The Art of Inking with Tattoo Artist : Syed Hamza Ali
The art of inking permanently/semi-permanently on a human body is a very precise and unique branch of art which needs a lot of skill, professional knowledge, dedication and passion. Tattooing or tattoo art has been present for as long as 3370 BC and it has much history associated with it. Previously, tattooing in the body has been regarded as a very “Unsocial” thing to do. It has been condemned, it has been associated with witchcraft and black magic and it was the general consensus that “Respectable” people don’t tattoo themselves.
But all that is History now. Tattooing is a hugely popular culture thing to indulge in now and over years it has been legalised and widely accepted across all social strata. A tattoo is a very personal, intimate and physical thing for a person sometimes bordering on spiritual. To get something permanently inked in your skin, you need to feel connected to the subject of your tattoo.
So keeping all these in mind, let us get to know a few professional tattoo artists and their views about their craft. Starting with Kolkata-Pune based artist – Syed Hamza Ali from Inkscool Tattoo Training Institute and Studio. He has carved out a niche for himself in this growing tattoo industry through immense hard work, positive attitude and sticking to his dreams in spite of all the hardships. Read on to know more about him.
Follow him on Instagram – InkscoolTattoos
Website – https://www.inkscool.com/
P.S. All the pictures and videos are owned by ©Syed Hamza Ali and reproduction in any form, without prior permission, is prohibited
Q. Please introduce yourself.
My name is Syed Hamza Ali and I was born and brought up in Kolkata – the city of joy. A city where one is naturally inclined towards arts and poetry. I was raised in an army background. My father was NCC senior under officer, first Bengal armoured squadron of NCC. Growing up I did not have many friends and I was always artistically inclined from a very young age. I was weak in academics, as my focus was more towards the arts. Since very early childhood, probably from the 2nd standard itself, I had decided that I would want to become an artist one day.
Q. What made you start your work as a Tattoo Artist? Please share about your journey and how long have you been doing this?
The thought of becoming a tattoo artist came to me while I was working for a mortgage company in Pune. I used to find a few of my colleagues with tattoos on their bodies and I used to get extremely excited by looking at it. I remember taking a small amount of loan and putting in all of my savings just to learn tattooing from one of the oldest in the industry ten years back. So it was going to the tattoo studio, learning and working for the tattoo artist and then going to the office and reaching home really late at night completely exhausted. Later I took a bank loan of almost Rs 5 lakhs to start up this business. The business was unfortunately not good, and just to make ends meet, I used to conduct art and craft classes for small kids, used to go to school and work as a dance teacher during the first part of the day, and I used to take up odd jobs that used to come my way. The first 4 years of my life was a constant roller coaster ride. It’s been 10 years now and I have a regular flow of clients at my tattoo studio with 3 extremely talented individuals working under me and more than a 100 tattoo artists across India who have learned the art of tattooing from me.
Q. Is it necessary to have a specific set of qualifications to become a Tattoo Artist?
Yes Preferably, 10th with the ability to draw, read, write and communicate effectively on the job. If one can read, write and design effectively, and is able to have a fluent conversation with the client in order to understand their requirement, and is also a little tech-savvy, all these things put together will make that individual a better artist and business owner. It is recommended to do a certified tattooing course from any government approved tattoo training institute in order to learn about the health and safety requirements, proper handling and disposal of waste, the aseptic technique and the procedures before making any tattoos, and many other such rules and regulations which are extremely important for the smooth functioning of business.
Q. Is being a tattoo artist your full-time profession or do you work elsewhere? Is it possible to make out a sustainable career out of this craft?
Fortunately, being a tattoo artist and a trainer is my full-time profession, and I do not work anywhere else now. It is definitely possible to make out a sustainable career in the tattooing industry, provided that you have the right skills and techniques, guidance and ongoing support during the establishment of your business and the knowledge of how to market your work using all the social platforms available to us. Social media has made it much easier for everyone to display their talents and to attract much more business than ever before.
Q. What would you consider your biggest achievement so far?
A lot of my tattoo students are now operating their own tattoo studios in multiple cities across India, and that is my biggest achievement. The success of each and everyone of my students who started off with nothing, who had no knowledge about the tattoo industry and now they are doing so well, by running their own tattooing business and being financially independent by following their passion has been my pride, and my biggest achievement so far.
Q. What is your signature style of art that represents you as an artist? What does your work aim to say?
I love evolving constantly and I strongly believe that change is the only thing that is constant. Hence I don’t have any single signature style. Right from advance realism to simple line work, I enjoy it all thoroughly. Since I love experimenting a lot with my work, I incorporate different styles including portraits, realism, animals, dot works, mandalas, maori, line works, cartoons, doodles and many more. My work aims to tell the other artists to always experiment with different styles and genres and not to get stuck in the same usual pattern or designs. It is important for you to have fun with your work because only then you will be able to perform at your very best.
Q. What is the one thing that you like about your work and one that you dislike?
The one thing that I like about my work is to be able to interact with new clients every single day. Tattoos are permanent, and when a client decides on a design, it is only after much thought and consideration. And to be worthy enough to design that and to make it permanent on their skin is nothing less than a blessing in disguise.
The one thing that I dislike would be the neck pain and shoulder pain after long tattooing hours. I hate that..(lol). Sometimes there are tattoos that go beyond 8 to 10 hrs, and working in odd angles and poor postures can lead to body pain and headache for the artist after the completion of their work. Therefore one should also workout or do some sort of basic exercise or yoga to avoid neck, shoulder and lower back injuries and problems in future.
Q. When a client is unsure about which tattoo to get, how do you get the idea/inspiration/reference to suggest them? How long does it take approximately to finish one piece of art?
Usually, when a client is unsure about the tattoo design, we prefer to have a good conversation with them. Knowing your customer is extremely important and creating a design that they would love even after 10 years from now is a must. So we talk about what they do, their passion, their interests, the design that had inspired them to think about getting a tattoo, and we make use of all online and offline resources to show the designs and sketch out their ideas on a piece of paper that would make their tattoo unique and personalized. To finish a piece of art it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to sometimes days based on the complexity of the design.
Q. Who are your biggest influences?
My biggest influence has always been my father. Growing up under him I have never seen him once complaining about life. He has that go-getter and never-give-up kind of attitude. With the stern look and a serious personality, he knows how to handle even the toughest of situations. Being honest and true to my work is something that I have learned and incorporated from him.
Q. How do you manage your family life along with other commitments and schedules?
I have fixed working hours from 11:30 am till 8 pm, 6 days a week. However, during long sessions, we have to work for 12 to 16 hrs at a stretch. I make sure to spend at least one full day with my family every week and spend some quality time with them. I also have a team of talented tattoo artists who make sure that the business functions smoothly in case of my absence. Because of the team I am also able to go on family vacations and short foreign trips without any worries at least once every year.
Q. What are the biggest challenges that you face as an artist?
Being an artist can be very challenging when your entire livelihood depends on it. There are times when you end up paying all your debts and dues for the month, and you are left with almost nothing or a very small amount in hand. Hence constantly improving oneself and emerging as a good tattoo artist can be a little challenging sometimes in this booming industry. One has to keep practicing every single day. Reinventing new designs and introducing new concepts in order to gain more consumers, this all can be done if one is customer-centric, has a good imagination and can think creatively and out of the box.
Q. What is the biggest misconception that Tattoo artists face?
The biggest misconception that a tattoo artist face or come across is whether a person can donate blood after getting a tattoo and if it is safe. And the answer is yes. There are few state rules that have a waiting period of 3 months while some have 6 months. However one can definitely donate blood after getting a tattoo. Not being able to donate blood after getting inked is one of the biggest misconception of all times. A tattoo is a mark made only on the dermal layer of the skin. It is a nontoxic pigment which is not injected into the bloodstream of any person. Hence it is absolutely safe to get a tattoo and to donate blood after 3 months.
Q. How do you ensure that clients do not suffer allergic reactions to the ink or products used in tattoo applications?
Firstly, I believe it should be mandated by law that the tattoo artists adhere to all the rules and regulations prescribed by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration. Every artist should also be aware of the aseptic techniques to avoid cross-contamination and to avoid spreading of blood borne pathogens and diseases. At Inkscool we ensure deep cleaning of each and every product through ultraviolet sterilisation, autoclaving non-disposable equipment and using antibacterial solutions for cleaning tables, countertops, work surface and area after every tattoo. While purchasing, prime importance is given to good quality tattooing products since we cannot compromise with the health and safety of our clients.
Q. How do you deal with an anxious client?
Most of us are usually terrified of needles and it is very common for a client to be anxious before getting any tattoos. By talking to them and assuring them that they are in safe hands, we can help them in overcoming their anxiety. As a tattoo artist, we need to have a friendly approach and we should speak to them in a calm and peaceful manner. The ambience of the studio also has a big impact on the client, so it is always better to keep the studio clean and tidy and to create a relaxing atmosphere for them.
Q. Sometimes, when doing a tattoo art on intimate parts, how do you make sure that you and your clients are comfortable?
Before making any tattoos on intimate parts, I always establish a friendly bond between me and my client. It is important to gain the trust of the client before starting the procedure through effective communication and by being calm and collected. Understand that intimate parts are just like any other body parts and you should not shy off from doing a tattoo in that particular area. It is a part of your occupation and it should be taken extremely seriously. We should also ensure complete privacy during the entire tattooing procedure to make the client as comfortable as possible.
Q. Apart from being an artist, what are your hobbies?
If art is my life, then dancing is my soul. Dance has always been my passion since childhood. I was one of the lead dancers of my school and high school, and I have won numerous medals and certificates in this field. During my struggling days in the tattooing industry, I used to conduct dance classes in a few international schools and colleges as a part-time dance instructor and choreographer. Till date, I just need a reason or an excuse to bust a move and to start dancing whenever possible.
Q. Please share your experience with different brands/projects you have worked on?
I have worked on numerous projects aiming to provide free art classes to underprivileged people, sponsoring free lessons and seminars for artists in schools and colleges and holding free tattooing stalls for charitable purpose. In the past i have also organised numerous workshops at various schools including Global Talent International School, Euro School International, Rims International, Boston World and few others to develop the lateral thinking ability of children, and to promote the artistic development of kids as a whole.
Q. There are a lot of shoddy people on social media or as clients who either try to discredit others or stalk them. How do you deal with such people or negativity in general? Does it bog you down or affect your mental peace?
Where there is good, there will always be bad. There are plenty of people and clients on social media who try to discredit others, tarnish your name or spoil your brand name. However one should not let that affect your mental peace. The way I usually deal with such people is through direct confrontation. Keeping negativity within or just simply letting them walk off can sometimes prove very fatal for the business. It also gives them the leverage of doing the same with other businesses as well. It is always better to have clear and direct conversation with them and to come up with a resolution, and to resolve any issues in a peaceful manner.
Q. What advice would you offer to someone considering this career?
Tattooing is a new emerging sector and it is perfect for anyone who is artistically inclined and wants to be a part of this beautiful artistic industry. It is extremely important to have patience in order to establish oneself in this industry. One cannot become an overnight sensation and it is only through quality work that you will be able to build a base for your business. It is also better to do a tattooing course since one has to understand the thickness and types of skin, the depth of needles as per skin types and the control of hands has to be monitored during the entire training process. Also before buying any equipment, try practicing with different types of tattoo machines including coil and rotary in order to find out which type of machine suits you the best.
Q. What are your future plans? Are you happy with the way your career has shaped up?
The future of the tattooing industry is extremely bright and booming. And at Inkscool Tattoo Training Institute Pune, we are looking forward to educating many more students from everywhere across India and globe. Currently we are providing world-class tattoo education with the best infrastructure and facilities for each and every student. We are also working on providing free tattoo education to artistically inclined people from backward or rural areas in order to provide employment opportunities to such people. We are currently aiming at creating more job opportunities for our students by providing them placements in the tattoo industry across India.
Am i happy?..hmm…And that’s a big YES! I am extremely happy the way my career has shaped up and I feel blessed and privileged to have been selected as an Approved Tattooing Skill Providing Institute by The Govt. Of India after years and years of hard work. I am happy that I never gave up on my dreams or went back to the same secured job when times were rough. Even though times were difficult beyond imagination, and the struggle was back breaking, but after all these years, hard work and commitments, it was all finally WORTH IT!
Q. Lastly, any word for our blog? Thank you for your time!
It is amazing to see how two woman entrepreneur can work so hard to bring about a change in todays world. Spreading inspiration through your blogs and raising awareness about different fields, is truly commendable. It is through you guys that people like us can get our words and experiences across to so many people out there. You are truly doing a great job and helping so many people out there through your work. I wish you all the very best for your upcoming future projects and would definitely look forward towards more articles and blogs for your side. I thank you for your time!
Thank you, Syed, for taking out time to talk to us, and having such a wonderful and heart-to-heart conversation. We got to know a lot of things and we are sure that our readers would be much benefitted from this. Team WeekendTrivia wishes you all the best for your future endeavours.