Interview. Kristina Taylor
Recently, at the 17th St. Petersburg Tattoo Festival, we met a talented and charming tattoo artist from Minsk (Belarus) - Kristina Taylor. Kristina works in a very interesting stylization of tattoo realism, travels around the world, and presents her tattoo-works at international conventions. Observing her work during the first two days of the festival, we could not miss the chance to talk with her personally about her work, attitude to tattooing and life in general.
Well, let's get started!
- Hi Kristina! To be honest, I knew about you from last year, since Russian Tattoo Expo 2018. There I saw you for the first time and I like you work. So let's start from traditional questions: Tell me about what did you do in life in general, and how did you come to the tattoo?
- Hello! Since childhood, I have been drawing in art school, where I actually began to develop my drawing skills. And after the art school, I already thought where to go further. As a result I entered to university to the design faculty. I studied all of this and the study itself took a very long time. At the same time I became interested in tattoo.
- So, why the tattoo?
- I started to work on it, because when my the first tattooist made me the first tattoos, I was very fascinated by this process, just how it all happens. One thing is to draw something on paper and quite another on the body. On the body for me it was something unusual and non-standard. So I decided to try it myself. And then it touch me so much that I quit my studies in university, all this design, and gave whole myself to the tattoo. Because I think that if you do something, then do it for 100% and devote all your free time to it.
And it all started from tattoos miscue. I didn't practice on some kind of artificial skin for a long time, I immediately started to botch people, and did it a lot.
- What do you mean by tattoos miscue?
- I was doing everything I can. The main thing for me was to understand how to hold the tattoo-machine in my hands and what is it to paint on skin. I also made stars, like Riana's, hieroglyphs, like Angelina Jolie's, and everything else (laughs).
- Was it in Minsk?
- Yes, sure. I still work mainly in Minsk.
- When did you start?
- If it start from tattoos miscue, then I have been doing tattoo for about 6 years, from 2013. At first time I worked with induction-machine, it was difficult, but interesting. But for a girl, induction is too traumatic. It even left a mark on my finger (laughs).
- And now you work with a rotor-machine? I heard you have some kind of custom machine from Belarus. Tell me what kind of machine is it?
- This is a gift from one dude who is involved in aircraft construction, and as a hobby - he makes tattoo-machines.
- Do you travel a lot and participate in conventions?
- In fact, I began to travel not long time ago. I visited two conventions where judges were the Americans and Europeans, and two where the Russian guys were judges. And of course the approach to it was different.
- Can you tell me what is the difference?
- Well, the first difference is that if judge is American or European, they have such a mentality that friendship is friendship, but if it comes to something professional, then they have nothing personal and they always choose only the best. Let's just say, for example, if the nomination Best of Day, exhibited good works and one of them is really just awesome - they will choose it. And no matter who the artist. Their friend or completely unknown dude.
- Here is an example: once I exhibited in Poland, where Randy Englehard was the judge. He is certainly a serious guy, doesn't know anyone, came to some kind of convention where everyone is unfamiliar to him. He chose a really cool tattoo. I look at it and understand that yes, this is the winner. It combines style, originality, and you can see the handwriting of the artist.
Then I participated in the Expo (Russian Tattoo Expo 2018) - the dudes absolutely did not know who I'm or what I'm doing. The judges were: the organizer of the London Convention and two world TOP realism artists, my idols: Nikko Hurtado and Carlos Rojas. They just decided that two days in a row my work was the best. And they are not guided by such matters, that well, since she won yesterday, then why she should win today. You know, just like in school, everyone needs to be given a chocolate medal so as not to offend anyone. But damn, this is not a school contest. If the work is the best, then no matter how many times it is the best. Thus, they always choose the highest quality.
- But in Russia we have other way. I noticed that when the judges are Russian guys, the first of the reasons to choise is a friendship - that’s a fact. It is necessary to be friends with everyone, to mate. And the second, that it is not necessary to give too many awards to one person. And it turns out that they do not look at quality of works objectively.
- As I understand this opinion is inspired by the recent case?
- A little bit. Well, it's just a grudge when you expose the huge tattoo done in one day instead of the originally planned two, and the award is picked up by the tiny new school bird, for which the artist spent about 2-3 hours. For me, this means that my work is not good enough, but at the end I am a woman and I can grudge a little (laughs). Of course, then everything passes and the only correct conclusion is born - this is a reason to do it better.
- But did you at least earn money by this tattoo?
- Oh, about the money is a another conversation. The works that I do at the convention, I do them just to at least to pay back the journey. Here, for example, yesterday's work cost only $150. And at the last convention (the 17th Moscow Tattoo Festival), the work I did on whole leg was also $150. I just put the minimum price to make a person would be interested to give me his body as a canvas. Thus, I believe that if you want to develop, you should be ready to work even for free, just to do a lot of quality work.
- Do you always doing tattoo based on your ideas?
- Yes of course. I'm always doing tattoos based on my ideas. By the way, often you can hear such an opinion about artists of realism that they are limited and bound by the framework of reality without improvisation. I always try to do some unique project. Not just classic realism, but realise an interesting idea, something unusual and new.
- Well, if we talk about concepts, then realism is an image of real objects, as they are in life. The objects, what you are drawing in your tattoo, in reality does not exist. Therefore, I would say that you use the technique of realism.
- Well, they are based on real objects. They are realistic, but unusual (laughs). For example, some Cosplay elves who walk around the convention, they will not meet you in ordinary life, but they are realistic, do you understand? (laughs) That's the trick.
- So, why did you choose tattoo realism?
- Objectively, this is the most difficult style. I don't like to go easy ways. I believe, that it's not difficult style if a person without artistic skills can learn it. I find it simple. This is not the limit that can be. For example, I can teach you to make the old school tattoos. Because you just need to make good lines and paint over. But you can not learn the realism without artistic skills. Realism doesn't have any limit. You can study it whole your life. I do not think that all what I can do now is enough.
- Do you somehow complicate your work from year to year or from tattoo to tattoo?
- I always complicate it, and correctly you say, from tattoo to tattoo. This allows you to grow as an artist as fast as possible.
- Ok, tell me more about your first trip to Poland.
- I thought that I would come to a small town and would “bend them all”. But they bent me there, because it turned out that very good artists had gathered there. In Europe, even in a small city, there may be an unreal level tattoo-convention. I was shocked by how beautiful this show was. Naturally, wherever I participate, I compare the event with the Polish one. It was in
And I really want to go to United States.
- Did you go to Poland by invitation?
- Yes. We were invited by some dude the organizer of conventions around the world.
- What about sponsorship? Are you a member of any ProTeams?
- No, I didn't get an offer from those whom I want yet.
- And which ProTeam do you want to join?
- Well, of course it World Famous, Kwadron. Something that love the good artists. World Famous generally in the top now. But I do not want to impose myself and send all sorts of applications them. I would like if they just notice me, rate my level and invite me to become part of their team. And if they have not noticed me yet, it means that I can do work even better.
- Why do you need it? Not just only for a free inks?
- Inks for free will be very useful (laughs). I said that I do not make money. Honestly, I don’t earn money on tattoos. And now I want to make it less expencive for me at least. I had situations when my clients tricks me. I made them whole sleeves for minimal price, with the cost of a whole sleeves about $150-200, just only to get them with me to the convention to Moscow or St. Petersburg. They had been promising to go with me, but then disappeared. Therefore, the issue of payback of work is actually relevant.
- Do you think it is important for the artist to attend tattoo conventions?
- Yes, it's really important. Because it is a discomfort. When I work at tattoo convention, I understand that I have to do something that I don’t do under normal conditions. Besides, I have to do it faster, cooler, better than I can at the moment. And this is the development. For me, conventions are the way out of the comfort zone.
- Asking about travels, conventions, I almost forgot about the studios. Are you working on guest spots?
- No, I don't. People calls me, but I'm not going. Working on guest-spot in studios is the way only to make some money. It is not interesting for me. Another thing is traveling around the world, visiting international tattoo-conventions. After event, you can stay in the local studio for a couple of days. It's more interesting to me.
- But what about communication with other artists, experience exchange?
- One dude invited me to his studio and I will definitely go. But before that I need to learn English.
- You intrigued me. And who is it?
- I was invited by Nikko Hurtado.
- This is a really great offer! Is your English really bad?
- "Hello" and "Goodbye" - that's my whole English (laughs).
- So many artists travel around the world without knowing English. Is it really bother you?
- Well, when you discuss the tattoo with client, mutual understanding is very important. I have a very hard mutual understanding filter. If someone disagrees with me - I will not work with him.
- Authoritarian mode? Is it just at conventions or at the studio too?
- Yes, everywhere (laughs). It is important to have mutual understanding with the person. And if you don't know the English, then what kind of common language can it be? At least I need to learn some conversational basis, plus the basic terms of the tattoo.
- Then tell me how do you work with people?
- Everything is pretty simple. All that is needed from a person is to bring me an idea, to tell what he wants. In response, I tell the person how to do this in a tattoo. Creating of a project lies entirely on me. I do not allow the client to say to me: “this is the object should be placed here and here”. This is some kind of printer, not creativity. And I have just creativity. That is why: man-idea, I-realization. If the client is pushing his line, insists on something - I do not work with him. I believe that the client should not and cannot understand how the artist work.
The artist understands how compositional elements look on the skin, whether it will look cool or not, it represents all this even before the tattoo itself is realized. Artist have years of training behind their shoulders, unlike a client with his unreasonable desires, inspired from nowhere. If you start dancing to the tune of a client, you will most likely get a piece of shit, with which you should go only under the laser tattoo removal.
My filter of the adequacy saves me from these situations.
Initially, before a personal acquaintance, I communicate a lot with a person online. And online, he can afford a lot more than in a private conversation. So I understand what kind of person is he. Now I try to work only with people who are pleasant to me, who also support my work.
- What features of your tattoos can you highlight?
- At first time, I did not make any accents on my own style. I just wanted to do quality works. Now I can already trace my style: they are always contrasting, rich colors, with elements of neon, two-sided, contrasting lighting, with the presence of opposite colors and a little acid.
- Do you think it is important for the artist to have a recognizable style?
- Of course! Look, for example, to nomination Best of day. Evaluation the author's component is one of the most important things. If you look at the work and do not recognize its author, then there is no author's component.
- How do you think, for models, is it fun to participate in the competition?
- I think their dick is growing up because of it (laughs)! Models at conventions suffer pain, inconvenience, so of course they get upset when they do not receive awards, and are inspired if they receive it.
- And how do you feel about defeats?
- I really like criticism from the real cool dudes. It motivates me to do it better. Until no one would have any questions to my work.
- I wonder how you assess the coolness?
- Participating in TOP International tattoo conventions around the world and of course victories in them. I like Nikko Hurtado, Steve Butcher and many other foreign artists. From Russian, I like the works of Oleg Shepelenko, Ilya Fominykh, O'Kharin, and many others indeed. This is the level I aspire.
- And how do you rate your level for now?
- Norm. Good with beer (laughs). I do not praise my work. I am even more inclined to look for mistakes in them, so that in next time it will not be allowed. And even if I don't immediately find any mistakes, I look at the work after a while and try to find them again. I live by the principle that it's not a point to praising myself, it is necessary to get praise from others professionals. It will be an indicator of success.
- What do you think about popular trend of creating tattoo training for beginners, various master-classes, etc.?
- I'm wondering in all of what I haven't tried before. Therefore, I tried to teach. But I didn't like it. This is a thankless job. Often the beginner is less interested than the artist, and when the artist teaches, he often speaks more than necessary, giving a part of himself and his individuality to a person. As best result of this training, the beginner will do a couple of good works, and then he will return to his previous level. And the worst result, if he will be simply a copy of the artist who taught. I had such situations when a person came to me for training, and after he wanted to become me.
- Was it the experience of individual training?
- Yes. It would be really difficult for me to train a group. I always try to do my best, and when I feel a lot of different creative individuals, I can’t devide myself between them all. Each creative person needs their own approach and you should be ready to tune to each. All people have their own oddities, and you need to understand what goals a person pursues. That is why it was comfortable for me to make individual training. But this is all in the past. I will not do this anymore.
- What is the situation with the tattoo in Belarus?
- Everything is gorgeous there! Every artist is a “star” with such self-esteem that if you ask him, he will tell you that he is the best artist in Minsk, Belarus and the whole world (laughs).
There are 3 good tattoo artists in Belarus. Well, of course, I consider only artists working in realism. Actually there are so many artists, but they all do not want to develop, they consider themselves as top artists and that's it. Almost everywhere I see the advertisements “make a tattoo from the best tattoo artist of the world”. That's terrible. Therefore, of course you want to go far, where people appreciate quality and creativity.
- Do you have tattoos?
- Yes, I have the sleeve from one of the Belarusian masters, but if I would return the time back, then I would not go to him. Now, I have already corrected most of it by myself.
- Would you give anyone to redraw it?
- No, just myself. Because a good artist will not correct such work. The artist, having his own style, will never work at another's basis. All artists works in different stylizations.
- But what about cover-up?
- I'm making it very often. I like to be like Xzibit - pump over tattoo miscues. Of course, at first, I send everyone to lazer tattoo removal, and then I gladly cover-up it.
- Do you have plans to the nearest future trips?
- Russian tattoo expo in Moscow, then maybe to Kazan. I'm searching the European conventions, maybe I will go again to Poland or Germany. I'm wanting to go to Cancun - this is one of the most powerful tattoo conventions, and participation costs $3000 there.
- Well, from myself I want to wish you only success and inspiration on the creative path! Thank you for the pleasant and interesting conversation, see you later!
- Thank you too!