Frank La Natra of Into The Woods Gallery
I first saw Frank’s work at the Cape Fear Tattoo and Art Expo where my son, Tommy asked for money to buy a print. He brought me to the booth where Frank had been setup and had some of his artwork displayed. Tommy pointed to a Print called Wickets Wild Ride a Star Wars concept illustration of Wicket riding on a leg of an Imperial AT-ST (a little Star Wars geek talk) from the movie Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
After purchasing the print for my son’s room it became clear that Frank was an artist to check out. Since the convention we have bought a few more prints and even gave his prints as gifts. Frank has a Bachelor of Science in illustration from Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale and from his work you can clearly see how gifted and talented he is. He has become one of our favorite artists and it does not hurt he is originally from Brooklyn, NY.
We caught up with Frank in between tattoo appointments and conventions.
AnoTat2: How long have you been a tattoo artist, how did you start?
Frank: I have been tattooing now on and off for 16 years. I have been full time at it as a serious career for the last I would say 3 years.
AnoTat2: Where did you do your apprenticeship under?
Frank: I started with a traditional apprenticeship back in ’97, when tattooing became legal in NY. I apprenticed with 2 artists that were tattooing underground while it was illegal. In ’97 they opened a studio with my cousin who I worked for prior in his video stores while attending college as an Accounting major. I had dropped out of college to learn to tattoo, for years I thought it was the worst mistake of my life, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
AnoTat2: What artist(s) have influenced you and your work over the years?
Recent from Tattoo Artists
Frank: There have been so many. From Comic book Artists to Animators to Illustrators, Fine Artists & Tattoo Artists, they have all played a role in my artistic growth and inspiration. Some of my favorites and biggest inspirations have been, Bobby Chiu, Creature Box, Glen Keane, Don Bluth, and lets not forget everything from Disney & Pixar of course. As for Tattoo Artists, Jesse Smith, Josh Woods, Tanane Whitfield, & Kelly Doty.
AnoTat2: At what age did you first get tattooed and what was it?
Frank: I was 18 when I got my first Tattoo. It was the Tribal S from Sepultura on my upper thigh. No idea what I was thinking, but I try and protect as many people as possible from making the same mistake lol.
AnoTat2: I love traditional ink with the bold line work and simple colors. There are so many different styles of tattoos from old school, new school, portraits – which style is your favorite to do?
Frank: I would hope it would be evident from my body of work which is my favorite. I really don’t do anything but Illustrative character design and narratives. I have tried all styles, even spent a few years as a realism artist which was how I started to build my name in the industry. But I honestly have no enjoyment in doing anything than what I do. I feel like it is always an expression of me and what I love most. Nothing else truly allows me to create and breathe life into my own characters, with their own stories, in my own world and for that alone I wouldn't want to do anything else.
AnoTat2: I know every artist has tattoos they hate doing, do you have any parts of the body you rather not ink?
Frank: Honestly I have no enjoyment in doing Necks. I also really don’t enjoy small body parts because most of my work is on a larger scale. So usually every project I take on usually finds its way to a larger body part.
AnoTat2: Most tattoo artist we spoke to had turned away work due to either the person’s attitude or what they wanted to have tattooed on them – have you ever turned anybody away?
Frank: At the risk of sounding arrogant, which is not my intention at all, but I turn people away regularly. I get a lot of request for tattoos and most of the times they do not fall within the lines of what interests me or I just don’t like the idea. I really try to pick and choose pieces that will inspire me to do better things. I take on projects I feel that I will love, that way I enjoy every minute of it from the researching to the initial sketches, to the very last session of the tattoo. Its as much for my benefit as it is for the client. Anytime you take on a project you don’t like or enjoy, you already gave the client less than 100% and that to me is unacceptable.
AnoTat2: What do you use and recommend for aftercare?
Frank: Right now I have 2 products that I have been using for over a year and I am crazy about! Hustlebutter, which I actually tattoo with and Tatu-Derm for the aftercare. Tatu-Derm has to be one of the greatest assets to tattoo artists for healing their tattoos. It makes healing almost dummy proof. I no longer have to worry about my clients not taking care of their tattoo. Also, Tattooing with Hustlebutter as opposed to A&D or other products will speak for itself. Bottom line.
AnoTat2: What advice would you give someone looking for a new shop to get a tattoo (whether they are new to the area or their favorite artist has moved out of town)?
Frank: Do your research!! Look at portfolios! Really take the time to study what is a good and bad tattoo. If their isn't someone that is really good, don’t be afraid to travel an hour or 2 for good work. It will make all the difference between just a tattoo and a tattoo that stops people in their tracks and turns heads.
AnoTat2: Do attend any tattoo conventions? If so which ones?
Frank: I attend quite a few conventions actually. The main ones are Hell City in Ohio & Phoenix. TattooLaPalooza, & Paradise Gathering, Tattoo Jam in the UK as well as some smaller ones on the east coast. This year you will find me at about another 10-12 conventions for the year and possibly a few guest spots.
AnoTat2: As a shop owner in this economy how do you keep people coming back beside turning out quality tattoos?
Frank: Quality tattoos…there is no other way. You can offer anything you want, but if you don’t put out top end work people will hold no loyalty. I’m proud to have the team I do and the slew of amazing guest artists that come through monthly. It all comes down to the work you put out!
AnoTat2: What do you think about all these tattoo shows on TV? Do you think it hurts or helps the industry?
Frank: I Can’t stand any of them to be honest. I think they are all a joke and in no way portray any truth about the industry or what tattooing is really about. But, that being said, I think they have greatly helped the tattooing world. They have brought us from underground into the mainstream. Unfortunately they have not truly educated people about tattooing so that still leaves us with a lot work to do. But it’s a good start.
AnoTat2: Any new milestones in your career that you would like to share with us?
Frank: I recently got the cover of Tattoo Masters Magazine and that was a huge honor for me. Probably one of the biggest moments in my career right now to have my face on the cover of a magazine lol. I also took Best of day, Best of show, & Best Small Color at Tattoo jam in the UK, so I guess that officially makes me an international award winning artist?? That is something I never in my lifetime would have thought I could say :)
I know once you have checked out Frank's work and prints you will enjoy it. If interested in ordering any of Frank’s prints for your home, office or shop click here.
Follow Frank on Facebook, Instagram, on the web, Google + and on Twitter @FrankLaNatra.