The hero of today's interview is the tattoo artist Nikolai Dzhangirov. Working in his author's technique, based on color realism, he achieved recognition far beyond the borders of his homeland. In today's interview, we will try to find out as much as possible about Nikolai’s creative journey, his preferences and attitude to modern tattoo art, as well as we will learn about his plans for the near future.
Well, let's get started!
- Hello Nikolai. For the beginning, tell us a little about yourself. How and when did you decide to become tattooer?
- Hello Alexander! So, a little about myself, I was born to a small village near St. Petersburg. Two hands, two legs! And thanks for that (laughs). I quickly went up the school curriculum and was notable for particular success until the 2nd grade... about that time I was tired of learning! Did I like to draw in childhood? - Of course! I didn’t notice especially ardent impulses to copy the Bosch's canvases, so everything went as usual until I turned 16 years old! At this jubilee age, I was a first-year college student (by profession of auto mechanic), and went headlong into the turbulent life of a teenager with all the attributes inherent in her, or rather: on binge nights with a lot of beer and other joys (laughs)! Thus, one morning, my childhood friend and I suddenly realized that we need a hell of a damn tattoo! This awareness was so contrasting that the other wishlist was completely forgotten! My friend immediately told me that I had to go to Serega who could make us tattoos... but apparently Serega was not interested in this event, despite the fact that the beer had been promised to him as the reward! As a result, he was postponing our appointment till the very last moment, and my friend, with whom we still wanted to get tattoos, not knowing what it might to be and not exactly knowing how, persuaded me to do it on my own! Well, all after, everything is like everyone else... a string, a motor, a spoon, helium paste, alcohol, and tears... That's how I came into the world (laughs).
- What possible career did you leave for the tattoo?
- I can't say that I have drowned some other profession! Since at the end of college I didn't understand what I was doing there! And the tattoos were still with me! Of course, earnings did not come immediately, which means that it was necessary to work somethere! Therefore, I worked at a construction yard, in security service, in a car repair shop and as a waiter, even arranged as a furniture assembler... but, as has appeared later, they just scrammed me out of money!
- What does the word tattoo mean to you?
- For me, the tattoo is not something univocal, it seems to be something that brings be money, but at the same time I do not consider it as work! It seems that I put my heart into it, but at the same time I cannot call it my vocation! I achieve some success, but I also cannot call myself talented... therefore I cannot answer the question that I find it difficult to understand that is the tattoo means for me.... most likely it is an whole complex of what drive me day after day and allows me to be happy and move forward!
- Do you remember your first client and your feelings when you took a tattoo machine in your hand fr the first time and started making tattoo?
- I will never forget my first steps! As I said earlier, it was a very contrasting time of my life, and I really miss it very much! Probably, like any other person, remembering his 16 years (laughs). In that time in my hands cruelly shouted a motor from the tape recorder, to which the guitar string was attached, but whether it was sharpened or not, I had no idea! I remembered how the tattoo process looked like when my brother got a tattoo... but this knowledge was very poor!
Hands are shaking, the string is going from side to side, and my drunken customer, in the person of my the best friend, shouts in a drunken voice, that I would not be afraid! Cotton wool from a mattress dipped in a tea glass lies on a sofa, and helium paste squeezed into a beer lid, which holds by the customer himself, periodically dripping onto the floor!
I draw a line and frantically look at a friend, he did not blink an eye... I erase this puddle, and there is nothing there! I draw it again, but in this time putting an effort and see how opened friend's eyes !!! It was very funny, by the way... Erasing this puddle again by the cotton wool, I understand that the transfer also disappeared from the skin! And that means - improvisation!!!
I'm hysterical, the customer in panic, and drunks friends around are filled with laughter! In general, It was cool party!(laughs)
- Let's talk a little about your works. How did you come to realism and why did you choose this style?
- Why realism? Well, let's start with the fact that I do not think that I work precisely in realism! I think that the realism is a very limited style! It must conform to many things, be it the environment or some pose! As for me, realism is an exact copy of something living or not... not having the ability to deviate or stylize...
I find it boring, that is why I work in such subject-portrait realism... when the transfer of realistic aspects is at its core, while combining different compositional or style decisions!
However, to the question of why this particular and not some other styles, I can only answer one thing... I like to do what causes my emotions! For example, I see a realistic portrait and I like it! However, having seen some old school or Japanese tattoo, I can also remain delighted, but this is already a professional interest! I tried myself, probably, in all directions of tattooing, for a long time, of course and nonetheless, I am also ready to notice that realism is one of the most popular styles in the world! He is one of the most emotionally bright styles that causes the WOW effect!!!
But this is exclusively my subjective observation and opinion!!
- What special features of your style you can highlight?
- Unfortunately I can't highlight any special features of my style! Perhaps because I'm still looking for myself! Now, if I'll be more fortunate, I’d like to go to an art school and finish some courses or study programs. I’d probably, having developed my own style, being artistically developed, but alas, I’m too lazy and did not sneak up to this! However, I have everything ahead!
- Where do you get inspiration?
- Inspiration is a creature that cannot be purposefully found somewhere, or found on a flip! But at the same time it is everywhere! Sometimes, I watch some kind of movie and suddenly put it on pause and do some screenshot from the screen and save the ridiculous picture in which I saw something! Or just flipping through the news feed I can inadvertently stumble upon some sketches or pictures in which, again, the eye saw something! This is not some kind of science or a clever scheme of enlightenment! This is what happens to everyone, it doesn’t matter what you do... You can write music and hear some kind of speech from a person passing by, climb into a notebook and write down these lines, or grab the phone and suddenly something then record on video... just like everyone else! Catch the wave! (laughs)
- Which modern tattoo artists can you call “the best”?
- I have stoped to use labels long time ago! Best or worst - it is all water!
But I have a lot of people whose human qualities attract me... either perseverance, or single-mindedness, or an elementary ability to disengage from external influence in favor of self-development... many qualities that make you not stand still!
But the most important quality, perhaps, would be noted is HUMANITY. When a person, regardless of their heights or achievements, remains a MAN!
Therefore, as sometimes I notice people who have gained popularity or have become quite famous, who begin to behave as if they suddenly became taller than everyone else, or made from another dough... At such moments, I really want to remind them that they are just so little stars in an even smaller social world... and ask them to get off this fragile stool and remove this ridiculous foil crown that scrape a chandelier in a communal apartment... As my Mom says: «Keep it simple and you will be more expensive!»
I will not add specific names cause I'm afraid to forgot someone, but we all know the best ones anyway!
- Where do you work now?
- At now I work in St. Petersburg in the team of the Blackout studio. I also have my own studio where two of my friends works — quite successful tattooists... However, in favor of self-development, I joined a strong and self-sufficient team, where, day after day, I can see and hear something new for yourself! And I think this is exactly what happens!
Also I periodically go to Moscow, unfortunately I’m not able to come more often, but when there is an opportunity and time I’m happy to work in the Syndicate studio... this is the main and probably the only one studio in Moscow at the moment, where I feel like at home!
- Tell us about your typical working day.
- I cannot say a lot about my typical working day, cause, unfortunately, it is basically like the groundhog day...
I'm lazy, and there are so many things I complicate myself. For example, instead of getting up early and coming to work early and preparing the desk and everything you need, I sleep until the last, then run headlong into the studio and arrive, as a rule, a little later than the customer... so I don’t have time and always finish too late...
In general, everything is not so bad (laughs)
I woke up, get ready for work and further down the list... I will not call myself a high-speed employee, that's why my sessions are on average from 1pm till 10pm, after that I come home already tired. My wife is not very happy about this, especially when I'm practically most of the time in Europe. However, sometimes I break out of the usual squirrel's wheel and spend the evening at home or with hopeless friends, whose story differs a little from mine...
- How extensive is your tattoo geography. Where have you already been and where are you going in the near future?
- My tattoo geography is not so big as someone have, however, I rode well at the beginning of my career. I have been in Poland, Germany, Italy, France, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Austria, Slovakia, Cyprus, Romania, Belgium, China, Thailand, maybe I forgot to mention something, but I think that it's probably all for now. In the each country I visited about 3-7 cities, and even more... that's made the trips more multifaceted...
But future plans are not so extensive, but no less desirable! Among them, of course, the United States, England, Mexico and Canada... I also have an another list of places to travel, but it's more the tourist direction...
- Are there any features of work in Europe?
- You can write a book about working abroad... but everything is much simpler!
If I go to Europe, I know why I'm going there! This helps me to abstract from some everyday nuances... I have been in many countries and I have tried to work a lot there, however, I very quickly determined the most comfortable zones for myself, where I work and I EARN. All people, as practice shows, have their own similar zones, but for me this is Germany and Austria... I'm still visiting other countries, but it is a combination of the pleasant and the useful for me. For example, I flew to Cyprus, where, while on vacation, I reached agreement with a local studio and periodically worked there... by the way it was perfect! I didn’t get out of my working rhythm and at the same time, while on vacation, I also earned good money (laughs).
In general, the mentality of Europeans is not particularly different from the Russian customers. There are also complex people, as well as people coming to meet you with due trust! But what can clearly be noted is that in Europe people are brought up in the form of the CUSTOMER ALWAYS RIGHT... which sometimes interferes communication with them... they are brought up on the basis of the internal service, thus not rarely noticed that customers told that they will not return to this or that studio because of the terrible service, that they were not offered coffee, or at the meeting the administrator of studio did not smile them... and they don’t care about the fact that the tattoo they went for - is above all praise! In any case, there are no real problems in this, and there are even special ways to communicate!
- Are there countries where you are always ready to return?
- From the countries I have already been, we can safely mention some that I always return to and always happy about it! I love Austria very much, and especial Vienna, I'm always glad to return to Germany and many cities of it (Nuremberg, Stuttgart, Munich) and I love Belgian towns very much, they are very medieval, (Brugge and Antwerp). There are other countries where I would like to return, but they are less associated with work!
- Are you a frequent visitor of international tattoo conventions? Tell us about your plans for 2019. Where can we see you?
- Convention is a separate layer of my work, which to be honest I don’t really like... Although relaxing in the company of talented people is a very useful thing for self-development. However, it is very difficult for me to work at festivals, everything around me distracts and breaks the usual working rhythm. Therefore, I do not often attend such events.
Nevertheless, I have plan to visiting 5-6 conventions this year: Frankfurt, Brussels, China, St. Petersburg and Moscow, a couple in Italy and, maybe, in London... maybe some more, but I don’t remember...
- How do you rate your popularity? And how do you think how it can be measured?
- Evaluation of popularity is a kind of bubble, whose integrity entirely consists of an even more fragile substance...
I do not consider myself is a popular tattoo artist... rather, someone, who for some reason, are well known... The problem is that now nobody interested in a high-quality product in its uniform format, it means that just doing quality work is no longer enough... not because the customer does not want a good tattoo for himself, rather because the masters who can give it have become much more! And now you need to somehow choose the best among the best... So, someone starts additional activities on himself... whether it can be scandalous stories around a person or a personal blog on YouTube. All this makes the master stay afloat and at least a little jump out of everyday life among his peers!
I'm quite lazy and not always ready for any additional projects, however, sometimes I do something similar... For example, from the last one, me and my old brother in arms, Nikolai Ivanov, recorded a FREE masterclass for everyone who makes tattoo... it brought very quickly response and I was very pleased... so, soon will be something else!
- Tell us a little bit more about masterclasses. What are you doing? Who participates in it? What purpose are you pursuing?
- Workshops, seminars or educational meetings in our time have become something extremely popular, however, 95 percent of these meetings absolutely doesn't productivity!
It begin to conduct those, who yesterday didn't hear anything about tattoos and other pleasures of life, and accordingly all they can tell is only WATER! Most of them do not even understand what they are talking about, cause to understand these things you must have great experience behind your back! Only then, with understanding, you can bring the person what is it!
I conducted different kinds of masterclasses! But nothing brought me proper satisfaction...
The format in which people surround the master and with an eager eye, trying to see something and learn it, is probably the most useless format...
They stand whole day, listen and watch. After looking how something comes by the hand of a master, they are sure that they understood these subtleties and learned this so-called lesson! However, when they returned home and sat down at work, they suddenly found out that everything was going completely differently from what it was yesterday at the masterclass, and after that they still have a hole in understanding and in their wallet!
The variant, when the student works, and the master walks, prompts and directs much more productive already, cause every student can immediately try out everything that he heard on the theory in practice!
I conducted such classes, however, when there is a group of 5 or more people - this task becomes almost impossible, since you do not have time to fully convey the necessary information to everyone cause you don't have enought time to run from one to the other.... Therefore in my opinion, the most optimal format is individual work with 1-2 people... Where, you have a lot of time and you are able to help and explain everything that is necessary for each student in the in progress of work!
However, my practice also showed that many guys forget everything or do not remember at all after they go out from your classes!!!
About the webinars I keep special quiet...
As a result, I have decided to close this activities for myself, and leave it possible until better times, when I realize that this information can be communicated and assimilated properly!
- You are the member of Pro team of Tattoo Pharma and WorldFamous. What do you think about this trend of pro-teams? What does it give to you?
- I can talk about sponsorship a lot and for a long time, but all the same, the one meaning of it remains!
What is the sponsorship? In my personal opinion, this is primarily support... this is a mutually beneficial cooperation... but recently these concepts have become a little foggy, some companies that sponsor some masters reduce their cooperation to the consumer level, for example, here's a can of ink, and you are constantly twisting advertising or something like that! I will not say the brand names, but such, as it turned out, is more than enough!
First of all, perfect cooperation is respect ! As a brand to a master, and a master to a brand! And you, being a participant, must appreciate what you have, as well as a brand should appreciate a master, who in fact is a face of a brand! Otherwise, it all becomes a very duplicitous consumption! From time to time I notice masters who are being sponsored of one brand, but categorically use the products of another and at some festivals take out some cans just for appearances! For me, this is a not good story and only one question arises - WHY? And for this there is the most classic answer: “Well, they are promoting me, so let it be, even though I don't like their products!!!” As I said earlier - it looks like consumer story!
Therefore, my opinion on sponsorship is: If you like it - use it! If you don't like it - then don't strive to prove the opposite!
Now I'm a member of Pro Teams of the World Famous ink and Tattoopharma. I used products of Tattoopharma long before I became a member of their Pro team! Me and my clients are more than pleased with quality and the attitude of the brand to the artists. The presence of respect, which I told about earlier, has remained for several years already... Therefore, I proudly and happily work with Tattoopharma and recommend it to both tattoo artists and clients!
I became a member of Pro Team of WorldFamous ink not long time ago, however, I have been using it for a long time. First of all the products quality suits me one hundred percent, and the same attitude to the artists and their needs very pleasure for me! Objectivity and the desire to develop, and consequently to develop artists, is the main factor when choosing a brand! Because we are always able to buy a can of paint or a Vaseline, tattoo machine, but to become a part of the some larger - it's another question...
- I would like to know a little more about you? What else do you do apart from tattoo art?
- Unfortunately, it is nothing special to tell about myself! I don’t have a secret hobby, I don’t collect butterflies or worn socks from drunks... I don’t want to fly far away to the north and scratch the backs of the reindeers too... Self-irony, from the early childhood helps me look at the world easier and smile .. Unfortunately or maybe fortunately I don't have time for some kind of life separate from the tattoo! Therefore, I actively try to combine tattooing and my personal life!
- What about musical / movie preferences?
- As for kinds of entertainment, everything is also simple here - I love everything I like! (laughs)
From the childhood and I was love and afraid to watch horror movies... I am almost 30 but I still close my eyes with a dog or a jacket to not shit yourself from fear! So little has changed over the years!
In music, I am absolutely not nailed to one genre, I rather music lover! Although the main preference I give to some kind of heavy music...
Since the first shots of alcohol in the courtyard, I eagerly loved and listened to Russian rock and punk rock, for example Korol i Shut and Sector gaza. But I gladly listen to music of the past years like The Doors or Pink Floyd. So the preference is governed only by the mood!
- How do you see the future of the tattoo in the next 5-10 years?
- In my opinion, the tattoo, as an activity and art, is waiting not a quite simple future. I would say, that it following on steps of other already experienced directions... for example, music... the tattoo becomes more popular and its value becomes less significant... After, it will be a jump from the shadows and some place in the legislation... so there will be a lot of changes, but something new is unlikely to happen!
- And finally - what advice can you give to newcomers in a tattoo?
- I wish to newcomers only respect for themselves and others! As a result of this, everything will be on it place!!
- Thank you very much Nikolai!
- Thank you too!