At the recently concluded Nepal Tattoo Convention 2017, we got the exclusive opportunity to interact one-on-one with several world class tattoo artists, who are individually and collectively responsible for the modern evolution of tattooing, as we know it. From veterans who are now considered masters to the younger generation, who are changing the face of tattooing, it was an exquisite mix. One such artist we were lucky enough to interact with was Jacob Wiman, aka Black Magic Jake from Sweden.
Banged out this chest piece the last two days on the toughest mf I’ve ever met! Jim, thanks for traveling from India to get tattooed for two days straight at the @nepaltattooconvention and thank your wife for the amazing gift! #satlikearock #chestpiece #twodays #nepal A post shared by Jacob Wiman (@blackmagicjake) on
Jake comes from a tattoo family, which he says is a very common thing, back in Sweden. His father’s a tattoo artist, and that’s how he got interested about the art form at the first place. It is quite fascinating because when you are a generational tattooer, your roots are formed differently than a regular tattooer. As Jake says, “I grew up very naturally with tattoos around me, because my father was always talking about tattoos. You can say that I literally grew up at the shop. And as I grew as a tattoo artist, my job was comparatively easier because I never had to focus on the business. His shop was renowned in the city, and I could dedicate all my time to my drawing and my tattooing.”
What is really interesting here, in this equation, is not just how Jake might have found it a little easier during his learning curve, but how the father-son duo juggled their relationship at home and at work. “It was easier in some aspects, and harder in some. I could always voice my opinion, because I knew him, and knew how he would react. But I also know that generally apprentices get bullied (basically) for 3-4 years, and then they move out. But, with us, moving out wasn’t an option because we are family at the end of the day.”
While Jake’s journey as a tattoo artist started under the shadow of his father, he has gone on to establish his own forte over time. Highly regarded as one of the finest colour artists of Sweden and beyond, Jake’s tattoo transformation over time finds resonance with the growing tattoo culture. He points out to us how tattooing has evolved in Sweden in the last 15 years or so. From back alleys to becoming a mainstream art form, the psyche towards tattoos has exploded beyond imagination. Jake is a prime example of the new age tattoo artist who is not only schooled in fundamentals of tattooing, but also caters to the growing sense of art aesthetics. “You see, there are all types of people getting tattooed now. Of course, there are shitty people getting shitty tattoos from shitty tattooers, but as an artist, I don’t want them. In fact, maybe that is the balance of nature, because it allows me to tattoo the people I want to. For example, if you look at my style, it is old school based, within the frames of what will last, but the old school motifs are all done and dusted. So, I use the fundamental qualities of old school tattooing to enhance my ideas, and present more refined tattoos. In the debate between fundamental tattooing and aesthetic tattooing, I think I find myself somewhere in the middle.”
The more we spoke, my impression of Jake as the modern tattoo artist developed those layers. Layers of how he approached his tattooing purely as an artist, and a true lover of the art form. From what the demands of the average Joe are, to what are the social responsibilities of the modern tattoo artist, Jake has an informed and experienced idea of all aspects of tattooing. He comes across as a guy you will always want to get tattooed by. He points out during our conversation that he considers himself quite lucky because people come to him to get tattooed in his style. “I think it’s a great time to be a tattoo artist now, because people treat it as an art form, and as individual expression. Tattooing is no more a form of rebellion, or a mode of identification, but truly an art form. What that has done is that a new crop of tattoo artists have risen, who are not in it for just money, but for the love of the art. And THAT is special.”