I remember how my mother threw a fit when I got my first tattoo done. All she could do was protest, because I was out of college by then and was paying for it with my own money. Tattoos were seen as a horrifying form of self-inflicted pain, which only nut jobs put up with (or you were one of those street thugs who had given up on a proper career). I think she softened because of what I had tattooed – a simple Buddhist prayer. I don’t know how she would have reacted if it was a thorn design running around my bicep.
I look at the work of some of the most promising – and popular – tattoo artists in the country, and I am amazed at their artistry. Tattooing has become a serious profession now, with Indian artists investing in both exposure to global talent and inspiration and brand collaborations. Artists who have been able to establish their independent studios are finding a loyal following, and a lot of healthy patronage from celebrities. Also, social media, especially Instagram, has been instrumental in connecting Indian artists with the global community of tattoo enthusiasts and gurus, allowing their work to be appreciated and acknowledged.
Take Yogesh Waghmare, for example, founder and owner of Leo Tattoos in Mumbai. Waghmare has been tattooing since 2006, while he was completing his Fine Arts degree. His deft illustration abilities got him his first break into the tattoo community. He was made an offer to create drawings for an established tattoo artist in 2006, and he realised his passion for body art and followed his dream. “My base in illustration and visualisation has played a tremendous role in translating my clients’ thoughts into my unique style of visual representation. Being an artist, I keep exploring my style and develop newer ways to make every tattoo special for me and my client,” he says. How did he create a unique, identifiable style – an important requirement for any artist to stand out and be immediately recognizable? “My passion for travelling and love for nature has inspired me a lot. I have travelled across India and observed the art, traditions, architecture, people and nature very closely. I am in love with Indian-ism, and my interest in Indian mythology and its characters continuously inspires and guides my body of work.”
Another interesting artist whose work is quite different from what you find in the country presently is Abhinandan Basu. His line work is exemplary, along with coloured elements with an almost digital photo finish, creating a combination both striking and memorable. Basu’s work is not something you will find easily, and the fact that he has been able to create a niche for himself is worth applauding. One of the country’s most popular tattoo artists is Body Canvas, by Vikas and Mickey Malani. Having been in the tattoo industry since 1998, Body Canvas Tattoos and Piercings offers a team of experienced and highly skilled tattoo artists, trained abroad. Body Canvas also provides Satellite Body Canvas Studio services to clients who can’t visit their prime locations. To date, they have visited over 20 cities in the country, and have conducted special tours to the UK and US. Quite a rage with Bollywood, the Malani brothers have tattooed the likes of John Abraham, Aamir Khan, Anushka Sharma, Priyanka Chopra, Anil Kapoor, MS Dhoni and Shah Rukh Khan. After a 5-year apprenticeship, Eric Jason D’souza and his partner Aishin Chang founded Iron Buzz Tattoos in Mumbai, one of the city’s most popular tattoo studios. D’souza specialises in a high-detail black-and-grey realism style of tattooing, and has enjoyed acclaim in various countries. Other than creating custom designs for his clients, D’souza also has his own series of designs, called Mystical Tattoos, which are a part of his personal project, born out of everything around him – mythology, fantasy, space and faith.
A personal favourite of mine is Anirban Roy Chowdhury, the owner of Forever Poetry Studio in Kolkata. Roy Chowdhury has been travelling and tattooing across India for five years now, and has developed his studio as an alternative space for poets, musicians, artists, playwrights and like-minded dreamers to perform their independent art styles. He specialises in an amalgamation of contemporary art with geometric patterns, as well as new school thrash/ inkblots and realism, to create customised artworks with the elements provided by clients.
BY ANIRBAN ROY CHOWDHURY
…haggle over prices.
BY VIKAS AND MICKEY MALANI, BODYCANVAS TATTOOS