Ivana Belakova, professionally known as Ivana Tattoo Art, has exploded into the tattooing world this past year. Between having works published in (probably) every tattoo magazine on the planet, to countless awards such as “Best in Show” at Le Mundial Tatouage in Paris, France, and 1st place at the Empire State Expo in New York; Ivana is a name you should know–if you don#39;t already! And don#39;t miss Ivana (among a huge list of incredibly talented artists) this April at Venetian Tattoo Gathering! It#39;s looking to be a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Ivana#39;s art has been collected and displayed in various exhibitions, and she has collaborated with a number of art schools internationally. Her work is innovative, sophisticated, and eclectic; a sexy mixture of multiple genres combining funky, bright colors and abstract elements with street style and high art. She describes her artistic intentions as “not to replicate pictures and objects as they are seen by others, but to capture in artwork the object#39;s unique form.”
In addition to tattooing, Ivana is a lover of photography, visual art design, and printing. In collaboration with TADPole, AKA Traci Durfee, she created a design project known as “RemixIT Design,” printing limited editions of a number of Ivana#39;s tattoo designs. Check them out here! In addition to this project, Ivana#39;s second Narcissistic Rockstar book is slated to come out sometime this year. The book is not only a massive collection of Ivana#39;s public work, but also grants her fans a more intimate glimpse of the artist#39;s life on the day to day. Check out the first book here.
In addition to the Venetian Tattoo Gathering, Ivanna will be teaching a number of seminars across the US and Europe–if you#39;ve ever been interested in learning her techniques, or simply furthering your tattoo skills and repertoire… now#39;s your chance! The seminars will cover topics such as:
- Developing color techniques, new perspectives on shading and color layering
- Ivana#39;s own methodology for composing designs, either for tattoos or other visual mediums
- Step by step lecture of preparing designs, and choosing proper tattoo placement
More info will become available when dates and locations are solidified–stay tuned!
We had the tremendous fortune of sitting down with Ivana, to discuss tattooing, inspiration, travel, and everything in between. Check it out…
TN: How did you first learn to tattoo? Just pick up a few machines and practice on yourself and friends?
IB: Exactly, I got my first machine and just started tattooing my friends and family. I didn#39;t get any training or apprenticeship, because professional tattooing in Slovakia was at its very beginnings. I had to learn as I went, figuring out the needles and machine settings myself. I learned the hard way and had to fix a few tattoos later on, but I think it shaped me into the artist I am today… being tough on myself has become a big advantage.
TN: Were you hooked from the start? As soon as you picked up a machine did you know, “this is what I want to do”?
IB: I was absolutely hooked from the very first time I tattooed. I knew it would be something I wanted to pursue to become a career. I was very driven to become the best I could be, and it has stayed that way. I#39;m very passionate about my work, I can#39;t imagine doing anything else.
TN: You must get a few requests that don#39;t inspire you – or you just can#39;t see how they#39;d work out. Have you ever refused a tattoo on a client, or do you instead try to get them to see a #39;bigger picture#39;?
IB: Realistically, I get many requests every day and it would be impossible for me to accommodate all of them. I am trying to choose designs that suit me artistically, and would work best with my style. I want to be happy with the outcomes of my work as well, and being a perfectionist, I want to deliver only the best to my clients. Some clients definitely don#39;t like it when I turn down their designs, but it is a matter of being professional, and accepting when a design would work better in a different style.
TN: Photography seems to be a pretty avid interest for you, including a whole lot of travel photos! Is it just a hobby, or would you like to pursue it at a more professional level?
IB: For now, photography is only a hobby for me. On my travels I really enjoy taking pictures and capturing the moments I experience and people I meet, but tattooing is still my priority and passion, and takes up most of my time and energy. I can#39;t say if [photography] will become part of my artistic career, but it#39;s not impossible.
TN: Could you name some turning points in your career, thusfar?
IB: Oh yes, quite a few… but the first would definitely be meeting Joe Capobianco at a convention in Australia. He introduced me to using magnum needs… for my first five years of tattooing, I was only using round needles! Another would be my period of travel, starting around 2007. I was doing several guest spots all around the world and that taught me so much. It was during this time I started developing my style in distinction.
TN: Tell us more about your travels. What have they taught you?
IB: My travels are a great source of inspiration for me. I love to travel, to discover new cultures; this kind of inspiration is essential to my craft. And on top of that, travel makes me a better person… it keeps my eyes and mind open… keeps me from being ignorant towards cultures, perspectives, or styles. It makes me more tolerant, and more giving! At this point, I can#39;t pin down any particular culture or style that I draw the most influence from, because I try to draw from all of them.
TN: On that note… It seems that Europe is always where the new wave of styles originates. What do you think it is about Europe that seems to lead the way, especially in abstract tattooing?
IB: Artists in Europe tend to experiment more, they are more free and don#39;t hold to traditions as much as in other parts of the world. In many European countries, professional tattooing has only been around for 20 years or less, so the artists have more room to experiment and don#39;t need to hold onto the old ways quite so much. Here in the US, tattooing has a much stronger tradition and tends to be more conservative.
TN: So then… why Los Angeles?
IB: I live in Long Beach, LA County. Just a few minutes from downtown LA. Long Beach is a perfect mixture of city feel and beach atmosphere, I love the lifestyle! It#39;s very conveniently located, close to the international airport and there are some truly beautiful places to visit only a few minutes#39; drive away. The shop I#39;m working at right now is great too–the enviornment makes me so comfortable and happy. But – and this is a big part – the weather is phenomenal all year round, and the people are so nice!
TN: Give us a run-down of your work routine. What#39;s a standard day in your life like?
IB: Well, I hope that no day is #39;standard.#39; I usually get up between 5-6AM and until around 9AM I am catching up on emails and working on designs. At 10AM is when I start working for real. I am usually tattooing for around 5 hours in a day, usually one session. I work from references, and will research my clients the night before the appointment. But I never have an exact plan of what I will tattoo or how! I decide these things when I have met my client and felt out his/her energy.
TN: Who–or what–would you consider your greatest influences or inspirations?
IB: My biggest inspiration is the environment that surrounds us, nature and life itself; these are the greatest artistic stimulants for me! When it comes to particular people… there are so many great artists that I admire and who inspire me, from performers, fashion designers, graffiti artists, illustrators… but honestly I don#39;t even know their names most of the time! So often, I randomly find someone else#39;s artwork on the internet and I am totally blown away! To me, being inspired by someone is more than the actual work. It#39;s about personality, leadership, approach, attitude, respect for the craft, and a contribution to the world and community. Admittedly, my style does change from time to time, because I am always finding myself inspired by new things! My inspiration comes from the way I perceive events and objects–the initial pulse has to come spontaneously through that perception, without me thinking about it.
TN: Awesome stuff. Now for a change in direction. Off the Map Tattoos Easthampton has had the awesome opportunity to host Oleg Turyanskiy. What are your thoughts on this artist, whom many consider one of the most talented tattooers these days?
IB: What is there not to say about the prestigious and versatile tattoo art of Oleg Turyanskiy? From incredibly detailed fairy-tale wood goblins, to oriental sleeve work displays of buddhist monks, Oleg successfully covers a wide array of various tattoo imagery. This artist dynamically shifts from black and grey realism – capturing distinct animalistic and naturesque visuals – to creative and playfully bold cartoon caricatures that make you feel as though yoursquo;re staring at a pixel creation. What is notably respectable about this artist, is how he designs his tattoos; his keen eye for popping color hues in both his tattoos and original acrylic paintings. A true artist he is, Oleg knows how to properly transfer an image from a photo onto someonersquo;s skin. His designs are bold, technically clean, and they have nice flow which is very important for overall artistic feeling, aesthetic experience and vision.