exclusive interview with jerry magni | tattoos & digital art 19/11/2014

Hello Jerry Magni! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions for our readers. It's a great honor to have the chance to share some of my thoughts with you. You're well know artist around the globe, who is not only professional and 100% dedicated, but you also have your own unique style. So impressive... To be honest, I'm a huge fan of your color tattoos combined with some surrealistic note in almost every design. Let's start with some basic info...

Q: Since when the fascination for tattoo art first began? Did you attend an art school?
A: Those who tattoo and those who have tattoos know how much children are attracted to this art form, and I was no different from other children. Even though there wasn't any tattoo culture in Italy before the mid-90s, so seeing one was very rare and when you did see one it was often a terrible tattoo, but because of their rarity you can imagine how fascinating they were for a child of the 70s like me.

Then, from the age of 14, when for the first time I injected ink under my skin with a sewing needle, my life has always had something to do with tattoos in one way or another. Initially, I did them in a rudimentary and totally irresponsible way, how only a teenager can be. I tattooed (what I was doing was actually rubbish) friends and acquaintances who asked me to. I know it's disgraceful but at that time, because of our young age and total lack of information on the subject, it all seemed like a game to us.

In 1986 I enrolled in Scuola del Fumetto di Milano (Milan School of Comics) graduating in 1990, and in the eyes of friends and acquaintances that became a sort of passport to carry on doing rubbish tattoos on their skin. During my military service I became a sort of official tattoo artist of the barracks. Back to real life I focused on my activity of comic artist and illustrator and in the mid-90s, coinciding with the rise of interest in tattoos in Italy, I started tattooing professionally but it was mostly a marginal activity compared to the one of comic artist and illustrator, and later also of web designer. Until the end of 2005, when I decided to turn tattoos into my main activity and to make up for lost time. Since then I have tried and are still trying to deepen as much as possible my culture and knowledge on the subject.

Q: Do you have any influences?
A: Considering my educational and professional background, comics and illustration are high on the list of my influences, it's my artistic imprinting. I usually create images in my mind while listening to clients' stories. After visualizing the elements and composition I do a rough sketch to memorize everything and go in search of images having the lights and the atmosphere that I have in mind for that work or I consult anatomy books to clarify a particular body position. Other times it happens that I become infatuated with the style of a particular comic artist or illustrator so I consult his work to put some of that style into my next piece.

 Q: What your friends and family thought about you getting into the world of tattooing?
A: When I tattooed as a kid everything was a big secret, it was a secret between me and the "client". We were stupid irresponsible kids but smart enough to know that if our parents had found out we would have spent an ugly quarter of an hour.
Later on, when I started tattooing professionally the only concern, particularly for my parents, was that I made sure I worked safely. They didn't exactly know how things worked but they knew there was a potential exposure to blood involved and this obviously concerned them. But apart from this initial apprehension I have always had the support of everyone around me.

Q: Something that I find really creative about your art is the fact that you don't copy any tattoo that has already been done on a client. How do you manage that? Is it hard to be constantly creative, let's just mention the fact that you're full-time artist?
A: I think it's fundamental that everyone has a unique tattoo, because each and every one of us is unique. School has taught me the methods, and working for many years as a comic artist and illustrator has definitely been a great training. Having to tell stories through images will inevitably lead to the development of one's creativity.

There obviously are projects that are more challenging than others, and generally those are the projects where the client doesn't have a clear idea of what he wants. In that case, I make sure that the client's confusion doesn't involve me, I proceed methodically and generally I am able to find solutions even for the most confused clients. When on the other hand I can not immediately find an idea, I always ask the client to leave their contact details because I know that sometimes inspiration comes when you least expect it. I find the creative phase to be one of the most stimulating aspects of my job and when you do something exciting you don't feel tired at all.

Q: Color tattoos are most eye-catching designs in your portfolio. I love them all, there is always some surrealistic note in each of them. Would you say that this kind of style is your personal style, something that can define you as an artist?
A: You're not the first person who tells me he/she sees some surrealism in my work. I honestly don't know if this can define me as an artist. What I try to do is create meaningful images that appeal to me and the client. Obviously, sometimes it happens that due to the choice of lighting and composition everything is somewhat dreamlike and surreal, and I love it. I don't do it on purpose and I don't have a particular method, it's my subconscious that's doing it for me :D

Q: You're also an excellent illustrator. Would you say that drawing skills play a big role in becoming a good tattoo artist?
A: Absolutely. I find it inconceivable that even today there are people who think they can tattoo without knowing how to draw. In my opinion tattoos are by all means a figurative art. One can make figurative art without having any artistic training of course, but unless one is a gifted prodigy, I doubt that it can be qualitatively and aesthetically acceptable, whatever stylistic path one chooses to take. By art I mean the process that involves creating something that didn't exist before, if you copy and paste an image or picture in my opinion it has little to do with art, it just becomes a technical thing. Obviously, the ability to draw and one's taste are built with years of experience and continuous study. Sitting at the table with a sheet of paper and a pencil is not enough to be an artist. My method of working involves a personal vision, the creation of a unique image, so my ability to draw does not play A role, it's the whole f*****g role ;)

Q: You have published two books, featuring some of the best illustrations... What was the basic goal?
A: The first one, Segni di Pelle (Skin Marks) in 1995, which I think was the first book of its kind in Italy. It offered 550 designs for tattoos, with the naivety of my age at that time and of the 90s (half of the book was made up of tribals). The intent was to offer something better than what I was seeing on tattoo magazines (which I only later found out to be old school/traditional). Today, I would do it in a totally different way.

The second one, Triskell, in 1998. It offered 220 reinterpretations and personal interpretations of the ancient black and white symbol. From 1996 to 2003 I collaborated with the magazine Idea Tattoo that every month published hundreds of basic or ready-to-use ideas for tattoo artists. For that magazine I was doing an average of 300 flash per month (another useful exercise for my creativity), over the years they become 17'000 and lately I have grouped them into 4 CDs divided by topic, copies of which are still available on my website. Finally, In 2011, without relying on any publisher, I published a sketchbook in 100 copies, a few copies of which are also still available on my website. These works didn't have any particular goal other than to share and spread my passion, my work, meet a market demand that at the time didn't have any offers in Italy, and why not, pay my bills :)

Q: After so many years working aboard with so many clients, you now own your shop, tell me more about the shop. You can also tell us how we can get an appointment, what's the procedure?
A: I opened my street shop in late 2005 and decided to close it in 2010 to open a studio where I work by appointment only, finding it more congenial to the way I work. Sure, I miss the atmosphere of a street shop a little, with the constant coming and going of different kinds of humanity, but tattooing is an experience and a choice which in my opinion should take place in a calm and relaxed environment. Working alone and dedicating myself to one client at a time allows me to focus better and gives the client a much more fulfilling experience.

The studio is right in front of my house, small but cozy and well organized, nothing gothic, ethnic or eccentric. White walls, a huge drawing table, a small library with the books I consult more often (anatomy, light, color, art) and a drawer where I keep my drawings and drawing tools. A glass wall separates this area from the "operating room". On the walls there are some of my paintings.

The process to get an appointment is pretty simple:
Every Monday I offer consultancy by appointment from 15:00 to 19:30 to discuss projects with clients, for those who live far from the studio I offer the same service via video chat on Skype (jerrymagni).

To contact me one only needs to fill in the form on my website:
http://www.jerrymagni.com/wp/en/contact / or send me an email at: info@jerrymagni.com
Given the proximity to my house, I prefer to avoid more direct contacts for initial communications.

Q: The best and the "worst" part of being a tattoo artist?
A: Actually, for me there isn't a worst part, there are rather a number of situations that arise along the way and need to be managed, but in my opinion there isn't a particular thing that represents the worst. To give kids an idea of this job one would need a book.