Leo Tattoos, in Mumbai, is secretly placed in this sweet hiding spot, right in the heart of the city. A spot which would never meet the stranger’s eye; a spot so secluded from the madness that is Mumbai, that you would feel transported to a different time and space. I will not give out any more details about the beauty of the place, because the experience of finding it is one to remember too.
And these are the exact vibes that Yogesh C. Waghmare also exudes. An artist who knows exactly what he wants. His taste of time and space define his artistry as well, and the person that he is. This free-wheeling conversation experienced some of that diligence…
How did tattooing start for you?
When I was in college, LS Raheja School of Art, at that time I used to take up any art-related freelance works – from thermocol cutting to art direction. There I met a guy who was familiar with the tattooing tools. At that time, nobody used to use stencils, so he taught me how to draw on skin.
Actually, I started tattooing on several occasions. As in, I used to go for long rides, do my freelance gigs, and do everything art-related. Never took up a job. Tattooing started off as a weekend venture which would get me enough money for my rides and other stuff. Slowly, later on, I realised that I should set up one space, where I can do everything. That is how it started, but once I understood the application, then the horizons opened up in my mind.
It took me sometime to realise the potential I had in tattooing, and to understand the process. I started out in 2007, but it is only in 2011 that I started taking tattooing seriously.
I try to feel what the canvas feels about the subject of the tattoo
Between 2011 and 2016, you have done some masterful tattoos already. But your geometric tattoos stand out. As an artist, what is your idea of geometry?
Geometry… I don’t find any measurement in it, there is no calculation in geometry for me. It is balance, it is free-ness. I don’t see geometry as a box; there are so many possibilities when you start seeing things in geometrical patterns. It is just a line, and a line can create anything.
Can you spill some secrets as to how do you compose a tattoo, or how do you consult a canvas?
I start off with the idea. If people come up with the design, I say, “Don’t come with a design.” Don’t say that I want it like this, this is the flow, the placement… just come with an empty head, because this is my job. I will suggest you the execution. It’s not that I will force you, but this process is between you and me.
They come up with the idea, then I see the skin, texture, colour, then I see the possibility of how much contrast can we achieve on that skin tone, and then we choose the style. And I feel the geometrical lines are the strongest base for tattooing.
As for the consultations, I try to feel what the canvas feels about the subject of the tattoo, and try to convince them to choose an artwork that they can admire for a lifetime. Tattooing is not just body art.
Every canvas is new, every feeling is new, so every artwork should also be new.
Much more than that…
Yes. People need to understand that your body is the canvas; your body should look nice. Not just the tattoo. I don’t concentrate only on the artwork, I concentrate on the canvas.
Talking of skin tone, we have seen European artists struggle on Indian skin. What about Indian artists on white skin?
Indian artists can simply blow their minds, because you need to achieve a certain level of contrast on dark skin, and Indian artists have mastered that. So, even when we go on fair skin, our tattoos are going to look amazing. And I stress on contrast, because essentially you see a tattoo for the first time from a distance. So, without proper contrast, you will just see blurred lines from a distance. Therefore, contrast is very important, and that Indian artists know very well.
So, have you ever thought of sticking to any particular style?
I have thought of sticking to one style, but skin won’t allow me. Every canvas is new, every feeling is new, so every artwork should also be new.
To you, what is the core of tattooing?
For me, tattoo is an expression. It’s an element to express yourself. You smile, cry, you think about it, because it is hard to take a permanent decision. It’s reminds you of a memory every time; a permanent emotional expression.
When you click the picture of memory, it’s a memory of that time. There are times when people cannot share those memories with anybody, but they share with me. They trust me, so it is a big responsibility for me to get the right emotion, and deliver the right emotional artwork.
Okay, now it’s time for our rapid fire… Ready?
Geometry or realism
Coil or Rotary
COIL (very loudly with a smile on his face)
Freehand or stencils
That was good. One more… Yogi’s one advice to young Indian tattoo artists
If you want to be a tattoo artist, you have become an artist first. Tattoo is just a tool, and it won’t take you much time to understand the application. Now, there are so many equipment available, so many studios available to approach for an internship, it won’t take you long if you know how to imagine and draw. Now, if you can’t imagine, if you can’t visualize, then what will you do. For me, you need to be an artist first.