Traditional tattooing is an iconic aesthetic form within the community, but there are some artists who imbue this classic style with their own perspective. Enrico Grosso, also known as Henry Big, is one of these artists who has merged the limited color palette, crisp bold lines, and archetypal imagery of American Trad with undercurrents of 90's tribal, cubist abstractions, with a slight nod to folk art.
I think finally finding a purpose for my drawing felt very meaningful...I wanted to belong, to be part of something.
Of course, the question that everyone always wants to know: what is your artistic background? How did you get into tattooing?
I’ve been drawing my whole life, as far as I can remember. When I was about 11 or 12 I started playing guitar and formed a band with a couple other kids; we lived in a very small town in northern Italy and it felt like a miracle to get involved into something exciting like that. We would hide in our friend basement and play hard rock and smoke hundreds of cigarettes and feel free ahaha. That made me wanna channel my visual creativity in the form of flyers or any kind of artwork for the band.
Although you clearly have foundations in Traditional iconography, your style is very much your own. Can you talk about your inspirations, and how your style has evolved over the years?
Thank you. I think, as I said to someone else already, it was all an attempt to imitate artists that I really liked, failing in the process and coming out with this compromise between my influences and the way I naturally draw. Maybe it has to do with the fact that at the beginning of my career what I was doing was very reference-less. I didn't have books with old flash at hand like I had later. I had to imitate from photos I’d seen in magazines or on Myspace and try to mimic what was making those images so striking. Like learning a language by its sound not by its words. I don’t think it’s the best way to learn something at all, but in the end, some way, it partially worked for me.
Who are the tattooers, or fine artists/movements, that have inspired you over the years?
Later on with social media I found a lot more people that I liked and influenced me, but from day one, before all this, I was really really into Stuart Cripwell and Luca Mamone, and I still am. Seeing Stuart's flash from his first years at Spider Murphys was basically what made me start painting flash. It was 2007/2008. Mamone was the man and still is, and he was one of them guys who really inspired me in wanting to be a nice human on top of a capable person. Like when I met Chris O’Donnell few years later here in Brooklyn, same feeling. Stizzo at that time was a big influence too, I got some tattoos by him around that time.
Do you have any other arts practices beyond tattooing? Are there any other creative techniques that you’d really like to try out?
I paint with acrylics on canvas, paper and cardboard. Mainly patterns, plain colors, shapes. Abstract stuff that makes me feel good when I look at it. Like there is life in it, and peace also. I go through phases of being really into it and then not doing anything for months. I like it like that. I still play guitar too almost everyday. I still like to do some graphic design, very rarely though. I feel this guilt when I don’t give everything to tattooing. I feel like I wanna be creative in different ways too, but tattooing always ends up being what feels right to me.
I feel like I’m respectfully channeling something that is bigger than me, offering some kind of service, a very specific and deep one...
Many artists have a philosophy or motivation behind their work...what would you say is yours? How do you define success?
I would say in the beginning I wanted to claim my space, prove myself, I wanted to be out there, I wanted to be part of something exciting and I wanted to receive some kind of recognition to make me feel better about myself really. It was the same thing with being part of the punk scene. It was the shelter of belonging to a group. I wanted something that would finally give this small town kid the keys of the world he dreamed of. And it did. It was definitely ego driven. But also survival of some sorts. I’m grateful of all this. Once I found myself I had nothing, or less, to prove, things changed.
What is the best advice you feel you can give?
What makes Greenpoint Tattoo Co. a special space?