Chris Rigoni is known for his masterful merging of different styles to create distinct designs for his clients. It's clear that his devotion to the art form of tattooing, as well as his intrinsic interest in a variety of inspirations, has supported his successful aesthetic experiments. It's also no wonder that his attraction to the galaxies beyond makes appearances within his work: under Chris Rigoni's fingers a cosmos of diversity becomes beautifully fused within his tattoos.
Do you remember the first time you were ever introduced to tattoo culture? How did you get into tattooing? What was it like the first time you tattooed?
Honestly I can’t remember when I was first introduced. I never had a “moment” when I saw a tattoo and knew its what I wanted to do. I just liked them. Loved the tattoo stickers you got with bubblegum like all kids do. Got tattooed when I first turned 18 because I wasn’t cool enough to try doing it younger. And then just kept getting tattooed and fell into the trade with complete obsession after 10 years working in construction amongst a thousand and one other jobs.
The first time I tattooed…..I was scared shitless. Like every apprentice I wanted to be really good at it straight away and with one line I realized how insanely bad I was and how hard this road was going to be. Im still bad and still every day I think the road ahead of me to get good is going to be a long and hard one. The more you learn the more you realize there is to learn.
You’ve stated in past interviews that many clients give you full creative license when tattooing them. How does it feel to have someone trust in your artwork that much? How do you balance making the client happy, and creating something you’re proud of?
I am really fortunate in this way. I think most people that I’m lucky to tattoo know my work well, and as long as I’m doing my basic stuff with the subject matter they are after, I seem to keep everyone pretty happy. I am at a point now where I won’t do something if I think the outcome is not going to work in the skin, concerning healing and aging, and make me look bad as a Tattooer. I’d rather recommend another Tattooer that might be a better fit than just do it for the money. An individuals name is everything in this business. So everything I’m going to do has to be something I’m 100% confident in and happy to put my name too. Purely from a technical and composition stand point. If someone wants a poo tattooed on them I’ll do it. To the best of my ability. But I won’t do it on a finger in ochre on someone with tanned skin.
Who are your personal heroes? What books, films, or other forms of visuals inspire your work? How did you find your style and voice?
I’ve always had a lot of respect and looked up to the giants of humanity. People that have devoted a life to innovation and research. That have pushed our race forward. I am really hopeless when it comes to the ‘inspire’ parts of interviews because I don’t have a really ‘arty’ intelligent response. I just get inspired every day for the smallest things. Light. Shadows. People. Paintings. Photography. Architecture. Engineering. It comes in a lot of forms. But I’m not an artist. I just kinda push things together and if I like the look of it I hope the client does too. I wish I was creative and an artist.
You’re not only well known for your mix of different art forms, but you also have incredible skill when it comes to realism. What are the differences between painting/drawing realism on canvas or paper, and actually creating it on skin?
Currently the biggest thing I’m focusing on is trying to make sure I get good contrast and tonal range in the tattoo side of things so I can hopefully do a tattoo that not only heals solid and defined, but will also age well. I feel like I’m trying to add more detail while at the same time trying to do less and open things up a lot more. Everything I do is digital but I do really want to start oil painting. Think it will help me a lot.
Many Traditional tattoo artists feel very strongly about the tide turning from Americana flash to “trends” like watercolor, hyperrealism, and more. What has your experience been within the community? What is your philosophy on the art form of tattooing? What does the future of tattooing look like to you?
Change is inevitable. There will always be the group that dislike it and fight it. And the group that welcomes it and moves with it. I think ultimately American Traditional tattoos are the safest bet for a simple long lasting tattoo that will always look good in the skin. I love them and in areas that my skin is damaged from a decade working outdoors, it is my choice for getting tattooed. But personally I want to see where I can take a more complicated tattoo with the same ideals. Bold, strong contrast that will hold up over time in the areas that define the subject matter.
I am still so new to tattooing, and I’m still trying to find my way and have so much to learn. I really don’t know where the future of tattooing will go from here. Feel like we had this explosion of serious artists bring a ton of new unique different styles in so theres no real need to try and label them anymore, just identify them by the tattooist that does those tattoos. And it will continue to grow like that.
I do think science will start to come into it. A general progression with tattooists wanting to find some way of creating a better and more unique tattoo collaborating with people that really understand the chemistry and biology of the skin.
What is it about space, quantum physics and more that fascinates you? How does this interest inform your daily life, life philosophy, or your artistic practice?
Im fascinated by the universe and the life and processes within it. That there are minds so evolved and incredible, they can tear down and decipher the most complicated ideas, and the respect we owe for people pushing humanity and our understanding forward continuously. Life is more interesting the more you know about it.
I don’t really understand yet if, or how it might implicate my tattoos. As I mentioned earlier I never felt like an artist. I fell like a fraud because I don’t have some intense deep reasoning behind what I do or why. I just kinda draw or mash things together till it looks cool and fun to tattoo and hope people like it. I guess knowing that every single atom that exists, has existed from the beginning of time, that all the atoms inside you have been apart of other humans, animals, plants, astroids, planets, and suns through out a time scale we can’t comprehend. So maybe me mashing things together is a subconscious representation of that, that we all all one. Made from the same material shared between everything thats ever existed.
Any plans or hopes for 2018? Guest spots, events, conventions, collabs, or new materials/techniques on the horizon?
Ive been wanting to start hitting all the major conventions and travelling a lot. Spending a lot more time in Europe. But after a lifetime of constantly moving around and travelling I’ve kind of hit a point I want to sit still for a minute. Enjoy having an actual home thats mine. And focus on developing another side of life that I haven’t before. This next year ill be chilling and doing that. Trying to find balance a little more, so saying goodbye to the 100hr weeks which my body now broken from, will be happy about. And really focus on some new creative forms that will help educate me more and hopefully make my tattoos and style progress a lot more. Oil painting being a major one.