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Alexey Trunov aka Sicko_Black, Moscow

In this interview, we have the honor of conversing with Alexey Trunov, known as Sicko_Black, a prominent tattoo artist from Moscow, Russia. We will discover how his distinctive illustrative approach has made an impact in the world of tattooing, his inspiration from Eastern culture, and how he has extended his passion beyond tattoos to sculpture and education. Join us as we delve into his artistic journey and creative vision in this exciting encounter.

Hello Sicko Black, it's an honor to have you here. Let's start with your beginnings in the world of tattooing. What initially drew you to this art, and how was your learning process?

Hello, I am also so pleased to talk to you here, thanks for this opportunity! So let me tell you about the beginning, I got acquainted tattooing long ago, about 20 years back, and for 15 years I have been doing this professional. When I was 17 I got my first tattoo more  just out of my curiosity. I have always like drawings of the body and intuitively I thought about how cool it is to create some art on the skin and it can stay there forever. I've been drawing since I was a child but I did it at an amateur level and only after I had started tattooing I went deep into drawing and started to progress in it. 

I've been studying tattoing in the process of working with clients, mostly by myself and with the help of more experienced colleagues in the studio. I can't say it was the perfect model, but the was no other one. To say about the equipment that we had 15 years back, there were only the coil machines, no wireless pens, no cartridges... I caught the time when we had to solder the needles by ourselves. Also it was a rather closed profession and it wasn't that easy to obtain some knowledge. In parallel I took private drawing, painting and composition lessons from teachers who taught in some fine art universities. Since it was impossible to create your own works of art with no bacis knowledge all the work rolled down to painting the contours. You know, there are books for children when you have to do it, so it was almost the same, but with more style variations. 

Your artistic style in tattooing is quite distinctive. Could you describe how you would define your personal style and what elements or influences shape it?

As I can see now two different style forming ways mostly prevail in tattooing. The first one is working in the format of already existing styles - left me call them classical or neoclassical styles, to say about the execution and the plot. The second way is drawing adopted for the tattoo, so this the painting made on human skin with a machine. 

I chose to progress in the second way and the basis of my style is images of demons, animals or people. Stylistically this is called illustative tattoo. 

We know that you've specialized in tattoos with Japanese influences. What led you to fall in love with this particular style, and what are the key characteristics you aim to incorporate into your tattoos?

Before I began to work in my current style I really liked the classic Japanese or neo Japanese tattoo style. Then I began to study art history in details and I learned a lot of classical Japanese artists as well as the art of Ukiyo-e. Besides the magnificence of the works l was hell a lot interested in this culture, in how the artists worked, what influenced their way of life and art. 

Also I really like manga and anime which essentially continue the Ukiyo-e traditions. This is a very distinctive culture layer which has been developing up to these days and nas a great impact on many people. 

 Here we can see how cool the characters are formed,  also we feel the sharpness and exagerration of the images and these are the principles I would like to implement into my designs. Also those Japanese artists worked a lot, they had numerous drawings, we can only learn from them - and this is the main characteristic of any style which has been developing for years. 

In the world of tattooing, references are crucial. Who have been your influences and mentors in this field? Is there a particular artist you admire who has had an impact on your artistic approach?

In my case the world of tattoo has always traveled in parallel with the world of art, that means I am interested not only in tattoo, I have some knowledge in the area of art history, which I received at the Art Academy in Moscow. I am also into both art of the past like painting, drawing, sculpture . Besides manga and anime I am also influenced by many contemporary artists who mostly work in concept art for film or video games, who draw comics or commercial illustrations. Therefore I can't single out any particular artist who would inspire me most of all, there is a collective image of all the masters who influenced me with their works. 

Delve a bit more into the technique and process behind your tattoos. How do you achieve the precision and details that characterize your works?

Technically there are several points. If you need detailing and volume, there's no need to rushrush because of the impossibility of correcting the pattern on the skin. Tattoo artists accept that fast work is needed and for some styles it really works. But in my case some small works or highly detailed works can't be done quickly as they require enough time and patience. 

I also think over the detailing at the time of creating the sketch and here it is always necessary to strike a balance between detailing, the readability of the work from the distance and the time spent on it, since there are always certain agreements on the number of sessions for a particular tattoo with the client. Understanding this balance is as important as technique.  As for the technique, in my case everything is simple and for detailing I use 3rl, like most masters who work in black and white. 

In this industry, the choice of equipment and materials is often overestimated and it seems to me for some reason everyone is interested in needles or machines involved.  This is certainly an important aspect, but not the dominant one, and the main thing in this matter is the experience in the field of tattooing and drawing in general, the composition, the accents and the author's thinking.  That's what should be interesting. 

No artist has any magic super brush that makes a style all by itself, both in painting with classical materials and in digital painting.  There are familiar tools, but if they suddenly don't appear, you can always adapt. So it's very important to be flexible when choosing equipment and not get stuck on one thing.

A lot of Awards in International Tattoo Conventions.

Oriental culture and its iconography are central to your tattoos. How do you manage to blend these traditional elements with your own creativity to create unique and contemporary pieces?

Oriental plots are just a part of my work with tattoo designs.  I have many sketchbooks with this theme as well as other themes such as medieval scenes, a lot of different animal sketches, which turn out to be the cutest works.  I think everyone should have a tattoo of a cat or a dog - these are very cool, positive and emotional tattoos that always look good on the body in almost any style and size.  In fact, all my work is the study and adaptation of tattoo topics that are interesting to me in order to vary this industry a little and step a little aside from copying classic tattoo plots.

We know that you've also created awards and masks for tattoo conventions. Could you share with us how this idea came about and what the creative process is like behind these unique pieces?

A few years ago I started studying sculpture and decided to try to make small masks as interior decoration.  They look very cool in studios, right near the workplace.  I brought a few pieces to the tattoo convention and the organizers of the festival asked me to participate in the production of prizes for the 20th anniversary tattoo convention in Moscow and St. Petersburg.  My idea was to display  the emotion of the winner, frozen in the moment in sculpture. So this prize is in some sense a mirror of the winner at the time of the award.  The manufacturing process is quite hard and long, at first it was necessary to come up with all the masks, develop an idea of how they would look and mold them from sculptural plasticine - that was a creative and quite interesting process.  After that I had to make the required number of castings, develop a palette, paint the masks and mount them, this is more routine and technical work.  But the result was awesome, the organizers and the winners were delighted.

Tattoo artists often seek to create a personal connection with their clients through their works. Can you share a story about how a tattoo you've created has had a significant impact on someone's life?

I am not a supporter of so called sacred tattoos or tattoos with some kind of magical energy, and on the whole I don't think that having a tattoo can seriously affect someone's life. The cover up tattoo is the exception, because by covering old or unsuccessful works or scars, because of which the clients are very worried, you definitely change someone's life for the better. 

Also a kind of personal connection with the client is created when an artist makes a tattoo to another one. This is a great exchange of experience and just another cool work for your collection!  And it's especially useful for beginner tattoo artists as it saves a lot of time and answers many technical questions at once.  If you want to know how the master works just get one or more tattoos with him, it will only benefit you, because you won’t have to bother with questions about the machines and needles etc, you will see everything by yourself and just make up communications, get to know and chat with a colleague.  Therefore I am suspicious of artists who don't have any tattoos or have a few small works, they are probably some kind of sadists, I think ;) . Because there are so many cool artists around, there is not enough free space on your body to get everything you want.

Looking ahead, how do you anticipate your artistic style evolving in the world of tattooing? Is there a specific direction you're excited to explore further?

Besides tattooing and sculpture I currently have an educational project called Drawing for Tattoo Artists, where I created several programs for tattoo artists of different levels, both for beginners and more experienced artists.  For more than three years this project - - has been helping many tattoo artists to improve their skills in drawing and as a result in tattooing.  The ability to draw and visualize your thoughts on paper or a tablet is one of the main skills and it's really great when you interact with colleagues around the world.  It's especially cool when your students apply new knowledge to their clients, making the whole industry a little more professional and interesting and making their work more unique and recognizable.

So I work in these three fields, tattooing, sculpture and teaching. 

For tattoo enthusiasts who admire your work, do you have any advice on what to consider when choosing a tattoo or how to effectively collaborate with an artist to create a piece that truly resonates with them?

The only thing you have to consider is the choice of a tattoo artist. When you find such a professional, just describe your idea and the artist will do the rest in the best possible way.  Every successful master has a system of working with the client's idea, so if you like the master's portfolio you don't need to interfere in the process.  You can find a master and do some large scale work with him or her or you can create a collection of tattoos from different artists and everyone will find their own approach.

 It is very useful to look at the full healed works in the portfolio and not the fresh ones as they can often be very different.  A lot depends on the taste and vision of the tattoo lover and in any case he will receive exactly the tattoo he is ready for at a current time.

Finally, how do you hope your legacy in the world of tattooing will be remembered? Is there a message or emotion you wish to convey through the tattoos that people carry with them?

The message is definitely there, but it is on a slightly different level.  This is precisely the beauty of fine art, that everyone understands it in their own way and it's not necessary to write manifestos explaining the content of the things depicted, because it's understandable intuitively.  It's either accepted by the audience or not.  But don't take it too seriously, these are just drawings on the skin.

 It will be possible to talk about the tattoo world heritage much later, there is still a lot to be done. ;) 

We thank you, Sicko Tattoo, for sharing your vision and passion for the art of tattooing with us. We're excited to continue witnessing your evolution and the impressive creations you'll continue to bring to this exciting profetion.




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