Being a tattoo artist is hard

Vikas Malani, who has been tattooing for the past 15 years, has had his works flaunted by Bollywood stars in films like Dhoom 3, Pyar Impossible, All The Best, Ab Tak Chappan 2, and Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola.

With a working schedule extending up to 18 hours on most days, the artist sheds light on the exciting yet exhausting life of a professional tattoo artist, which he says can be hard, but is rewarding at the same time.

“Just like a sportsman, actor or business man, I have to be dedicated to my art. Unlike hippie or freelance artists, I have a studio to run. Sometimes I have to stay in the studio for three to four days. The longest duration tattoo I have done was for about 18 hours.Tattoos that take three to four hours are the common ones,” Malani tells Metrolife.  His initiative Body Canvas, has branches in Bandra and Malad in Mumbai, Hauz Khas Village in Delhi and recently in Greenwich in London.

“I have seen life as freelance tattoo artist; I realised even if you have talent you cannot grow in a financial crunch. Sooner or later talented artists let their passion down. Also, learning is minimal as a freelancer remains within an area and hence their designs and patterns reach a saturation point,” he explains.

Malani started rather steadily, but today Body Canvas has a turnover of more than one crore. “It is not difficult for those who are passionate,” he adds.

Travelling is the main part of learning for tattoo artists, according to Malani. “Even within India, we see variations. For example, in Maharashtra, Ganapati tattoos are very common, but in Delhi and northern region, Shiva rules,” says the 35 year old.

To keep himself informed and also nuanced as an artist, he goes to tattoo conventions, seminars and exhibitions across the world. At these exhibitions (like Paris Exposition), there are historical and contemporary anecdotes given out about tattoos and one can trace the genesis of a contemporary tattoo from a classic one and the region and people it was inspired from.

Malani tries to connect with people from other cultures through his hippie and corporate travels. According to him, different people have different tastes and aesthetic sense, and the same is transferred into their culture. There are always some typical designs and patterns, like the red roses are classic American tattoos and sculptures and sacred geometry symbols are very common in the West.

“We come to know about new patterns and designs which are significant in the lives of people in different cultures. When people come to India, they want a Shiva or Ganapati tattooed, because the novelty is appealing to them. When I went abroad to a tattoo convention, I figured people didn’t know why they should get a lotus tattooed. When I told them the various meanings a lotus can hold, they were fascinated,” Malani exclaims.

He says that like the rose is a sacred symbol in United States, a lotus stands for spirituality and purity, and is the eighth symbol of good luck in Buddhism. People can attach as many meanings and ideas to their symbols and hence the same design is never repeated; it remains exclusive.

“I have drawn a number of Shiva tattoos, but they all have been different and exclusive. People have their own ideas and I translate their idea into my art,” says Malani. This kind of experimentation is what keeps Malani active and interested in his job even after so many years. Sometimes he designs a six pack Shiva, sometimes a bearded one, and sometimes a biomechanical one, and the list is endless.

“Imagination of the artist is important. I try to keep learning about more patterns and designs so that I can widen my perspective,” he adds.
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