Henrick has been tattooing for 22 years now and has focused on Japanese style with a very special and original take. Read this interview and discover more about this amazing French artist and his new eBook.
Hi Henrik, would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is Henrik Grysbjerg, I’m a French tattoo artist specialised in large scale tattoo, working Near Toulouse, in the south of France.
When did you start tattooing and how would you define your style?
I started pretty young. I’ve been tattooing for 22 years now. I learned by myself, and immediately discovered my interest in Japanese design. I was fascinated by large Japanese bodysuits, especially because of dynamic large-scale subject matter. I like the way large tattoos have really big visual impact with fine details when you look at them more closely. My travels and the people I met, especially in North America, inspired me in a big way and I started to develop a serious interest in illustrative color composition with big perspective effect. Then I worked hard on academic drawing, light, perspective and chromatic rules.
So if I have to categorise my work, I would say it’s a Japanese/Oriental universe mixed with illustrative effects.
Has it changed over time?
Yes, a lot! And I hope it won’t stop. In my opinion it’s very important to carry on studying and trying new things. I don’t like the idea of always doing the same thing. I started with Japanese in a traditional way. After a few years i decided to work more realistic subject matters with perspective and light effects. I’ve been working a lot on lights over the past few years. I understood that the most difficult point in large tattoos is to simplify composition, I think a big subject matter with nice perspective, light and strong contrast, is far more effective than any complex composition. That’s the way I want to work more in the future.
Is it important for you to also paint and draw, besides tattooing?
It’s the most important thing for a tattoo artist! How could you do this work if you don’t practice drawing and painting? You can learn techniques and then make picture perfect copies. Technique is absolutely fundamental, but no matter how great your mastery of technique and what an awesome performer you are, it won’t help you in terms of creation. Tattoo as an art is the translation of your artistic universe and personality onto the human body.
In my opinion the only way to find your own graphic universe is to study and practice drawing and painting every day.
That’s what I explain every time I speak with young tattooers: if you want to get better and better, you have to practice art more and more.
What are your favourite subjects and techniques?
I love to work a lot of different things as subjects for tattoos, but there are some I appreciate especially such as Hannya, Japanese masks, snakes, women and hands. It’s very different with paintings. It’s always difficult for a tattoo artist to “break habits” and give up their tattoo universe when they do paintings. I am interested in so many different painting mainstreams! I am getting more and mre into modern and abstract painting, which is ultimately the total opposite of my tattoo universe. As regards techniques, I do acrylic, oil, watercolour and digital. Digital tablets are awesome to make studies and basic drawings, and I use mine a lot to work on my tattoo projects, but I do prefer paper and canvas to realise finished colour projects. Digital is interesting as a way to carry out some color test, or a speed painting. I did a live digital painting in a few hours last year, in the Musee du Luxembourg in Paris for the Alphonse Mucha exhibition, and it was an awesome experience. It was an honour for me to do perform in a mythical place like this museum.
Where did the idea of this eBook come from?
I’ve been thinking for a long time of working on a sketchbook, then when Miki Vialetto told me about the ebook project, I was happy to take part in it. This ebook is a reflection of my work. There are a lot of tattoo drawing projects, some originals drawings, colour illustrations and paintings. I’ve always thought that sketches and outlines are the best references to understand subject construction. I thought it would be funny that the layout was like a colouring book, because I’ve seen my children colouring my outlines copies so many times;)
I hope the readers will appreciate it.
What are your plans for the future?
I will organise some new seminars in my private studio. I will probably take time out to work on different artistic projects I’ve been thinking about for a while, especially paintings. I’m planning to work in the future on a paper book, with more personal works, paintings, and drawing tutorials.