Interview with tattoo artist Jeremy Bertin

 Hello Jeremy Bertin! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. Please start by telling us something about yourself and your background. How did you discover your talent for arts? Were you like an artistic kid? When I was a child, I really liked to draw and create things with my hands, but I always considered it a technical learning. Not as something artistic. What is satisfying for me is knowing where I want to go, and understanding the technical path to get there. I no longer wanted to draw on paper, so I was looking for a new way. I discovered tattooing at that point and the idea of using the human body as a support interested me a lot. But above all, I have always liked being given challenges in drawing. Alone, I never knew what to draw, so tattooing brought me projects, with themes, stories to interpret. This is perfect for me.

Q: When did you realize that you want to dedicate your time on this and get serious?
A: I started on my own with a beginner's tattoo kit. My first attempts were on synthetic skins. I didn't like that at all. It was when I tried on real skin that I really understood. Doing tattoos is addictive. Then, I had the chance to watch an artist's work for a while and I loved the atmosphere, the exchange with the client, the noise of the machines. A tattoo shop is an atypical place, and from that moment I wanted to spend my days there.

Q: How long it took you to get clients?
A: I started getting real customers only when I moved into the shop, 3 years after my first attempts on synthetic skins. Many people quickly trusted me, and after that it became exponential.

Q: Tattooing is not an easy job, even for the super talented who can draw really good on paper but mastering the tattoo skills takes time. Do you agree?
A: I don't think tattooing is more difficult than any other artistic practice. Of course there are stressful constraints, linked to the body and the fact that we cannot erase. But I think it's mostly a matter of sensitivity. Some people are more comfortable with pencils or brushes, according to me, nothing fits as well as the needles on the skin. For the rest, it is an apprenticeship like any other, with fundamentals to be acquired.

Q: Tattoo realism is one of the most popular tattoo style, I'm glad that tattoos are a way more than just a tribal, cross and rose hah remember those? I think we've come a long way. Tattoo realism is a whole new level. What do you like the most about this style?
A: Yes, at first I didn't like tattoos because I only saw the tribal designs and I didn't understand the purpose. Then, I saw japanese tattoos. I started to get interested in them, and then each style seemed like a complete, interesting idea to me. Realism is not for me the most difficult tattoo style. But it has a dimension that is rarely found in other styles. When people can’t take their eyes off the tattoo, then the work is successful. You can achieve realism quite easily by simply reproducing photos. But what interests me is to go beyond this, give life to the project, to bring a soul to the tattoo. This requires interpreting the reference image without trying to reproduce it exactly.

Q: I really like the dark brown tones and the beautiful overall color mix. It makes the final look more vibrant. I bet all look great even when the skin fully heals.
A: Thanks, I like the brown a lot too, that's why I use it. It's a color that naturally lays on the skin, and using it with gray allows me to work on hot and cold color to accentuate a depth effect in the tattoo. It is very important to know your colors well. You have to take the time to choose them well, and above all to understand how each ink ages and arises in relation to the others. Creating your own color palette is a job that takes time. The brown tones that I use don’t all age the same way, some end up more colorful than others. So I try to play with this effect, to accentuate shapes and volumes.

Q: It is tough for those who want a cover up, do you do cover ups?
A: I only do very few cover-ups, because I like to play on the light in my projects and therefore I have a lot of clear areas.

Q: Tell me a bit about the creative part... Do you use reference images? Do you draw some sketches before the session?
A: I always use photographs for reference. I love working on photo montages or image editing. The most important thing is to choose your references carefully and to know how to place and size them according to the area to be tattooed. I sometimes work freehand, but only for effects that surround the main subjects.

Q: I bet to be creative and talented at the same time is a huge blessing. There's always something new that will come up as an idea and if one can actually make something out of it, either a tattoo, graffiti or a painting... Wow! I guess each of us want that... Do you agree? Do you have a favorite tattoo that you consider as a creative highlight?
A: I don't think that I'm very creative. I see myself more as a technician, I like to observe and analyze things. In my work, it is the technique that fascinates me the most. That’s how I work for all the things I do, I break down and work point by point to achieve perfection. My creativity lies rather in my ability to work according to my desires, as for my color palette. I dare to try things once the idea is planned, and that allows me to have originality. When it comes to tattoos, creativity always depends on the freedom that each client gives us.

Q: Do you plan to stick to tattoo realism or maybe you will try something completely different in the feature?
A: I am not attached to realism, currently it is the area in which I flourish the most, but there is a good possibility that this will change over time. However, I don't think I'll specialize later in something completely different. Let's say that I intend to evolve my realism, maybe direct it towards neotrad for example. But I will wait for it to come naturally.

Q: So many clients and hard work, something is hard to be creative every day especially in a job like this, when clients expect only the best from you since you're giving them a lifetime gift, how hard is really to keep up with a busy schedule? What do you do when you lack inspiration?
A: In general for me, the inspiration is not there when the client has a specific request. Sometimes it's complicated, but often my clients trust me and agree to follow some of my advices. Otherwise, I have already canceled projects. I think you shouldn't always force things, it's important to have a good feeling for a good tattoo. If it doesn't fit, it doesn't matter. I therefore cancel the projects in this case, and I send people to other artists who may be able to respond better than me.

Q: What are some of the best experiences with the clients? How much their support really means to you and keeps you motivated?
A: Any experience is good to take, each person is different and it is always interesting to have to adapt. Sometimes, we find ourselves having a great feeling with the client and it becomes a very good memory. For example, I remember a client at a convention. While talking, we realized that we had grown up in the same place and that we had been to the same high school during the same years. It's quite funny to think that we met several times when we were young, and that years later he chose me to make a big tattoo near his heart. Customer support really makes me want to give my best. But I'm also careful not to rely on it, I want to express aesthetically and not only seek for positive feedback. I don’t want to get stuck in what I’m good at and no longer take risks.

Q: Do you have any interesting hobbies like painting or digital art?
A: I have a lot, but with tattooing I don't have much time for myself. Maybe one day I will manage to take the time for painting. I would really like to learn oil painting. Otherwise photography interests me a lot, because it teaches you to see the environment and how to capture the moment.

Q: What's your opinion about the tattoo scene in France? Do you see progress?
A: The French tattoo is in a good phase I think. There are now plenty of new artists (including myself) who manage to stand out and influence. It completes the offer of the elders who have more hindsight on their practice. When the exchange takes place between these generations, it is really interesting and promises quality. Nevertheless, I would like the profession to be more recognized by the State. And above all, this European restriction on inks is an aberration which may get tattooing back to the marginal state it used to be.

Q: Any advice for the new artists?
A: I see a lot of neophytes telling me that they would like to be a tattoo artist specializing in realism. I don't understand this approach, for me you have to like the tattoo as a whole and accept any kind of project. Style comes to us over time. It is important to love what you do and to have fun. I didn't expect to be realistic at all. To progress, you have to break down the practice to the extreme, focus for a while on the line, the filling, the notion of contrast, the placement in relation to the body, the idea of movement, etc... each step can be deepened to become a specialty and an art of its own. It is by working on all these points that we build a solid base of several fundamentals, which then allows us to have great creative freedom. Do not hesitate to write notes in a notebook reserved for tattooing. It is always beneficial to read it again from time to time.