Step into the captivating realm of ink and innovation as we delve into the extraordinary journey of Bullyart, a visionary tattoo artist whose mastery knows no bounds. Nestled amidst the vibrant streets of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Bullyart's studio, ICONIC Studio - Art & Gallery, serves as a testament to his unwavering commitment to pushing the boundaries of artistic expression.

In this exclusive interview, we unravel the layers of Bullyart's artistic evolution, from his humble beginnings as a budding artist to his meteoric rise as a leading figure in the global tattooing community. From his groundbreaking techniques to his innovative collaborations with renowned brands, Bullyart's story is a testament to the transformative power of art and the boundless possibilities of human creativity.

Let's start with introductions and some traditional questions for us. Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from, and where do you work now?

- I am Bullyart, a 32-year-old tattoo artist specializing in black and grey realistic tattoos, based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where I have immersed myself in the tattoo industry for over a decade. My style is grounded in realism, leveraging a black and grey palette to emphasize contrast in my pieces, enhancing their longevity. In addition to tattooing, I am the proud founder and owner of ICONIC Studio - Art & Gallery, a unique space where tattooing meets traditional art.

Tattoo artist Bullyart

My tattooing journey began 11 years ago, while I was still in school. I took the brave step to abandon everything and pursue my dream of becoming a tattoo artist. After a challenging period of building my portfolio and seeking an apprenticeship, I was finally accepted into a tattoo studio.

What led you to tattooing? Who was your mentor? Tell us about that journey.

- The journey into tattooing felt like a natural progression for me, you know? I've been drawing since I was little, always had a knack for art. It was something my mom got me into early on. She really nurtured that interest in me. So, as I hit my teenage years, feeling a bit lost, trying to figure things out, art just made sense to me. It was what I always did, something that came naturally. Unlike other pursuits like school or other fields, I didn't have to force it. So, it felt like the right path to take. And looking back, diving into tattooing has been one of the best decisions I've made. It's where I feel at home, like I belong in this world of art.

Tattoo artist Bullyart

As for my mentor, I started out pretty old-school, you know? That was back when we used physical portfolios with pre-made designs. We didn't have platforms like Instagram back then, so our exposure was limited to tattoo magazines and Facebook. But hey, that's where I come from.

Is tattooing art for you, a job, or something else?

- From my perspective, it's a bit of everything. Tattooing, in my opinion, is a nuanced field that's challenging to categorize neatly. Personally, I believe that in today's context, with all the advancements and opportunities available, individuals can carve out their paths based on their own visions. For me, it encompasses various elements. It's my profession, deeply intertwined with art. There's also a sentimental aspect to it, which is incredibly significant. It's what propels me to pursue improvement, to push beyond my comfort zone. Simultaneously, it's also my livelihood, what I do day in and day out. Over the past decade, it's become a part of my daily existence.

Tattoo artist Bullyart

I view it as a lifestyle, as it's not something confined to typical working hours. Tattooing permeates every aspect of life, from the moment you wake up, through work, study, and even social media. The opportunities in this field are vast yet limited, which is why I've never entertained the thought of pursuing something else.

You have an impressive style! How did it evolve?

- My artistic style is somewhat freestyle, if I had to categorize it. I get influence from various sources such as movies, particularly sci-fi and fantasy genres, as well as my early involvement in drawing and graffiti during adolescence. I've always been drawn to art and creativity, appreciating a wide range of expressions. This diversity of influences shapes my artwork, which I see as a blend of classic and contemporary elements. Rather than adhering to a specific style, I embrace the freedom to explore different techniques and themes. This approach allows me to stay attuned to current trends and appreciate the work of emerging artists.

Tattoo artist Bullyart

I see my art as a reflection of the modern world, incorporating traditional forms with a rebellious twist, much like updating classic paintings to suit contemporary tastes and lifestyles. While my current focus may evolve over time, I find joy in reflecting on my artistic journey and how my perspective shifts with each passing moment. The process of creation is dynamic, and I look forward to seeing where my artistic exploration takes me in the future.

What aspects of tattooing are most important to you?

- The most important aspect for me in tattooing is the theory, the theory itself, and how you apply it. I am very focused on the materials I use, types of pigment, all the science behind tattooing. I strongly believe that if you know your raw materials, if you explore and master that part, you can achieve a different result; you are not limited at that point. Once you master the raw materials, such as machines, needles, etc., I believe you become freer to explore your artistic side, the creative process, and everything else. For me, the most important aspect of tattooing today would be the theoretical part and the raw materials.

Tattoo artist Bullyart

What themes in tattooing do you prefer the most?

- The tattoo themes I prefer revolve around black and gray, specifically realism. I'm particularly drawn to working with contrast, and creating tattoos of statues brings me great satisfaction due to their aesthetic appeal. I have a deep fascination with statues, especially classical ones. When I work on a tattoo, especially a complex one, I can't help but think about the artists who sculpted these magnificent pieces. It's a thought-provoking aspect of my work that I find intriguing. While my focus primarily lies in black and gray realism, particularly with statues, I'm also versatile and enjoy exploring other styles and colorful projects. I believe in continuous learning and evolving as an artist, so I'm always open to new challenges and techniques. Currently, I'm also incorporating influences from modern art, such as graffiti and urban art, into my work.

Tattoo artist Bullyart

Do you have favorite tattoos, clients, projects, or perhaps some unusual career stories?

- So, at this point, in terms of stories and everything else, I'd consider myself somewhat raw. I tend to be quite serious about my work, very focused. I appreciate all my clients, the vast majority of them, because they truly trust my work, appreciate my style, and seek me out for it. From my creative process to the final artwork, I have a lot of freedom. I know that in our industry, this can be limiting, something that holds artists back from evolving. Because at the same time, as I was saying, this is a job, it's a lifestyle and everything, you have these aspects to weigh. You have the part that's the job, where you have to satisfy the client. You have the artwork, which is what you want to create, your artistic vision, and your lifestyle. You have to keep doing that to reach where you want to go.

Tattoo artist Bullyart

So, I'm very grateful for this, for having this freedom. Obviously, it's not something that happened overnight. You cultivate it consistently, but it's like taking baby steps. If you're evolving 1% each day, obviously at some point you'll reach the percentage you desire. So, it's a daily struggle. You have to stay focused to keep moving forward and achieve your goals. Today, I'm extremely happy and content with what I have, in terms of clients, my audience. Everything I present to my audience, from the statues I create to paintings, is accepted with a lot of affection, with a lot of love. So, I'm very grateful for that.

Tattoo artist Bullyart

Tell us about your experience participating in conventions. How many awards do you have in total? And which ones are particularly valuable to you?

- Participating in conventions is, in my opinion, crucial for artists at any stage of their career. Although opinions on this matter vary, I believe it's integral to our development. The art market has evolved significantly, with social media and other platforms offering alternative avenues for exposure. However, conventions remain an invaluable opportunity. They have played a significant role in shaping my journey, particularly during the early stages of my career. Winning awards at conventions, such as the Nordic Ink Festival, marked an important milestone for me. These awards (2nd best of Show and 3rd best of Saturday in 2013) not only served as validation of my efforts but also opened doors to new opportunities.

After winning the two awards at Nordic Ink Festival, I was invited to the international tattoo convention in Rio de Janeiro, TattooWeek. At the International TattooWeek in Rio, I won the 2nd place in Brazilian Culture style in 2014 and another 2nd place in Black & Grey Realism in 2015. Attending conventions alongside esteemed artists like Yomiko Moreno, Val Tattoo, Victor Chill, Remis, Boog, etc., has been both inspiring and enriching. These experiences have motivated me to push myself further and strive for excellence in my work.

Despite the inherent challenges of the art world, where success is often solitary and hard-earned, these achievements have fueled my determination to continue evolving as an artist. I've had the privilege of participating in various conventions, with a particular fondness for those in Brazil, such as the Tattoo Week Rio. Winning awards at events like TattooWeek Rio has been immensely gratifying, affirming my skills and dedication to my craft. These victories have spurred me on to test my abilities further and compete alongside some of the best artists in the world. In conclusion, the awards I've received at conventions have been pivotal in shaping my career trajectory. They have instilled in me a sense of confidence and drive, propelling me forward on my artistic journey.

You are also a member of professional teams of several major international brands. Tell us what this collaboration gives you as an artist? And do you manage to influence the global tattoo industry with their help?

- I have the immense pleasure of collaborating with brands that I've been following and using since the beginning of my career. One of my sponsors is Hustle Butter from the United States. I've always used and appreciated their product, and at a certain point, I was invited to join their sponsored team. This sponsorship holds significant importance in my career, as it does for all artists. Having sponsorship and support from a brand is a validation of your work, indicating that you're relevant in the industry. Being sponsored signifies that you have influence in the industry. While there are many artists today, everyone contributes their influence in some way. However, artists who are prominently featured in ProTeams sponsored by respected, long-standing brands like Hustle Butter tend to stand out more. Therefore, being part of their team is an honor and holds great significance in my career.

Tattoo artist Bullyart

Another brand I work with and am sponsored by is Ink Draw Stencils, a Brazilian company. They've supported me from the beginning, introducing me to their product, which I've been using for over three years now as part of their ProTeam. It's a brand I genuinely appreciate, the whole team provides highly personalized service. They genuinely care about artists, which sets them apart. So, I take great pride in working closely with them and being part of their sponsored team.

You are the owner of the famous art space in Rio de Janeiro - ICONIC Tattoo Gallery. Tell us about this place.

- Yes, I am the founder and owner of Iconic Art Studio, located in Rio de Janeiro. This has been a significant project in my career, making a difference in the lives of many artists. The main aim of this project was to create a sanctuary for artists, free from the barriers of the industry. Traditionally, getting exposure in galleries requires navigating industry connections, which can be limiting for many talented artists. I believe that art should transcend these barriers and be about the art itself. However, like any industry, there are obstacles that can hinder artists, preventing many talented individuals from gaining recognition. Therefore, creating Iconic Art Studio was pivotal.

Iconic Tattoo Studio - Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

Iconic Tattoo Studio - Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

At our tattoo studio, we prioritize excellence, focusing on providing personalized, five-star service that emphasizes collaboration with our clients rather than just providing a service. This approach sets us apart and has been fundamental to our success. Additionally, we have the Iconic Gallery as part of our studio, a fantastic project where we've hosted numerous exhibitions featuring well-known Brazilian artists. Some of these exhibitions have been fundraisers for charity organizations, aiming to make a positive impact on people's lives. Our gallery has also showcased individual artist exhibitions, including my own last year. It was a significant milestone for me to exhibit my other forms of artwork to the public. Curating and organizing exhibitions is a whole different realm from tattooing, but it was a valuable and positive experience.

Furthermore, our studio has established strong relationships with various brands, including Red Bull and Bombay Sapphire, who have supported our events and exhibitions. This recognition from prominent brands within the cultural sphere has been immensely gratifying and validating.

An Exhibition at Iconic Tattoo Gallery

We have several projects lined up to provide more opportunities for new artists and potentially explore other forms of art beyond tattooing. Iconic Art Studio was envisioned from the early stages of my career, and over time, I've curated it to address the challenges faced by traditional and recognized artists alike, aiming to create a sustainable model that supports artists in balancing work, life, and their art. Our studio is a haven where artists can find balance and support from their peers, fostering growth and collaboration. It's not just a place for individual success but also a platform for collective growth, both nationally and internationally. We have direct partnerships with brands like Hustle Butter, Inkdraw Stencils, and we regularly host guest artists from around the world who trust and believe in our space. Witnessing the impact of our efforts and seeing the project thrive is incredibly rewarding.

Iconic Gallery by Bullyart

Iconic Tattoo Gallery

Do you teach seminars? Are you mentoring any artists?

- Yes, I host seminars and workshops. Currently, I exclusively offer one-on-one workshops due to my schedule and the specific requirements for my workshops. Because I cover a lot of theory and am very meticulous in my approach, I believe that individual workshops have been the most effective option for me thus far. Typically, artists reach out to me, and we discuss the various workshop formats available. One format involves the artist observing my tattooing process, another focuses solely on theoretical aspects, and the third format entails me tattooing the artist while explaining the entire procedure, encompassing both practical and theoretical components, making it a more comprehensive learning experience.

Tattoo artist Bullyart

Regarding mentoring, I oversee a team of artists at the studio whom I mentor personally. It's my responsibility to guide each artist, addressing their individual strengths and weaknesses to facilitate improvement. Some artists are more advanced, while others are still refining specific aspects of their craft. However, at every stage, there's room for growth and enhancement of skills, which is crucial. In addition to managing my artistic and tattooing endeavors, as well as maintaining my online presence, I prioritize continuous learning and development to support my team effectively. I'm dedicated to sharing knowledge and elevating our collective work. Thus, through workshops and mentoring sessions, I've had numerous opportunities to contribute to our growth, for which I'm deeply grateful.

Tattoo artist Bullyart

What is the most important thing for you in the career of a tattoo artist? What goals do you set for yourself? Can you share your creative plans for the near future?

- My foremost objective in my current stage as a tattoo artist is achieving balance. Having spent a decade honing my craft and establishing myself in the industry, I recognize the significance of equilibrium. While professional milestones can be reached through dedication and time, achieving balance extends beyond the professional realm to encompass personal aspects such as physical health, mental well-being, relationships, and family. Striking this balance is undoubtedly the most challenging aspect of my artistic journey.

Tattoo artist Bullyart

Presently, I dedicate considerable effort to harmonizing these different facets of my life. It's about committing fully to my art and tattooing while also prioritizing my family, physical and mental health, and other personal pursuits. This pursuit of balance stands as my primary goal at this stage of my career. As for future plans, while I cannot disclose details presently, I assure that they will unfold and be shared on my journey through social media platforms. I anticipate many positive developments on the horizon. Our journey of growth and evolution as artists never ceases, and I remain committed to continual improvement and progress.