I’ve met Luca Ortis at the London Tattoo Convention some years ago, and we have a friend in common: Ichi Hatano. Luca build up his skills working at the legendary New Wave Tattoo, London shop well known between Punks, Skins & subculture’s aficionados from the end of the seventies. Luca’s works can be described as bold and simple, his tattoos respect Japanese classic ukiyo-e style, his background are personal and recognizable. Luca is a kind colleague, his works reflect his passion for tattooing, here we go with the questions…
When and how did you get started in tattooing?
I was travelling a lot and kept meeting people who were tattooed or did a bit of tattooing. I started becoming intrigued. When I was in India and met a Swiss guy who told me Filip Leu was in Manali in the mountains and I went looking for him to get tattooed. I didn’t actually manage to find him. Then when I saw his work in magazines, I was really fascinated. After that it was a series of lucky coincidences and some determination, thanks to which I ended up working first in a really bad shop and slowly worked my way up into Lal Hardy’s New Wave Tattoo. That was really the beginning of the learning curve. Working alongside a real old school tattooer.
How long did it take to get the first proper results?
I think it was a good six years before I really started on the right path. But in many ways it took longer than that, maybe ten years to really feel like I was working with a language I understood.
Do you consider painting a part of your learning process? Tell me about your drawing and painting routine…
I use to paint very little and always found it frustrating. But in the last few years I paint a lot more regularly and it has been so central to making progress in my tattooing. Now usually I sketch the piece for a tattoo so I can work out want I want to do and then I freehand it on the client.
Often I will then start a painting from those same sketches and I end up with a finished piece that helps me navigate the rest of the tattoo sessions. It’s a great way to consider how much black and what colours to use.
Before you’ve started tattooing were you involved in any subculture (punk, dark, metal, rock and roll, rap)?
Not really, but I was into skateboarding when I was really young and I think I was always more into the graphics and visual aspect of it than the actual skateboarding part!
If you have would to pick three tattoo artists that inspire your work who would you mention and why?
Horiuno, Horihide Yokosuk, and Ivan Szazi.
Since you have started, how do you think the business has evolved?
I feel like saying that it’s completely different and yet totally the same. People say it’s become very corporate and a corporate attitude and involvement certainly has massively grown but it’s still full of characters and madness so it hasn’t bored me yet. The people who have passion and dedication still come through the ranks.
Machines (rotary or coil), Tebori (hand tools) or both? What’s your choice? Why?
I started with coil machines but have only worked with rotaries for many years. I like the silence and I like light machines. Tebori is fascinating and something I always feel I’m going to experiment with soon but haven’t yet.
Can you list a Top five of your favorite visual Artists of all eras? What is attractive of their work in your opinion?
Anselm Kiefer is my top one. The work is just so epic; I love it. Caravaggio because of the strong contrasts of light and dark. Like in a good background in Japanese tattooing. Early Damien Hirst because those pieces were provocative, groundbreaking and beautiful. The Arte Povera movement and especially Giuseppe Penone. Again because it was all so groundbreaking and conceptual but still managed to create beautiful things you can relate to on a sensual level. Joseph Beuys because he said everyone can be an artist.
How do you feel about the “ban” of tattooing in Japan?
It’s obviously ridiculous and I’m not sure what the motivations might be. I’m not sure it will ever really be enforced. I really hope for all the people who have chosen to make tattooing their livelihood in Japan that they will be able to continue doing so.
What’s the most challenging subject for you and why?
Always figures. They are harder to draw with the right proportions, the clothing is complex and the patterns have meaning, so there are many things that could go wrong.