From lush roses, tarot cards, and lovely Victorian ladies, tattoo artist V Affliction creates illustrative pieces with a good dose of graceful texture and expressive shape. In this interview, V Affliction goes behind the scenes in how he began tattooing, what inspires him, and what hopes he has for the future.
How did you get into tattooing and why was it something you were drawn to?
Well, it's been a pretty crazy journey. I wanted to do tattoos since I was a kid. I had no idea of what it is or how it's done, but I knew that I want to do it. It's like an astronaut looking at the stars as a child. It was something mysterious and always drew me in. I had this crazy impression that there is no money in tattooing and that tattooers do it for the love of art. I thought tattooers are all homeless and I loved the idea. I never really cared about money and my idea of a great artist was isolation, enormous dedication and a miserable life. Didn't turn out to be far from the truth as I obsess over every detail and loose sleep over mistakes that I've made.
I think that it's worth pointing out that I went to a traditional art school where I learned the most important things in art. The fundamentals. Color theory, composition, perspective. I obsessed over it. Eventually I learned that a piece of paper is irrelevant in the art world and dropped out a semester before graduation.
Few years after I committed to starting my tattoo journey and scored an apprenticeship. During my apprenticeship I learned a lot about people and life. It was a proper apprenticeship. The one where you're working endless hours everyday and everyone treats you like shit. It was hard and I hated it, but looking back I would not change a thing. It shaped me into a person I am today, gave me the respect and love for this industry and all these times I got punished for talking back and not obeying payed off when dealing with difficult clients. Eventually I left and finished my apprenticeship in a different shop where my mentor wanted me to succeed. As much as he doesn't like me anymore, I love him and have mad respect for the guy.
As much as I want to push the boundaries and try to bring something new to the table, I'm a firm believer that you need to go through the proper apprenticeship to get anywhere with tattooing.
Can you talk about your inspirations, and how your style has evolved over the years?
Oh, man, this is going to sound wild, but my biggest inspiration as far as artists go is Caravaggio. I get inspired by a lot of things outside the realm of art. I think science is fascinating and I like listening to all sorts of philosophy and science related videos as I draw my designs. Music is very important. Try putting on an NF playlist and you'll be drawing all night.
My biggest inspiration in life is my grandpa. He's a very accomplished artist that worked in so many mediums. More then that, I aspire to be more like him in a day-to-day life. He is very purposeful with everything he does and has this inhuman ability to see good in everything. I regularly Skype with him to this day to show my tattoos and get his critiques.
As far as my style goes, let's be real, I didn't reinvent the wheel. It's just about trial and error. Fucking up a lot and learning from every mistake, listening to hundreds of critiques and trying to improve.
I was always drawn to nature and hope to live in the mountains one day. I guess that's why I get to do so many floral tattoos. On the other side of the spectrum, I like dark, morbid, evil shit. It's an escape from the comfort of our routine lives. We don't have so many terrible things occur in our daily lives, so I like to let my imagination run wild and see where it takes me. It's an exploration to see how far I can push things.
Gothic inspired back piece Collaboration with Javier Rivera Cast and sky done by me Parrot and filigree done by Javier
Who are the tattooers, or fine artists/movements, that have inspired you over the years?
I think I went over some of these points in the previous answers. Caravaggio, Dali and Van Gogh for their insanity, Durer and Dore have some of the most stunning illustrations, Mucha, Gothic architecture. Korean Blackworkers and Derek Noble played a big part in inspiring me with some of my darker work. I can list so many amazing tattooers that inspire me, but I think the most important are the people in your life. Your friends, family and people you work with. You need like-minded people that strive to do better every day. That positive energy rubs off on you.
Illustrative moon. One of the matching sun/moon tattoos. #blackwork #dark #black #moon #sun #barbedwire #illustrative #chicago #linework #fineline #finelines #delicate #matching #matchingtattoo #stars #dotwork #dotworktattoo #blackworktattoo
Many artists have a philosophy or motivation behind their work...what would you say is yours? How do you define success?
Since my college years I always wanted to evoke some kind of an emotional response from people when they look at my work. I want people to love it, hate it, be inspired or disgusted by it. I believe that the right tattoo for the right person can change their life. The biggest value I get out of tattooing is getting a message from a client about how their tattoo changed their life. I still can't believe that I get payed for drawing pictures on people. Thats insane!
One of the biggest lessons I learned is that deliberate hard work pays off. I strive to inspire people to chase their dreams and work hard towards them. And I don't mean spending 3 hours a day doing something productive. Find something you love, something you would sacrifice sleep and going out with friends for. We live in this wonderful time where you can sit on the couch and make money on your phone. We have the knowledge of the entire world at our fingertips at the confines of our cozy apartment.
Despite what some may think, I was not born with a talent. I didn't start caring about art or taking it seriously until I got into tattooing. There's this great saying 'hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard'. I believe that no matter what we're born into we can take control of our lives and change it.
Success to me is independence. Having the freedom to do the things you like. Isn't that what we all strive towards? Doing the tattoos I love, traveling and not having to worry about the bills. That's already an accomplishment.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received? What is the best advice you feel you can give?
I think the best advice I was given is that all the good things in life are hard. Ultimately it's all the little advice I get all the time. I always strive to learn something new. I'm forever grateful for the hard work ethics that my mentors instilled in me.
The best advice I can give is find that thing you love. Figure out how to achieve it and take the steps. Work harder than everyone else and get there before they do. Push yourself and don't get discouraged by failure. Remember that it takes time.
Beyond tattooing, what are you passionate about? How do you spend your free time, and what do you do on your vacations?
I love nature. I was born in the mountains in Europe and since I moved to the states a part of me was always missing. For so many years I was looking for a place to call home and I just recently found it in the mountains. It's an incredible feeling. Seeing the vast creations of nature unfold before us is magical. I recommend to everyone to put down their phone and just experience nature. Yeah, the mosquitos suck, but it's worth it.
I spend most of my time on tattoo related things. Drawing for the appointments, drawing available designs, drawing things for fun. I hardly get sleep, so this is pretty much all I do. Because of my work load I like to escape every few months and just go somewhere. Road trip or a little vacation where I spend some time in nature and don't work. To me it's an integral part of how I work. It's a great detox from exhaustion and internet. My favorite thing to do is getting lost in the mountains/forest. I go out with a sole purpose to get lost and explore all the things I wouldn't have seen otherwise. Worse comes to worst, you can always whip out a GPS.
Any future plans you’d like to share?
Well, getting as good as I can at tattooing. There's always something new to learn, so I don't think I'll ever get to the point where I'm fully satisfied with myself. I plan on doing a lot more traveling and tattooing in different parts of the country and world. As far as more concrete plans, they will get revealed as I go.
One of the big things I want to do in the future is teaching. I want to change someone's life as much as mine was transformed, so taking on an apprentice is on the list of things down the line. I think that passing on the knowledge when you're ready is very important. I am thinking about other ways to teach, but things like tattoo schools are unethical and useless in my opinion, so maybe something to do with things outside of tattooing.