Tappei (JPN), tattoo artist, Tokyo

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‘I only got tattooed by someone else twice, when in was 18: one on my chest and one on my head. The rest I did myself. It was a way of practicing but it kind of got out of hand, resulting in my body becoming my personal sketchbook, since there’s no real school for tattoo artists. Usually it works with an apprenticeship, where you start working for an artist, assisting, practicing and hopefully someday really doing your own thing. But nowadays it’s really easy to just buy everything you need online and start on your own. That’s how I did it. I bought it, but I had no idea how to use it. YouTube helped me out. That’s why I look like this now.’

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‘I never really liked the fact that people would bring a picture of a tattoo and they just want me to copy that. Nothing artistic about that. But more and more people bring their own drawing or let me design something for them. That of course gives me a lot more satisfaction as an artist. And it enables me to develop a style of my own. I try not to get too influenced by what I see online or in magazines. I try to stay true to myself and do my own stuff. If you research too much, there’s a chance of copying, willing or not, and I try to avoid that.’

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‘There are different ways of working for me recently. I can make a design which I transfer on someones body, or just a rough sketch with a ballpoint pen or sometimes I even free hand, freestyle tattooing without a design to trace. I like this last one a lot. I hope more and more people will give me the freedom to do more of these tattoos. I do have the background of painting and graphic design, so I know how to make a proper design, but I like the freestyle thing, as my favorite artist Horiuchi does. He just applies some points on the client’s skin and from there he starts freewheeling. Even though his style is different from mine, we both enjoy working this way. It’s kind of the same style as Keith Haring. Imagine he would have been a tattoo artist, he would have done it like that. Basically, my dream is to become the Keith Haring of the tattoo world.’

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