Interview with Raya Yordanova | Evil Tattoo

  Hello! 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 art training or you are a self taught artist? Thank you so much for having me! It’s a pleasure for me! I’ve been interested in art since a young age. My great grandmother was an artist so I guess I got my talent from her. I studied art only in elementary school, then decided to pursue programming which didn’t last long, only one year. After I graduated, I applied for the National Academy of Arts in Sofia, but I wasn't accepted. I started working as a waitress at the age of 17 and this continued for 5 years. I spontaneously went to London when I was 19 and stayed for two years. There I graduated Graphic design in college (worked freelance for a few years beside the waitressing but it wasn’t interesting enough for me) and did 5 art exhibitions.

I came back to Bulgaria as spontaneously as I left. I was supposed to come back only for three days, but it was exactly when the first lockdown happened, in 2020. And here I am, four years later, still in Bulgaria. For those four years I went to live on the seaside for a year and started studying psychology, but this as well I didn’t exactly feel as my thing with all the statistics included. Until two years ago when I found my passion in tattooing and haven’t stopped since then. There is so much more to talk about as I also love travelling and I do art beside tattooing, and am fond of art therapies, but you can read more on those topics on my website if you are interested: www.ryartistblog.com

Q: What got you interested in tattoo art? Did you feel inspired by someone?
A: My best friend is the main reason for me getting into tattooing. We’ve been looking at and talking about tattoos since we were 10 or 12. I think that the tattooist I’ve known the longest is Valentina Riabova, we both admire her. Me and my best friend got our first tattoos together when we were only 15 (don’t ask how). Since then she has been pushing me toward tattooing as she knows how much I love art. Two years ago she got me to my first tattoo convention in Sofia where I found mentorship and signed right away. Since then I’ve been tattooing almost every day and I can’t imagine how I didn’t started earlier. Currently I am inspired by many great artists like Rich Harris, Daria Pirojenko, Waler Montero, Natasha Animal Tattooer and many many more. I am also inspired by traditional artists like Salvador Dali and Jean Michel Basquiat. Knowing that I am still in the beginning of my career and imagining to reach their level of mastery gives me so much motivation.

Q: How it all started?
A: Year before my mentorship I got my first rotary machine. I did only a few strokes on some very cheap fake skin and straight away I did a few tattoos on myself… on my fingers and wrist. And they turned out decent for first ones without practice. Plus the finger tattoos are still visible. A few months later I decided to get another one, this time a pen machine. I did probably 10-15 tattoos on friends. I haven’t really practised on fake skin back then. I wanted to feel the new medium as I see it exactly in this way. It is another art medium that needs to be understood.

- Was it hard to learn the basics? Did anyone help you?
I think that the basics with the small tattoos and lines are the hardest ones. I didn't like them and I still don’t. I got away from them very quickly and started doing realism. The mentorship program I got into helped me a lot. I wouldn’t have progressed so quickly if I wasn’t there. I started practising a lot on fake skin there, also got back to some anatomy lessons and drawings, and my mentor, Tony Georgiev, was very motivating! After I finished the program he offered me to work with him. It was a no brainer. I am still working with him and he did his first collaboration with me! Now we go to conventions together.

Q: I guess you tried a couple of styles as a beginner, and that is why you current style is an interesting mix of many styles. Very nice. How would you call your style?
A: Thank you! Well, I’m not really sure how to call it. I guess it is a reflection of my art. There I experiment a lot with mixed media and I try to implement it in my designs. Actually to be honest, I don’t really try, it is just what happens when I start drawing the designs. It is the nature of my art - I do it intuitively and at some point the meaning comes, or it doesn’t, but anyways it is a reflection of me.

Q: Do you have any favorite designs to tattoo?
A: Yes! I love doing my wanna do designs. They usually include a portrait, colorful abstracts all around and a quote, that is kinda in the style of trash polka.

Q: Talking about the creative part, we all want something unique, but some people have some weird requests and expectations. Have you ever refused to do a certain design?
A: I’m up for the weird stuff (and hard cover ups)! I’ve refused mainly commercial designs, crosses and angels - because I don’t like them and clients wanting them exactly the same as another tattoo; and fine line tattoos - because they are far away from my abilities and style.

Q: I like that you are tattooing both black and gray and full color. Which technique do you like the most and why?
A: I like both and I don’t think I’ll stop doing both of them because it is a way to diversify. In black and gray tattoos I have to be more careful with the tones and shading, because there’s no going back. In color tattoos I go more intuitively with the process and color mixing, so I guess it is more my thing. But always there are weeks where I do only color and I wish to do something in black and gray, and vice versa. I like having variety as it is what keeps my creativity and muse coming.

Q: I bet as a young female artist you attract a lot of attention since this field was "occupied" by mostly male artists in the past. How do you feel about women becoming a part of the global tattoo scene?
A: I still think that there are more men than women in the tattoo industry, especially when it comes to big tattoo projects. The most attention I get is during conventions because I look just like a little girl doing a bigger project than her, but I like it and I’m proud of it.

Q: How important is to have a good energy during the sessions, especially the long ones? I've heard, sometimes, people open up about some personal stuff and what their tattoo means to them etc.
A: Yes, the good energy and communication skills are very important during sessions. I think I got a lot of practice for this with waitressing hahah. I also think it is very important to know how to comfort your clients. My sessions are usually six - seven hours long and at the end we are both tired, and the pain has been building up. What I do is take regular breaks, we both take snacks and lunch, and I often ask questions to ensure everything is okay. And yes, apparently pain makes people open up about their personal life and problems. But hey - I also almost got a psychology degree! It often happens to get deeper into a topic with client and it feels like a real therapy session. And of course, there are days that I’m not feeling the best. I am more quiet during those days but I still try my best to comfort my clients and give them a great experience.

Q: Any funny experiences with your clients?
A: Yes! The latest one and most memorable was at Thessaloniki Tattoo Convention last year. It was the third day and I had very little time left to finish the tattoo. Both me and my client haven’t eaten for a long time, weren’t making breaks so I can finish on time. There was a lot of pressure and a lot of emotions. During the last half an hour I made a grimace because I had hair in my mouth, I tried pushing it away with my tongue which didn’t work from where my client starts laughing uncontrollably! From there I also start laughing with tears. We both can’t stop while we know we don’t have time for this but we just can’t control it. From there I start joking that my hair is the only thing I’ve been eating for the last six hours and it gets even worse. We laugh so hard my stomach hurts and I can’t see from tears! I have no idea how I managed to finish it on time.

Q: How much their trust means to you? Let's not forget you are "marking" them for life.
A: It means so much to me! Especially when clients come to me for my style or give me full artistic freedom. I still can’t believe this is happening and people thrust me so much and like my style. Exactly because the tattoo will stay with them all their life. I am extremely grateful!

Q: What do you like the most about being a tattoo artist? Do you still have the same enthusiasm?
A: I like that I am doing art every day. I've always dreamed of this. On one side with paintings I will always have more freedom and they will be the exact reflection of me as I usually draw intuitively. But with tattoos on the other side it is elevated on another level. The art I do is on people’s bodies and it means so much to them and they will carry it until the end. It is still so surreal for me. I feel that I have more and more enthusiasm every day! I know how much more is about to come and I can’t get enough!

Q: Where are you located?
A: I am located in Sofia, Bulgaria. Currently I work at Ink emperor studio. You can contact me with a direct message on my instagram - @evil.tattoo.ry, facebook - Raya Yordanova Tattoo, or email me at evil.tattoo.booking@gmail.com I am also interested in going for guest artist outside Bulgaria and I hope it will happen soon, so I can spread my art even more.

Q: A few words for those who want to try getting into professional tattooing?
A: Well, we all know the best formula - draw, draw and draw. But besides that, for anyone that is still wondering if they want to start tattooing - just do it! There is no way to know how it will be until you do it. For anyone that just started tattooing - draw even more and keep practising every day! For the ones that are trying to find their style - experiment! Especially with drawing - try intuitive art, don’t think and what is truly yours will come out. Then experiment more. And don’t forget to draw ;)