There are plenty of tattoo artists out there that put their work on people’s skin every day. However, there are few of them that create memorable pieces of art that will inspire generations. Today we are going to talk to one of the few ones that have the talent and the strive to become the top of the elite tattooists out there. In this article, we will have the pleasure of getting to know the inner workings of one of the most talented tattoo artists that we have come across here at Bit Rebels, Joe Ankave.
IMAGE: JOE ANKAVE
Ben: It’s a pleasure to talk to you, Joe. Perhaps we should start out with a simple, yet important, question. How did it come about that you started to learn how to tattoo and at what age did you know this was the profession you were going to pursue?
Joe: This is the most popular question that people ask me. Well since a very young age, I knew I was going be a tattoo artist, I felt it in my blood. I was drawing a lot but I always felt that it was not that good compared to other artists but I still really like it… At the age of 16 (10 years ago), I decided that I was going to save some money for a tattoo machine. It took a while to decide but at 18 I was brave enough to buy cheap tattoo tools from China and try it on my own… I remember that I really wanted to learn from a good tattoo artist but it cost too much money to pay for that kind of schooling so I started my journey on my own and I have been on that journey to this day…
Ben: Here on Bit Rebels, we sometimes see tattoo artists come up with new ways using new technologies to put their art on people’s skin. From your perspective, as a tattoo artist, is it more important to you to embrace future technologies or are you more comfortable adapting older technologies to the future?
Joe: This is super important to keep in mind at all times, what’s new on the market – anything that can make my craft better, I will get at the moment I know about it. I have been using coil machines since I started but a few months ago I got myself a Cheyenne pen (rotary) and I can tell you that it has been life-changing!
It’s easy to deal with new technologies by telling yourself that -“No, it doesn’t look like a real machine, I’m not going to try it”, however, that kind of mentality is kinda stupid. I believe this opinion comes from people that have successfully learned how to do nice tattoos and they are not patient enough to try new tools because sometimes they can be a bit tricky to master. Like, for example, how it was for me when I started using the Cheyenne pen for lining work. It was a struggle in the beginning, however, mastering it is now a true blessing.
Ben: I understand that you are currently traveling the world to gain perspective and, also, to spread the amazing art that you create to other continents. Now being in California, what is your goal with all this traveling and where are you heading next?
Joe: Yes, I am currently visiting and exploring California as much as I can. There are so many good tattoo artists here, nice tattoo shops and, in general, the tattoo scene is amazing. I’m also about just about to get tattooed myself by a great artist here – I think this is the best way to learn, learning from great tattoo artists.
Ben: Before we started this interview, you mentioned that you were working on a new tattoo app. Can you tell us a little about how this became a project of yours and what we can expect to use it for when it is finally completed? When is the planned release? If you don’t mind, please also let us know what platforms it will be released on.
Joe: The InkUs app is the biggest project I have ever been working on. I am currently planning the prototype and hopefully, in the next few months, it will be available for people to download on iOS and Android. The app will solve 4 big problems in the tattoo industry. The world of tattooing is about to change – I’m gonna make everyone work full time, help the client choose the right artist and idea and more… It will surprise everyone for sure. Stay tuned!
Ben: I have a few tattoos myself and whenever I get a new one I always find myself wondering what the percentage is between people bringing their own designs versus just picking something out in a book or you drawing it? Are there any statistics of this or perhaps something that you, yourself, keep track of? Is this something that you keep in mind developing your app?
Joe: There are no statistics but I can tell you that most that are walk-in customers choose a “random” idea when they just come into the shop. But, I still believe that when they choose n idea spontaneously, it means a lot to them and they have had this idea deeply lodged in their mind for a while. I always prefer the client to have an idea that he or she really like. Also that he or she chose the placement on the body and some give a reference to why. Especially when it’s a big project.
My app will help any client choose the perfect tattoo and idea. I’m doing my best to give the app as much depth as possible so that the clients and tattooers mind work more in sync with each other when they connect. I can’t say more than that as I still have a few secrets up my sleeve, however, I can say that the tattoo industry is about to change.
Ben: Looking through your incredibly impressive portfolio over at Instagram, it is apparent that you use a lot of color in your art. What’s your take, is it more difficult to tattoo using a lot of colors or are black (shaded) tattoos more challenging?
Joe: Well, color work is definitely much more challenging. When you do great shading work you’re ready to take the next step – color work. Every color needs to make sense in a different way. My main style is neo-traditional Japanese and the background must be in black and grey and the objects can also be black and grey or color. It makes an absolutely beautiful contrast between black and grey in the background and the foreground sporting a colorful object – I would always recommend that to my clients.
Ben: Returning to the app that you are currently developing, what is the aim of it and who would benefit from using it? What is the innovative idea behind it that will amaze people to the extent where they will be using it on the daily?
Joe: It’s a good question. The main goal is to offer every tattoo artist work! Every tattooer in the world will have the option to work full time. The second objective is to offer more security and availability to the client as a local or a tourist, by choosing the idea, tattooer and tattoo shop. Every day I wish to make this app available as soon as possible so that everyone will get the opportunity to get tattooed in the easiest and safest way possible.
What I can promise you is that at the moment you use the app for the first time, you’re going to say -”Why hasn’t anyone created this app before!”
Ben: Jumping between subjects here, but what is the most popular motif you are asked to tattoo and what is the motif that you most of all prefer to tattoo? Is there ever any doubt that you can fulfill the customer’s wish, or do you always find the inspiration to meet the degree of expectation from the client?
Joe: The motif that I like to do most is a Peony flower and flowers in general, this as a result of people always asking me to do this for them. When you really like to tattoo something, people can feel it and see it in the craft itself. It makes them feel magical inside and these are the moments that you create high-quality work for clients that they are prepared to sit for many hours for. This is the most ideal way to do each tattoo, of course, and doing this you will reach to the highest level of skill as a tattoo artist.
Ben: As a final question, where do you see the tattoo industry in 10 years from now? What’s the new trends and what technologies can we expect to see when we enter a tattoo parlour? Will it pretty much be the same as it is now, or will the industry have gone through a revolution somewhat like the one we see in every industry currently affected by the blockchain?
Joe: This is a hard question to answer. I have thought about this, many times today, there are so many good artists. Styles like Japanese and realism, it’s like I’m asking my self – whats next? – I see such great work being done and I don’t see any potential for better even tattoo work. The entire technology is becoming much simpler to use and create better quality work and I’m talking mostly about tattoo machines.
I would like to say that at the moment, I promise you that my app will make the tattoo industry much easier to navigate, communicate in and create.
Ben: Thank you for your time, Joe! It’s been an absolute pleasure interviewing you and I hope to one day have the opportunity to have your work on a tattoo for me as well. Until then, where can we keep up to date with your travels and your amazing work? Is it just Instagram or do you have a website that we can all bookmark?
Joe: Thanks a lot Ben, those questions are really on point and hopefully, this interview will give people something exciting to read and look forward to, as well as to know me better. The best way to reach me and to get updates is on Instagram. I’m active there most of the time. Don’t hesitate to let me know whenever you are ready to get one! Peace and love!
Have a look at some of Joe’s amazing work below and don’t hesitate to hit him up on Instagram to see even more amazing work. There’s a ton to look at. This guy is productivity itself.
If you are interested in even more design-related articles and information from us here at Bit Rebels then we have a lot to choose from.