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Hungry Heart: Interview with Tattooist Nate Silverii

Hungry Heart: Interview with Tattooist Nate Silverii

Tattoo Artists5 min Read

In this interview with tattoo artist Nate Silverii, we talk about inspirations, beginnings, and the future of the tattoo industry.

Splitting his time between New York City's own Grit N Glory and Ottawa's DeerHound Studio, Nate Silverii also known as hungryhearttattoos, has a knack for creating Dark Art Illustrative pieces that glitter like stars in an inky black sky. In this interview with Nate Silverii, he talks about how his aesthetic and style has evolved over the years, how tattooing is more than just simply slappin' skin, and what inspires him on a daily basis.

How did you get into tattooing and why was it something you were drawn to?

I got into tattooing kind of by accident, i used to play drums in a bunch of bands and toured quite a bit. always thought I would play music forever and that’s how I would make my living. I started getting pretty heavily tattooed very young, by the time I was 19 figured I should have a back up plan in case playing music didn’t work out (haha) so I had started hanging around a shop in ocean beach, California that my friend was apprenticing at.

I loved getting tattooed but I wasn’t drawn to the idea of being a tattoo artist. At that time it seemed to be a lot of sitting around waiting for someone to come in and pick something off the wall, But I felt like I needed another option. I started hanging around and watching the artists paint and draw. I started seeing the artistic side of being a tattoo artist. They would take old traditional ideas and make them there own. Taking someone’s idea and going to the library to read more about the subject matter and come up with this crazy ass drawing for their client. I started seeing that tattooing was so much more and I wanted to be a part of it. Needless to say I started getting tattooed there, eventually asked the dude that I had been getting tattooed by if he would teach me and I started my apprenticeship that same day. I haven’t played music in over 10 years.

Lantern tattoo by Nate Silverii aka hungryhearttattoos #NateSilverii #hungryhearttattos #lamp #lantern #flame #candle #rose #illustrative #chain #floral

Can you talk about your inspirations, and how your style has evolved since you began?

A big part of my inspiration comes from music, movies and nature. There is so much fun stuff to draw! I have more of a traditional background but turns out I suck at traditional haha. The more I travelled and did conventions, I started meeting artist that did all kinds of different styles of tattoos. I may not have necessarily wanted to do those type of tattoos but I knew I could learn from how they looked at a tattoo and how they approached it. I started incorporating different techniques and tried to look at a drawing in a different way than I was used to. Navigated through what worked and didn’t work for the end result I was going for. My style has changed and evolved a lot over the years from traditional to whatever the hell it is now and continues to. I hope that never changes.

Tattoo flash/illustration by Nate Silverii aka hungryhearttattoos #NateSilverii #hungryhearttattos

Who are the tattooers, or fine artists/movements, that have inspired you over the years?

There are so many artists that have inspired me and unknowingly helped me become the artist I am today. If I had to narrow it down, two of the biggest influences would be Shanghai Kate and Lyle Tuttle. always pushing boundaries and moving the industry forward. When there were those that got pissed off about it or said you can’t do that, they said fuck you and the tattoo industry is better because of it.

Many artists have a philosophy or motivation behind their work...what would you say is yours? How do you define success?

I’m motivated by the possibility of the artist I can become. Art never really came naturally to me so the more I did it and accomplished little goals, the more I became obsessed with it and wanted to just keep getting better and better and keep learning as much as I can. I know I’ll never be the best but I’ll be damned if I don’t try. As cliche as it’s sounds, it’s the little things that make me feel successful. There was a time in my life where I didn’t have a home and didn’t know where my next meal would come from. I realized that the things I want out of life and my career don’t determine my success, it’s the person I want to be.

What advice do you have for young artists trying to get into tattooing? What was the best advice you received when you first started?

My advice for the kids? Stay hungry, tattooing can give you so much if you let it. you can see the world and make some money while you do it. Ask questions, learn from your mistakes, don’t let them define you and keep growing. The best advice I ever got was, “Get over yourself.”

How do you feel about the future of the tattoo industry? What things need to change, and what needs to stay the same?

I feel good about the future of tattooing. I’ve always respected tattooing for its inclusion and its willingness to learn from it’s mistakes. Tattooing in North America is still very young and still has a lot to learn. It can always do better and I think recognizing that will only help us in the long run. Any racism, sexism, homophobia or hate of any kind can get the fuck out. There’s no room in our industry for that shit. Build each other up not break each other down.

Beyond tattooing, what are you passionate about? How do you spend your free time, and what do you do on your vacations?

So during the Covid pandemic I realized very quickly that I don’t have any other hobbies or interests haha I’ve spent the last decade drawing and tattooing, that’s it. I usually spend my free time drawing or answering emails. If it weren’t for my wife forcing me to take breaks and relax, I wouldn’t stop working. I plan on taking it a little easier on myself in the future and spending more time with my wife and pups. We are both real into going to Disney world so as soon as we can, that’s happening.

Tattoo flash/illustration by Nate Silverii aka hungryhearttattoos #NateSilverii #hungryhearttattos

Any future goals, plans, collabs, etc. that you’d like to share?

I can’t wait to get back to doing conventions and getting back to New York once I am able to travel again. I’m hoping by this time next year to open up a new shop with my dude Pierre Gwod who owns the private studio in Ottawa that I work at when I’m here. Maybe hire a few people and take on an apprentice, possibly run a clothing company or supply company out of the shop as well. Who knows, sky is the limit! One thing for sure, I just want to keep tattooing cool shit and meeting rad people until my body tells me I can’t.

Skull and floral tattoo by Nate Silverii aka hungryhearttattoos #NateSilverii #hungryhearttattos #skull #floral #snake #mementomori #illustrative #darkart

Justine Morrow
Written byJustine Morrow

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

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