Robert Borbàs: Somewhere Between Illustration and Tattoo

Dürer, Budapest, Alchemy, black, illustration: these are the key words of this interview with Robert Borbàs.

Discover more through this extract from the interview by Margherita Baleni on this issue of Tattoo Energy and look at our gallery to find out his beautiful tattoos!

Hi Robert! Let’s begin this interview with you introducing yourself to our readers…
Hey everyone! First of all thanks for the great opportunity! I’m Robert Borbas aka. Grinding. I live and work in Budapest in my own shop, Rooklet Ink. I have been tattooing for a fair 3 and a half to 4 years. I started with animation at MOME- University of Contemporary Art then after finishing it I started my freelance illustrator journey in 2010 and worked for several bands such as Kreator, Metallica, Aborted, Suicide Silence, Bring Me The Horizon, Caliban, All Shall Perish and a tons of other amazing bands and brands. Around the end of summer in 2012 I got into tattooing thanks to my master, Zsolt Sárközi, who helped me a lot along with the amazing and legendary Dark Art Tattoo crew in Budapest. And now I have the honour of talking to you guys!

You were a well known professional illustrator, as Grindesign, before you started to be a tattooist. Is it this the background you come from?
Not just this. I studied animation as well and that helped me a lot.

How was that?
For example, flow and motion, dynamics in drawing, and so on. Before that I was studying in a catholic school and although I despise any kind of organised religious churches and views in general I spent some of the best years of my life and met some of the best people in my life there. I have been drawing since my childhood. Whenever I had the chance I was always drawing. I took some extra lessons after school and tried to prepare myself for university. Luckily everything went well and right after high school I went on to study animation. Then I ended up in graphic design and illustration and now here we are talking about tattooing.

Robert Borbas, Rooklet Ink, Budapest, Hungary
Robert Borbas, Rooklet Ink, Budapest, Hungary

The style you use in your tattoo art is very similar to the old illustrations, drawn in indian ink: there’s a lot of detail, thin lines, and subjects that seem to come out of medieval alchemy tomes. Would you like to explain us how you transferred your illustration experience to tattooing?
The first and most important thing from a technical point of view was the usage of lines and line weight. I tried out a lot of different styles, just to experience every possible aspect of tattooing. After a while when I thought I had the technical base in tattooing I tried to apply my linework and imagery to skin. I was always attracted to old medieval and Renaissance etchings and illustrations. Also some of my all time fave artists were outstanding in what they did, like Gustav Doré or Albrecht Dürer.

This helped me to push my limits and try to execute it on skin so it would last a lifetime, but still making it detailed and unique.

Ideas from my clients are a great help, trying to see their point of view when they come to get a tattoo. I try to satisfy the requests that I like and every one is a new challenge. I’m still learning a lot and changing my methods, especially now that I’m finally able to check out 2-3 year-old tattoos and learn from how they’ve aged. I still try to figure out the perfect balance between details and the raw power of the tattoo. For me at the moment this is what matters the most: how strong and effective a tattoo is, even after years.

Instagram: @grindesign