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Brutalism and Constructivism : Interview with Nicobone

Brutalism and Constructivism : Interview with Nicobone
Tattoo Artists5 min Read

In this interview with tattoo artist Nico Jacoby, aka Nicobone, he talks about the inspirations behind his unique style of tattooing.

Nico Jacoby, aka Nicobone, has a unique aesthetic that has the ability to be beautiful and deeply strange all at once. Wavy lines and abstract shapes merge with captivating portraits that vibrate with energy. His 2D visual art tends to look as if it were moving into some surreal universe beyond our perception; it is a glimpse of the strange beneath everything. Minimal, and full of impact, his portfolio is one of a cohesive, bold and powerful graphic style.   

What is your artistic background? Did you always want to be a tattooer?

I was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany in 1988. Living in Amsterdam at the moment! I studied Communication and Graphic Design in Hamburg. During that and afterwards I worked as a Graphic Designer. From my early days on I was confronted with different types of design. My mom was a textile designer and my dad a furniture designer. They both showed me a lot of their work process!

Since I was a kid I've been interested in tattoos and got tattooed from my late teenage years on. Got addicted to it quickly and since then I collect tattoos from artists and friends around the world. I never planned to be a tattooer or thought I could be one, it kinda just happened to me. And I directly fell in love with its craft!

How did you get into tattooing and why was it the art form you were most interested in?

Started tattooing friends at home after work and on the weekends. I believe it’s one of the most beautiful interactions you can have with another human being. Back then one of my best friends, Dominik, gave me the opportunity to practice on his legs. Without him I might not be where I am today. At some point it was getting more and more, so I quit my job and started to tattoo full time. Tattooing is the most beautiful thing that could happen to my life. Even if I lost some very important things on my way to becoming a tattooer!

Using the human body as a living canvas is extremely fascinating and intense. People fully trust you on letting you tattoo them and they will carry your artworks through the world for the rest of their lives. More than grateful for that and everybody I meet on my path. Besides that I’m interested in people and their stories, so it's a blessing to meet and work with them. Tattoos are beautiful markings on human skin and memory of times. You connect a time in your life with a tattoo. So it's an important moment between two people!

Your tattooing style and aesthetic is totally unique. Where did your minimalist surrealism come from? What artists, films, visuals, or books inspired you along the way? Can you talk about the meaning behind the linework that often looks like tears or blood?

I’m trying to work with a strong graphical/conceptual style in my artworks. Surrealism is one of my favorites in art. I get lost in paintings by Dali or Magritte. The weirdness in my designs just comes out of my mind and i’m getting inspired by some weird books i collect. Besides that it’s the way that I see things in the world. A piece needs to be strong and has to stand on it's own! Important is a high contrast. I love to combine ornamental/graphic parts with figurative imagery. And I always start with a concept for a new artwork!

My biggest influence is strong/grainy/noisy black and white photography. Especially human portraits have a big influence on my work. Besides that I get inspired by architecture like brutalism and constructivism. And I love weird dark stuff; I think it's beautiful!

Some people who inspires me are photographers like Masahisa Fukase, Josef Koudelka, and Trent Parke. Tattooers like Martin Jahn, Rafel Delalande, Trobbies, and


. Visual artists such as William Blake, Arnulf Rainer, Escher, Dali, Max Beckmann, and Rene Magritte and film makers/visuals like Jim Jarmusch, Ryoji Ikeda, Coen Brothers.

There is no certain meaning behind the wavy lines. They can be water, tears, blood or just energy waves. But for me they are just an expression of feelings like sadness, madness or weirdness.

Many artists have a philosophy or motivation behind their work...what would you say is yours? Your work also seems really experimental; how does it feel to have people trust you with their skin, and what do you hope your artwork says to the world?

Share an experience with a person they’ll never forget! Tattooing is an intense interaction between you and your customer. You have to make them feel at home and comfortable during a session. It is a personal thing. Especially when you tattoo body parts which are very painful, like palms. It's an honor to tattoo and great that people trust me within a second. Sometimes I can’t even believe how much freedom people give me. It’s a blessing to do what i love. Thanks to everybody who gets tattooed by me! 

I hope that people can connect to my work and reflect their own story in there. Besides that tattoos should make the world a bit more beautiful!

While Amsterdam is known for its 420 friendly philosophies, when I visited I was blown away by how kind everyone seemed to be, and the absolute devotion to artistic aesthetics. Can you talk about the arts and tattoo scene there? Why is somewhere you love to tattoo?

I live in Holland, Amsterdam for a bit over a year now. So I’m still new in this city/country. I love the diversity and beauty of Amsterdam, but sometimes I’m missing a rough, dirty side of it. It’s a vibrant city which changes all the time. There are a lot of great galleries and museums around and always something going on in arts or music. Beyond that I feel very respected in what I do; people are always interested. Even the older generation like the art of tattooing. The tattoo culture is not the biggest in the country, but there are a lot of good artists around. And I chose this country because Trobbies asked me to work with him and I was very interested in doing that. 

What are you passionate about beyond tattooing? What do you do on your days off or vacations?

I love making prints, especially linocuts. Collecting books, music and going to concerts are a big part of my daily life. And I love traveling and always do, often for longer periods around the world.

Any travel plans, collabs, or upcoming projects you’d like to share?

I really wanna travel to Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand for tattooing and traveling of course. So planning to do that in the next two years.

Justine Morrow
Written byJustine Morrow

Social Producer, Journalist, Editor, and Curator for Tattoodo I am here to support you 🌻 IG: @lathe.of.heaven