Dave Paulo is one of the best tattooists in the world and the passion he has for his art is second to none. In an age where the tattoo industry is overrun by a glut of substandard artists, Dave really is the cream of the crop.
Writer Matt Haddon-Reichardt hopped on a plane and headed to Portugal to get the low down on Dave’s art and why he has social media to thank for his stunning success.
“I have always been connected to art and painting since I was young,” explains Dave as we sip espresso in the back room of his ultra hip studio.
“I used to spend my school breaks in my parent’s basement, drawing, painting and airbrush painting. I painted helmets, cars, motorcycles, fuel tanks and paintings, etc. I loved it. I remember buying tattoo magazines and trying to convince my parents that the “tattoo world”, was what I wanted to pursue. But they didn´t agree, they wanted me to get a college degree, that would provide for my future. So, within the arts, I chose Architecture.”
Unlike most tattoo collectors, Dave didn’t get his first tattoo on a teenage whim. In fact he came to tattooing much later than most.
“I had my first tattoo done when I was 35 years old. While I watched the tattoo artist work, I thought to myself: I can do this. The next week I took a course in hygiene rules and the basics on tattoos. I bought the necessary material, and I started. For one year, during my free time, I learned how to tattoo by myself. I would do two, three tattoos a month, on friends and acquaintances, but I didn´t evolve that much because of the little free time my job allowed me to have.
It was 7 years ago that Dave made the plunge and became fully immersed in tattooing.
“In June 2013, I quit my architecture job, bought my first rotary machine, and dedicated myself 100% to tattoos.”
And thank God he did! Like many Dave is on my hit list of top tattooists I want work from but unfortunately this is a flying visit and I won’t be sitting in the chair and going under his very skilled hands. Dave came to tattooing in an era where social media was revolutionising how the industry works. He feels social media as intrinsic to his success.
“It is changing the industry and a lot. Since the technology is so advanced and the information is so easy to get, many good artists are appearing. Starting 15 years ago was completely different. The new breed of tattoo artist are making the level high and making every artist work hard to keep ahead of the competition, to grow, and keep from falling behind.”
“Since I started 7 years ago, I was raised in this new era. For me social media was a big game changer. Without social media I wouldn’t have as many clients as I have today; specially in other countries. Instagram is a very important tool for a tattoo artist; in my opinion of course.”
Social media has revolutionised how we get tattooed. 20 Years ago I’d have relied on a magazine to discover Dave’s work, now algorithms are what is connecting artist and customer. Tattooing is riding high with more great artists working today than at any other time in its history. Yet some in the trade are whispering that the world has hit peak tattoo and the only way is down from here. Dave does not agree with this doom and gloom pessimism.
“There was a big peak of new artists and crazy achievements in terms of hyper-realistic tattoos or micro realistic tattoos that are very popular nowadays. I think that the industry has been in a peak for the last 5 years and it will continue like this for many years because of social media. I think, and I am speaking from my own experience, that social media and how it’s so easy to show the world your work, made me grow as an artist. Made me want to do different tattoos, to create my own style, to study other art forms, to study other artists so in every tattoo I do I do something different.”
Many in the industry loathe tattoo TV shows but Dave has a positive perspective on what they bring to the industry even though he is not interested in participating himself.
“I like TV shows, like to watch them, but not being part of them. I was once invited by Ink Master to participate but I refused because cameras are not for me. I’m a shy guy and cameras make me nervous. Anyway it was a TV show, Miami Ink, that made me peruse the tattoo industry.
I ask who inspired Dave in the early days.
“Yes there were 4 artists who were my heroes and source of inspiration at the beginning; the first 2 where Led Coult and Dmitry Samohin. It was these artists that after seeing their tattoos made me want to be like the. I was fascinated with their realist skills. The other 2 artists were Timur Lysenko and Buena Vista. They inspired me to do more graphic realistic tattoos.”
As we shake hands and Ipack up my Dictaphone and note pad I ask what Dave has planned for 2020.
“My plans are to continue my growth as an artist in this very competitive industry, learn more and continue my passion for tattoos. Everything will come naturally like it has until now.”
Go and get tattooed by Dave Paulo; he is awesome.
Text by Matt Haddon-Reichardt | Photos Courtesy of Dave Paulo