation and competitions. Last year I was among the "lucky ones" who quickly got out of Paris when it was quarantined and the convention was canceled at the last moment.
I have several awards, but more awards from foreign conventions, and, by a funny coincidence, the awarding takes place without my participation, and then awards are looking for me. Just yesterday, my friends who were in the United States exhibited my work at a convention in Minneapolis and sent me a beautiful photo of my awards. I am very grateful to them that they took the time, came there and took part in the competition, and at that moment I was blissfully painting at home in St. Petersburg.
I think such events are definitely important for the development of the tattoo industry. But nevertheless, I notice that the tattoo continues to be a bit of a closed sphere somewhere on the border of the underground. Galleries and art magazines rarely cover tattoos as an applied art form, or are generally overlooked as a phenomenon. In my opinion, it is correct not to concentrate all your successes only in the tattoo industry, but to multiply them in other areas, thereby introducing something new and expanding the boundaries. It is necessary to find the language of interaction with other types of art.
- Do you think the tattoo industry in Russia is different from that in the West?
- In the West, tattoo culture is less stigmatized, more open, and mass culture interacts with it differently than in Russia. There is a completely different environment and the media and media operate in a different way in this area. A huge number of tattoo platforms to help tattoo artists work and promote their work. I just started to cooperate with one of these. In the American model, tattooing is a very serious business. Tough contracts, licensing, liability (including criminal and financial) to both the studio and clients, different work ethics and the show industry.
I have several familiar tattooers who come from TV-tattoo projects. They came as still unknown novice artists, they were promoted on TV shows, and then the channels earned on them for several years. Large tattoo studios do the same with artists. This is a completely different way of thinking and looking at the industry as a whole.
Of course, this is due to the large finances in the tattoo industry, the existence of the institution of reputation and legal responsibility. This is probably the main serious difference, I would even say "abyss" in the tattoo industry in Russia and the West.
- How do you see the future of global and Russian tattooing in the coming years?
- Now the entire industry is still in stagnation after the pandemic and has not returned to its previous level. It will probably need some time to recover.
We can only hope that this period will be short-lived. The growth and development of the tattoo industry gives open borders and the ability to travel freely for both artists and their clients.
- What advice would you give yourself as a master 5 years ago?
- I look at my path and probably would not have changed anything either in my decisions or in my actions. The tattoo industry introduced wonderful people, with many of whom I have been friends for many years. Probably the most important piece of advice that I would give myself is “do not forget to rest on time!”. I sometimes misbalance my load and overwork and forget about the weekend. But probably 5 years ago, I would have ignored this advice.