We are at Black Rainbow Tattoo Theater in Zwickau )Germany) for a chat with Stefan e Mitch. Let’s get to know them better and find out more about their lives and work…
Hi Stefan and Mitch, we are delighted to get the chance to know you better! Can you tell us something about your personal history and the most important steps in your career? From the first time you first got involved in the tattoo scene to the moment you decide dto open a studio together… what happened in between?
Mitch: My name is Michel “Mitch” Schwarzenberger, I’m 31 years old, I’m from Germany and I’ve been tattooing since 2012. I’m a cineast and gamer for my life (laughs). I’m married and have two little boys.The first contact with tattooing was during my school years when I did some internships in a tattoo shop. From that moment on I knew this would be my destiny. After some years jobbing around, I had the chance to realize my dream. I worked in a shop in Zwickau for four years and after that me and my partner Stefan decided to open our own shop in October 2015.
Opening the Black Rainbow Tattoo Theatre was the best decision of my life.
Before that, we were limited in our creativity, but from that moment on we were able to do whatever we wanted.
Stefan: First of all: Thank you for this opportunity and your interest in our work. I was born into a typical German middle class family and my parents always wanted me to do something useful after school…to achieve something . I had good grades and all the opportunities but then my friends made me a present for my 21st birthday. It was a cheap china-coil-machine set from ebay. We were all Punks back in the days and wanted to get tattooed. We needed someone to do this and so my friends decided over my head that I was the lucky one, because in their eyes I was the only person they knew with some artistic skills and I had drawn some tattoo-flashes for my friends before… so how could I say no? That was nearly 11 years ago. It became to me a revival of my passion for drawing and the reason for my desire to improve my abilities as well. The more I dealt with the art of tattooing, the more I realized what huge possibilities and forms of expression this medium offered me.
I fell immediately under its spell and put everything in motion to get every little bit of information about techniques and craft that I could possibly get.
I am self-taught and I believe that I can learn something new from everyone, be inspired and develop myself further through this. At some point, after many home sessions and tons of trial and error, I realized that I wanted to do tattooing really professionally. All or nothing. So I worked a few years in a well-known German studio, where I also met Mitch. The artistic exchange with him has brought me tremendous progress and we are also on the same human level. We noticed relatively quickly that the job we were in at that time did not correspond to our values, our philosophy and our ideas about tattooing. We just weren’t happy with the situation for ourselves and our clients, so we decided to make a difference and shape our future by becoming independent and opening the Black Rainbow Tattoo Theater together.
Let’s talk about your tattoos: how would you define your style?
Mitch: my style is Realistic. I had worked in this style before I ever started tattooing. I’d practiced with some airbrushess before and allways in a realisitc style so I think that shaped my style.
Stefan: I always wanted to do Realism. I like to amaze the beholder and show them what’s possible. I want to catch the emotion shown in a reference or a portrait. Capture the character and transport those feelings connected with it. But I realised that you cannot compare the craft of tattooing with traditional art. I started to focus on the aspect of making my work durable, long lasting, bold. I want to show that this is possible even with Photorealism tattoos. So I decided to master the techniques of a good solid tattoo and put that traditional knowledge into my work. My Tattoos became bigger and more striking, clearer with fewer small details. I use more contrast and free skin and you will recognize that I try to focus on a main motif to create a maximum effect. Like the elephant backpiece – straightforward, minimalistic with not much background – but extremely forceful when you look at it. In most cases I use grayscale, but I also like to work in colour if the motif allows it. I have experimented a lot with different colour levels and multiple layers in recent years, which I achieve in successive sessions after healing. This is how I create maximum saturation and fine, stable colour transitions.
What are your favourite subjects? And the most requested ones?
Mitch: my favourite subjects are definitely movies, series, superheroes, horror, gaming and other nerd stuff. To tattoo projects based on this themes makes me really happy.
Stefan: I feel most comfortable when I can implement a well-aligned portrait. Mostly vintage photographs because they catch a very special, unique atmosphere or tell individual stories. It is even better for me if the portraits come from film classics. As a cineast, I love to use collages to transfer the mood, emotion and message of an independent scene or even an entire film to the viewer without having to know them. The bigger the better. Of course, the clients often like to ask for the classic realistic motifs: animals are always very popular… lions, wolves, ravens…I think because they embody certain traits that we would like to adopt. As a tattoo artist, I just have to be careful not to run out of ideas to reinterpret these motifs again and again.
Is your style still evolving?… And where do you find your inspiration?
Mitch: I think every style is still evolving, there are so many ways to implement tattoos in each style. Whenever you think you’ve seen everything that’s possible in tattooing you just need to open social media and there are twenty new artists you never heard of and it seems they’ve reinvented the tattoo entirely. That’s also the most inspiration and motivation for me.
Stefan: I try to learn something new almost every day, try new things or develop myself further and reflect on my work, myself and my clients. I focus on how I can improve the experience for myself and my customers. How do I master a good collaboration and get the best out of an idea. How do I create a positive atmosphere in which we can all feel comfortable? Large projects in particular take me to new technical challenges. I want to adapt sleeves and back pieces perfectly to the body and tell stories through the pictures without losing shape and durability. The tattoo should fit harmoniously into the overall picture of the person, not be out of place and still be rich in contrast, solid and legible. Of course, I get a lot of inspiration from other tattoo artists, but also artist friends. Outside the tattoo world, I draw inspiration from nature, my beloved pop culture and the people around me. I am interested in Baroque and Renaissance art, medieval woodcuts, Surrealism, Urban subculture and Street art … there is always something to discover when you open your eyes in everyday life to the small inconspicuous things.
What about your future plans? Are you working on anything new?
Mitch: I really ain’t got no plans for the future. I don’t want to get famous with tattooing, I just want to make perfect awesome tattoos every day. So that’s the only plan I’ve got for the future, to make me and customers happy. But it’s truly a positive side effect and honour if magazines or other people of the tattoo society recognize and commend my work.
Stefan: Last year I tried a lot with the new media. As with many others, the iPad and Procreate are at the forefront, offering endless possibilities and making things a lot easier. I am very interested in western traditions and their reinterpretation and am trying to develop my own style apart from Realism. Just to move a little bit away from copying existing pictures and to create something of my own. I would also like to take time for smaller motifs again, because I like the challenge to implement an idea as simply and accurately as possible. To break the statement down to a minimum and to have the maximum effect. Furthermore, I am currently in the process of giving something back to the tattoo scene by sharing my knowledge. I think it’s important to do something for the next generation of tattoo artists and provide them with a good opportunity to learn, because I know how tough it can be, even today, for talented people to make their dream come true. My trainee Larissa definitely has a lot of potential and knows how to use it. In addition, I have been flirting with the street art scene for a long time…I still have so many ideas, you can be sure of that.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Mitch: Always be kind and fair to your customers and trust your Stencil.
Stefan: Be good to each other, show some Love and make the world a nicer place, because everything you give will come back to you twice. Thank you for your interest in my work and for the Interview!
Follow Stefan on Instagram: @stefan_tattoos
Black Rainbow Tattoo Theatre: @blackrainbowtattootheatre