Realism with fantasy, dark realism and tattoos in Baroque painting. Everything turns around Realism in the creative and artistic world of Tony Vilella, a Brazilian tattoo artist, based in NY, currently at Inked Shop NY, a great interpreter of the Realist style and a lover of the great paintings of Rembrandt and Van Gogh.
We talk with him about tattooing, of course, about his powerful, full-colour Realism in which the lessons of the great masters of painting emerge in his portraits, and about his commitment to promoting his important social project Hope in Ink.
Hi Tony, welcome to Tattoo Life! Would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?
Hello everyone, thank you for this moment, my name is Tony Vilella, I have been a tattoo artist for over 16 years, I specialize in realistic tattoos, and I am also a painter.
Where are you from and where do you work at the moment?
I am Brazilian and currently work at Inked Shop NY.
Let’s throw back to the beginning: how did you story start?
From a young age, I loved art, and as I grew older, I had a friend who saw my drawings and encouraged me to learn tattooing. He told me I would do well with tattoos. After learning, I became increasingly involved with art and had a great master who taught me a lot.
I am very curious, so I always dedicate myself fully to everything I love, and tattooing is no exception.
To this day, I’ve spent over 16 years of my life dedicated to constantly improving my work, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Your style is a revisited Realistic, and it seems you love to do faces and portraits. Is it right?
I love creating portraits, but in reality, I love doing anything related to realism. My work is heavily influenced by painting, as I enjoy working with the creativity and freedom I can have with light, shadow, hues, and other aspects within realism.
What are your favorite subjects?
Realism with fantasy, dark realism, creating tattoos in the style of Baroque painting.
The color is very important in your tattoos. How do you use them? What do you do to make them long-lasting?
One of the most important aspects is to know how to analyze the client’s skin tone, in order to understand the limitations of certain skin types. In this way, I can choose the best colour options aiming for durability.
Another important aspect is to have a consistent and solid pigmentation, and to explore contrast well.
I really like working with solid black, as this creates contrast and highlights the other tones used in the tattoo, which also adds more durability to the work.
Have you always been in New York?
No, I’m Brazilian, so a large part of my tattooing story was built in Brazil. I’ve been in NY for about 2 years, and I’m passionate about this city due to its involvement with art.
Do you like to paint? Who are your masters in painting?
I am passionate about painting. When I was younger, I didn’t have a defined tattoo style yet, but I was always very curious about the things I liked. Thus, I always dedicated myself to studying drawing and everything related to art. What inspired me the most and caught my attention were the works of great masters like Rembrandt and Van Gogh, for example. This encouraged me to choose coloured realism as my specialty.
Do you want to add something more about some your next projects?
I have a variety of projects, including participating in tattoo events, an online workshop that will soon be available for sale in various countries, and my book in collaboration with the renowned artists Mike DeVries and Memento Mori, which I’m very excited about. Mike DeVries is a highly respected artist and has been a great inspiration in my career.
Lastly, I’d love for everyone to become familiar with my Hope in Ink project, which I founded and which brings me immense joy because it makes a real difference in people’s lives.
The project focuses on covering scars with tattoos.
When someone looks at their scar, they’re reminded of everything they’ve been through and suffered, but when a tattoo covers that scar, it feels like the tattoo gives new meaning to that past event, offering comfort and resilience.
What is the effect of being a tattooer, in your personal life, family and social?
Being a tattoo artist has an incredibly positive impact on my personal and social life. I live and breathe art every day, and one of my favourite hobbies is painting canvases with my 5-year-old daughter during my days off. Both she and my wife have a deep appreciation for art.
Tattooing has brought significant achievements into our lives, making me very grateful and content with my profession.
What are your hobbies outside of tattooing?
During my days off, I take immense pleasure in painting on canvas and taking leisurely strolls with my family. These activities provide me with enjoying precious moments with my daughter and my wife.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
When I was still at the beginning of my career as a tattoo artist, my master told me something that changed the way I saw my work, and it’s something that I carry with me to this day: “Most artists can’t view their own work critically because they have the creator’s perspective, and for the creator, the work is like a child. Parents never find their children ugly! The hardest thing for an artist is to be able to criticize themselves realistically and thus evolve.”