Interview. Sebastian Kandinsky
About a year ago, searching for something fresh and new in the tattoo, I got Sebastian Kandinsky's Instagram page. His work surprised me with its sophistication and true novelty. I immediately become wanted to know more about Sebastian, his work and the way he became a tattoo master. Today, I want to share with you a small fragment of our conversation.
- Hello Sebastian! Let's begin from the our traditional questions. Tell me, how it all began for you? How and when did you come into tattooing? What did you do before?
- Hi Alex. Well, my tattoo career began 9 years ago, when I was 20 years old. At this time I was going through a dark period of my life, I was homeless, living in squats, without any plan in my life except to paint or fill my notebooks with some sketches. I really started to want to get tattooed badly at that moment precisely, but it was impossible for me in my situation to get the money for it. So I bought the cheapest machine on eBay to do it by myself. I spend so many days to find out how to plug the machine and how to set it up and figure out the basic process. When I think about it today it makes me laugh a lot. After many trials on myself I started to understand how to do some rough lines, and dots. The friends I was living with in the squat wanted also to get tattooed by me, then I started to tattoo the friends of my friends, so I had the chance to have a lot a people to practice on. From that moment I’m tattooing at least five times a week.
- What would you like to do if your path did not lead you to a tattoo?
- I had to leave school very early so I didn’t have to give up anything to tattoo. It came to me because I wasn’t doing anything. The thing I could maybe have done if I didn’t decide to commit myself to tattoo practice, is to take some literature night courses, since after graphic art, literature is my second passion.
- As I understand it, you don't have any kind of special training?
- I’m 100% self taught in every acknowledgments I have. From tattoo to my general culture. Before tattoo I used to do a lot of graffiti and abstract paintings though, I think it helped me a lot, since my work is mainly based on the strength of the composition.
- Do you remember your first customer and your feelings as the tattoo master, when you did the first tattoo?
- After years tattooing in squats or flats, I decided to try to apply to some guest spots through some FB groups, which suggest a link between people looking for guest spots and tattoo shops, the first reply i had was from Riverside Ink in Switzerland. So I came there and had my first proper customer. I was extremely stressed about it and afraid not to be able to perform something as good as what my customer expected . It turns out the customer was happy with it but I wasn’t. I always have that feeling today even it’s less intense and if I’m obviously very happy with what I’m producing. I think it’s important to keep that state of mind to always improve and look for doing something constantly better.
- What is the most attractive thing in the tattoo for you?
- I think the most beautiful thing in tattoo is the trust the artist is given by the customer. I consider it very important to give everyday the best of yourself, because underneath the skin, there s a human being trusting you to modify his appearance for life. And that connection is just priceless.
- What or who is the source of inspiration for you?
- I love so many graphic artists. My first favourite one when I was younger was Keith Haring. He opened my mind so much and I realised that creation and art in general is not mainly about skill, or execution. Concerning tattoo culture im mostly inspired by traditional (and neotrad sometimes) and ornemental works. I also love every contemporary tattoos, I love to see what people are able to create out of the classic styles.
- Tell me about the style of your work.
- When I started I used to tattoo only geometric and ornamental, I always wanted to tattoo some traditional roses with big lines but I didn’t have the machine powerful enough to do thick lines, and I wasn’t able to do a beautiful shading. So I decided to mix both of them . Use traditional designs and tattoo them like the negative dotwork mandala, using only negative space and mixing the textures in different sections : some parts dotted, some red and some solid black. The whole key of my style is about the balance of all those sections and the placement on the body.
- What features make your tattoo really yours and unique?
- This style has never been seen before so it’s unique itself. Also I hear a lot of people saying they never saw some solid parts in colours, with some black dots on the top, so I guess this feature makes it unique as well.
- What does the word «tattoo» mean for you?
- The tattoo is a collaboration between a customer and an artist.
- How do you rate your popularity as an artist?
- Well I am still at the very beginning of my path but I am extremely happy and grateful of where I am now. My style is very new and different from the traditional tattoo styles, which means that - I guess - it’s more difficult to get the interest of much people.
Tattoo evolves a lot lately and I’m happy about it. I’m happy that more and more artists come up with very different styles even if it generate less people interested in each very specific style because the interest it got is so genuine. I mean I think I don’t generate a lot of popularity but the few people following my work loves it 100%, it’s everything or nothing and to me that’s just amazing.
The world needs a bit of everything to please everybody.
- Really beautiful words! Do you participate in tattoo conventions? Where can we see you?
- I’m usually not doing convention since there’s a lot of noise, a lot of people around, and a lot of organisation is needed - which is not my best point. I’m doing so many guest spots all over the world, and I’m now mainly based in San Francisco(California), Glasgow(Scotand) and My hometown Lyon(France).
- Do you work with any company as a pro-artist? How do you feel about this trend of pro-teams?
- I’m not working with any sponsors because I haven’t been requested to. If I am I will obviously consider the thing.
I don’t have a solid opinion about it to be honest I’m happy for everyone who has a sponsor i think it’s a mark of respect and interest for there work. It’s always good for an artist to feed his ego, because it’s a lot of work. I mean whatever what people say about artists and sponsor, i think you can’t be requested to be sponsored it basically you didn’t work like so much to arrive to that point.
And it is obviously a good way of promotion, which is to me at least 50% of the job as an artist. I might be wrong tho it’s just my little opinion.
- Ok. I would like to know more about you, not only as an artist, but as a person. What else do you do in regular life apart from tattoo art?
- I read. I’m passionate with literature. Especially European novels from the 19th century. I’m not doing much appart from tattooing.
- How do you see the future of the tattoo world in the next 5-10 years?
- I think it’s gonna get better and better. The level of execution and creation is constantly pushed higher up mainly because of the social medias and it’s a good thing. I think more and more good artists are gonna pop up, and it’ll please more and more people and give them the desire to wear some art permanently.
- And finally - what advice can you give to newcomers in the tattoo?
- Being extremely motivated and not starting with the idea in mind that it’s gonna work immediately because they’re gonna face so many disappointments.
- Great! Thank you Seb for a great conversation, see you somewhere on Earth :)
- See you! Thanks a lot.