The new tattoo landscape – EL PAÍS USA | Candle Made Easy


In a large warehouse-turned-studio in Madrid’s Vallecas district, 33-year-old artist Ana Rodríguez (@ Polvo_eres) traces with her fingertips the silhouette of a child’s horse, tattooed on her left leg.

“This was made for me by a friend and it’s one of my favorites.”

Ana studied fine arts in Mexico and Spain. Dedicated to the world of tattooing for more than 10 years, she finds that one of the styles she admires most in art is that of her little nephews.

Ana belongs to a generation of tattoo artists who broke with traditional style to pursue “freer” designs. In the Instagram portfolios of these artists, aggressive lines full of spikes and prickles predominate, but also, as in the case of Ana, cuter illustrations that even border on the childish.

“My clients are mostly non-binary people, women and people of color.” She develops a project called Black and Brown are Beautiful, in which she rejects the idea that you can’t tattoo color on dark skin.

Ana’s eyes are made up with double black lines. Some small gems are glued to her lower eyelids that crackle every time she smiles. She passionately talks about her influences and the artists she admires, such as Rita Salt and Simon Hanselmann. She is fascinated by porcelain figurines, the toys from the Imaginarium where she once worked, Eastern European cartoons and comics.

Alternative cartoonists like Jim Woodring are the backbone of many of these new tattoo artists. One particularly influenced by Woodring is 30-year-old Ramón Duerto (@nadabien), one of the most popular tattoo artists outside of the underground scene. He has designed for the band Carolina Durante and most recently for the cover of Facendera, poet Óscar García Sierra’s debut novel.

At Casa Antillón, a collective studio and art space in Madrid’s Carabanchel district, Duerto walks past a large seesaw and tables covered with scraps of leather. He reaches his desk where some sketches of cows, angels and goblins are waiting for him. His references include illustrators Michael Deforge and Jesse Jacobs, although the first tattoo he did was “the lyrics to a song by Mobb Deep, an American rap duo.”

One of Duerto’s first clients was his mother. “I made a star on her wrist with a sewing needle and ink. Now she has both arms covered and wants me to tattoo a dragon on her leg.”

Duerto alternates tattooing with a machine and by hand or hand-stitch, a technique that’s often mistaken for a style: “You can tattoo the same thing with one technique or another,” he says.

Some colleagues from the workshop approach to ask for help with an airbrush. Ramón accepts it gently and looks at the machine through his small round glasses. Without saying much, he goes through his tattoo tools, disassembles one of the devices, takes out a tiny piece and gives it to his companions. “That should work”.

Duerto speaks of “unconventional tattooing”. Both he and Ana emphasize the importance of the ignorant, a movement born from the need to break with the standardization of graffiti that was developed in the world of painting and fashion, eventually settling in the field of tattooing.

Nowadays young people are looking for more meaning in their tattoos. They have their favorite artists assembling traveling art galleries from empty skins.

“What happened with tattooing is that it became a very innate art,” says 27-year-old Leopoldo Mata (@le__polo). “Many creative disciplines have become more flexible over time, but tattooing has been more stagnant. For years we tattooed sailors or Japanese letters… [things] it had nothing to do with our culture.”

Mata studied at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Cuenca, a cradle of artists dedicated to unconventional tattoos, among other things. After leaving university, he moved to France and made tattooing his life. He found a good customer niche in a Facebook group of Spaniards in Paris.

“I drew maidens, phrases, whatever they asked me to do… I learned a lot and thanks to that experience I realized what I didn’t want to do.”

Then he started creating less conventional designs, uploading them to Instagram and tattooing anyone who wanted it on his skin. He traveled the world and saw his tattoo style resonate better in London, Germany and the United States than in Spain.

“I love the world of tattoos, but it doesn’t fill me with everything I need… I find it difficult to change, evolve, and try new things without losing public taste.”

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