Let’s meet El Chanok and discover his own personal interpretation of the Traditional style… with a touch of Punk.
Hi Chanok, how would you like to introduce yourself to Tattoo Life?
Hi, first of all, thank you for the interview. I’m originally from Mexico City and I started tattooing there in the mid-90’s. In 1999 I travelled to Spain and decided to move there for the last 20 years. It’s just been a few months that I moved back to Mexico.
What is your background and what about your story in the world of tattooing?
When I started, I didn’t know anything about tattoos. I had seen it done and thought I could do it too since I new how to draw.
In those days the tattoo designs and tattoo reference I had access to, were very limited.
A lot of the Punk Iconography that we used came from the blue Tattoo Time (Music & Sea Tattoos). We copied designs out of the few magazines we could get, gangster stuff too “street style”, images of the Virgin, skulls, etc. After some time, Huck Spaulding’s book “Tattooing from A to Z” fell into our hands. Having that, along with Huck’s flash catalogue, without a doubt helped us understand tattoo iconography as well as how to solder needles well (or at least better than before)!
Getting books, colors, or even just some good advice was very difficult back then but conventions started happening in Mexico and that began to open things up. That’s when we could meet other artists, watch them work, get tattooed and buy supplies.
Have you always wanted to be a tattoo artist?
Well I would have loved to become a musician.
But it was through music, that I discovered tattooing, I don’t regret it!
Your style defies any definition. How would you describe it?
That’s a bit difficult because it’s not “traditional” but that is the style I have taken most from. But really I just like to mix things up, everything is invented already so I just make my own version using references that I like.
In your tattoos I find a mix of Traditional, folklore, comics, pop culture: where do you find inspiration and how are your works born?
I’m still changing, learning, and I don’t limit myself to tattoo imagery for my designs. That wasn’t the case when I started though. It was mainly Black and Grey: portraits, women and pre-columbian “stone” images. I wasn’t too involved with traditional style until I moved to Spain. Coincidentally other emerging tattooers over there were also beginning to be influenced by old-school tattooing and the work coming out of the USA. That was when I started to make my own interpretations of traditional work and the beginning of what I do today.
So where are you living now and what is the tattoo scene like there now?
It’s just been a few months that I’ve moved back to Mexico. There are so many artists now and new shops. The scene has completely changed from when I was here before, so many young artists making incredible things. But on the one hand I see a boom in creativity and on the other I see a visual stagnation globally.
You can be on a beach in Mexico or on a terrace in Copenhagen and you can see the same tattoos. It’s a bit sad how popular tattooing has become. But back to your question, I am also happy to see the scene grow and all the different styles. Before you would have to travel, sometimes to a different city to get a nice tattoo. But now in any city across Mexico you can get nice work.
Who are some of the artists and tattooers you consider your reference?
Jack Rudy, Greg Irons, Ed Hardy, Freddy Corbin, and Dave Lum to name a few. And of my contemporaries, Rudy Fritch, Monga, Doktor Lakra, and many more. Magazines helped us a lot in many aspects. I used to love to see Jack Rudy and Brian Everett’s shading. I worked a lot with different flash and sketchbooks, I wish I still had that Eddy Deutsche stuff. When I got to Madrid we worked a lot with Mauricio Teodoro’s flash. It was much fun to do his designs. I’m lucky enough to have basically done all of them! Outside of tattooing I really like Desmond Morris, Victor Brauner, the cartoons of Saul Steinberg, but also ancient art, pop and folk art make for great reference.
What about your typical client?
I have lots of clients who basically say “do what you want”! That is something that has no price! But I tattoo all types of different people like any other tattooer. I do get a lot of musicians though, bar tenders, people of the nightlife and tattooers as well. But back to your previous question as for the scene in my city, I have lots of clients who are also incredible tattooers!
What are your plans for the future?
I love doing guest spots with my friends and eventually in new places. So for now keep travelling and exploring the world. I want to keep making collaborations with musicians, other artists, clothing brands, beer and mezcal brands or any other product where people would like to use my designs.
Is there anything you want to add before saying goodbye?
Thank you for still making Tattoo Life!