interview with Nikolay Mertsalov | tattoo style | russia | 18/08/2019


Hello Nikolay Mertsalov! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions for our readers. It's a pleasure to exchange some of my thoughts with you. I've seen many cool tattoos in your portfolio, from crazy portraits to beautiful black and gray fantasy motives, very creative. That tells me that talented artist can basically do any style and be good at it. I hope we will inspire the people out there with our conversation and maybe some will get into this business too.

Q: How long have you been tattooing? How hard was to learn the basics skills? Anyone helped you?
A: The first time I got my hands on a tattoo machine was back in 1999. I just turned 14. It was for God’s sake a piece of equipment put together from an old electrical shaver. It looked and worked like a piece of shit but it was enough to make a 14 year old me happy. At that time in Russia it was very hard to find any information about tattooing. I had to learn the basics through trial and error. It wasn’t easy.

Q: What kept you motivated during the process? We all know that every beginning is hard.
A: I started drawing very early. My father, an exceptional artist, was my teacher and my biggest inspiration.

Q: How much time took you to gain confidence in your work? Who were some of the first clients?
A: My first tattoo I did on my own leg. Shortly after I tattooed on most of my friends and relatives. There were long periods of time when I wasn’t tattooing. These gaps were slowing down my progress. Becoming an artist was a long and difficult journey for me. It took me about 9 years to understand that my work is worth something. In 2008 I started my professional career as a tattoo artist. In 2012 I opened my own tattoo studio “Under the Skin Tattoo Shop”. I work there to this day.

Q: I really love your portrait tattoos, especially the color ones. How much is important to have knowledge in the ink brand or just in general when it comes to tattooing, not just while tattooing but even after the tattoo fully heals, the application of ink and its specifics must be a big part?
A: Oh, thanks a lot. After all it doesn’t matter which brand of ink or equipment you are working with. What is important is that it is a certified product, everything else is solely your preference. If you take this into account and use the equipment correctly, then you will be happy with the results.

Q: What are some of the most challenging parts to work on while doing a portrait tattoo?
A: When creating a portrait you have to keep in mind a lot of things. First thing to remember is resemblance. It can be achieved through constructing the form, the ratio of light and shadowing, and ultimately the detailing is important. The problem with most artists is that they dig too much into the detailing while ignoring the basics but it does not work like that.

Q: The Beavis and Butthead tattoos! Oh Haha! Probably my favorite! So funny!
A: I have a lot of interesting projects that I would like to do. Regarding the portraits I would like to do my favorite characters from the 90’s movies: almost every character is a legend.

- Who came up with the idea?
Oh! This is perhaps my favorite tattoo! I am a fan of Beavis and Butthead since childhood - it was impossible to drive me away from the TV! My parents just hated them! The idea was mine and I dreamed of doing this tattoo and found the same crazy guy like me for this project. I was pleasantly surprised that they are still remembered and loved. We took the 2nd place at the International Moscow Convention with this tattoo.

Q: Being constantly busy is hard in every profession. Some people think being a tattoo artist is fun but is it? What are some of the most challenging but rewarding aspects of this job?
A: I thank God that I became a tattoo artist! But being a good tattoo artist is far from easy. In addition to the fact that I spend 7 to 12 hours a day at work in the studio, I also need time to prepare each project. I also want to continue to develop in drawing - because it enhances your skill in tattooing. And of course, communication with customers - it also takes a lot of time. I also have a family and two sons, whom I love very much and give them all my free time. In general, you need to plan your time well and value every minute.

Q: How much is important to be willing to push forward in this job technically and creatively? Would you try like a different type of work some time in the future?
A: Movement is life, and if you are not trying to move forward, then you are not trying to live. I constantly work on myself. I improve my technical skills during tattooing, and when practicing drawing I come up with new ideas and ways to implement them. Another job... no! I’ve invested too much already in who I am today.

Q: Do you travel a lot, like visiting tattoo conventions, expos etc? How much the foreign experience can help in order to grow as an artist? Do you have any favorite artists you look up to?
A: Yes, I started traveling a lot this year and I will say that it’s very useful! First of all, you meet new people and have new experiences. Secondly: guest spots perfectly prepare the artist for tattoo conventions - they create similar stressful situations. At tattoo conventions you become more known and they develop a healthy sense of competition, which positively affects your further creativity and performance.

Q: What is your advice for those who are willing to start tattooing?
A: Believe in yourself, work on yourself, communicate and draw a lot!

Please write down your contact info and studio location.
Nikolay Mertsalov
Saratov, Russia
Under the skin tattoo shop

Mr.Nikolay Mertsalov Thank you so much for the interview.
Kind regards,
The team