Interview with Jeka Saranchenko

   Hello Jeka Saranchenko! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. Please start by telling us something about yourself and your background. Do you have any formal art training? What type of art do you like the most and are there any artists that inspired you to start tattooing? First and foremost, I'm genuinely grateful for the chance to present my portfolio to you. At 32 years old, I am happily married with two wonderful children. Although I was born in Kiev, Ukraine, my family relocated to Israel when I was just six years old. From a young age, I was interested in art, spending countless hours sketching and drawing. My grandmother encouraged me to pursue formal training to refine my skills. It wasn't until later, when I developed a keen interest in the tattoo industry, that I realized the importance of honing my artistic abilities. Since then, I've dedicated myself wholeheartedly to mastering my craft and continuously striving for improvement, I have been tattooing for 9 years.

Q: No formal art training?
A: I didn't attend any formal art institutions, instead, I pursued my passion through a series of private lessons and personal experimentation. My journey has been driven solely by my own experiences and dedication.

Q: What type of art do you like the most and are there any artists that inspired you to start tattooing?
A: My most preferred styles are realistic, surealistic and abstract combinations of tattoos whether it is colorful or just black and grey. I can say that Volker Merschky and Simone Pfaff were the first tattoo artists that inspired me at the beginning.

Q: How did it all start? Did anyone help you? Was it hard mastering the skill?
A: It all began by ordering a tattoo kit from aliexpress, when I realized that I won't get far by this way, I asked a friend to talk to his uncle to have me as an apprentice. That wasn't easy, the way he worked, wasn't ethic and professional. After a year I thought to start over and go to a professional tattoo studio, yet, life presented challenges so I had to do it in a difficult way and keep working harder to improve and move forward. It took me a couple of years to get better but with good mentorship I could save a lot of time.

Q: As a beginner, I guess it took you a little while to figure out your creative process and direction. So probably just like many you did all kinds of styles?
A: In my initial three years, I just did everything just to improve technically. I didn't realize that most of the final result starts from the design... It took me several more years to truly discover my own artistic style and what I like.

Q: Talking about the beginnings... I think even the super talented will have some moments of doubt or pressure (often by themselves) to keep pushing, not give up and keep learning. Right? What keeps you motivated?
A: That pressure never relieves, there will always be days, moments, that make me want to create something unusual even if it means dedicating hours from my personal life. What keeps me motivated, you ask? It's the opportunity to innovate, to create something truly sophisticated.

Q: I guess your friends and family were the people who gave you the trust to tattoo them, fully knowing you are just starting. How was the feeling to do a tattoo for the first time?
A: Those who knew me put their trust in me even though I was a rubbish tattoo artist, despite my lack of experience and initial knowledge, I was full of confidence, I guess it was a kind of inner self-belief and their support meant alot to me.

Q: Would you cover or correct some of the old tattoos you did as a beginner? Do you do cover ups as a pro now?
A: Absolutely. A bunch of my pieces are cover-ups, and I've definitely spruced up a few old ones. But if I had my pick, I'd rather start fresh with a canvas that's clean and ready to go. It's just easier to work with, you know?

Q: I really love your style. Trash polka and tattoo realism as styles are very interesting but demanding, especially in realism since "perfection" is the bare minimum there. But I like the mix with trash polka. I think it "upgrades" the hyper realistic look of the realistic tattoos and therefore it gives space for creative exploration. So we don't get that "boring" portrait tattoo. I love it. Do you have any reason why these two styles you like the most?
A: Since I started tattooing I have always appreciated the realistic style but it was too boring by itself, and then something caught my eye with the combination of black and red palette. I even tried do it with blue colors but still, I prefer red because there is something more unique about red, it feels more attractive, or even tempting. I like the way of making things asymmetrical and build my own flow and direction with mixing everything I want, and make it looks natural, like it's meant to be that way whether it messy looking or clean. I was trying to make my designs more graphic but nothing worked that well as realistic objects as a major elements.

Q: Talking about creativity... A professional artist has to bring up some cool ideas, otherwise it's just a tattooer. A tattoo artist creates a tattooer does (hopefully) technically good tattoos. Do you agree?
A: I can agree and disagree, that can actually be pretty beneficial for business to have copy paste tattooers to do walkins but also we used to call flash tattooers as tattooers and many of them put effort and doing their best to create very nice and unique flashes. I used to be in that scene myself, but then I had this lightbulb moment where I realized I'm all about those big projects.

Q: I assume your clients expect some crazy looking tattoos with unique backgrounds and interesting color shades. That's what I see in your portfolio and loving it. What is the usual process, do you draw a bunch of sketches before the session or you guys both work on the design idea?
A: I usually like to take my time prepping the design before our session. It helps me get into my creative zone and come up with better ideas. Plus, it's important for me to feel like the client trusts my expertise. If they're cool with it, I'll run with my own ideas, otherwise we do it together.

Q: Since we are talking about unique tattoos, I guess it takes some extra time to develop the idea from scratch and finalize into a nice tattoo design. Have you ever had days when you just keep thinking about a certain design? I'm talking big tattoos like back pieces, sleeves etc.
A: So, I had this full leg piece to do in a black and grey realistic style. Sounds pretty easy, right? But the client had a ton of restrictions, which ended up wasting about 10 hours of my personal time to get it just right, and I didn't even get paid for that extra work. Sometimes things like that happend, but that was worth it.

Q: What if the client changes their mind a few days before the appointment? Do you have any rules about this just to save time and energy?
A: Yeah, stuff like this doesn't happen too often. If it's just a few tweaks here and there, no big deal. But if he wants a whole re-design, then I'll have to charge for that.

Q: I love that you do both color and black and gray tattoos. It looks awesome if you mix both techniques in one tattoo design. The colored parts really give that cool contrast and give the whole tattoo a nice vibrant look. Do you suggest your clients some ideas when it comes to color choice, placement etc?
A: I've been thinking about changing my style lately, adding more colors to my work. I've always leaned towards graphic rather than realistic when it comes to colors, so I'm sort of torn between sticking with what I know and trying something new. Plus, most of my clients usually ask for black and gray, or black and red, so I gotta push myself to find that balance.

Q: You can not afford any mistake in tattoo realism. Maybe some little parts to cover up later, maybe... Seriously, what are the most challenging, time consuming details to work on while doing a portrait tattoo?
A: The tough parts are definitely the eyes, nose, and mouth. They're like the heart and soul of a portrait, you know? That's where all the magic happens :)

Q: The longest session? How did you guys keep each other hyped and strong?
A: As long as my clients are able to handle a long session, 10 minute breaks between hours will be enough for me to clear my mind, as I know myself after the fifth hour, I start feeling pretty drained, so those breaks are a lifesaver. And if my clients start to struggle, I always suggest they do something to keep busy like reading, talking, or watching a movie etc. Even warming themselves with hot drinks might help because our body gets into shock after such a long traumatizing session and we start feeling cold and sensitive.

Q: Talking about long sessions... We often think about the person getting a tattoo, but what about the artist? What is the ultimate no no when it comes to tattooing for long hours?
A: My longest session was, maybe nine hours of needle, but only once, during my visit as a guest artist.. Most of the time I'm trying to book an extra half session or even a full day, just to not get into over work situation.

Q: Where are you located? Please write your email, socials, studio location and your availability for bookings.
A: Currently I'm working at "Gida Tattoo Gallery" in Tel Aviv city st.lilinblum 25, Israel. I also travel to other places around the world but not too often, you can reach me out by DM on my Instagram @jeka_s_tattoo or Email I'm not that busy, month or two ahead.

Q: What do you like the most about being a tattoo artist?
A: To create and leave my signature as a jewelry on people's body, to meet clients of all kinds and to hear their life stories, that's amazing.

Q: If you were starting today, what would you do differently?
A: I'd change two things: I'd focus on improving my artistic skills before diving into the tattoo industry. and, I'd seek out opportunities to learn directly from experienced professional artists, it could have saved me a lot of time.