Lokesh is one of the top 10 tattoo artists in the world and also holds a Guinness world record of maximum number of flags to be tattooed on human body
Words Team Urbane
Could you tell us about your journey to being one of the most successful tattoo artists in the world?
I was always fascinated with tattoos. I collected a few thousand rupees and borrowed some from my parents to buy a tattoo equipments. This was the only thing I did not do for money. I just wanted to do it and try it somehow. I bought the machine, but did not even know how to put the needle or operate it.
The only thing that kept me going was the thought that ‘someone might have invented this tattooing and figured out everything, and here I have everything in front of me, I will just assemble it and poke myself to figure it out. My father was very supportive of anything that I started by practicing on my body. I was so fascinated by it, that I was doing tattoos on my friends for free, even ready to pay them money sometimes to get tattooed from me, but then I started running out of supplies as everything was imported and expensive. So I started charging people just to take out the expenses in order to buy the supplies.
"We are in an environment where we have to be really careful, I consider this studio like a clinic"
That's when friends of friends and acquaintances started lining up to get tattooed back in 2003-2005. Tattoos were a fad then, and there were hardly any professional tattoo studios in Delhi. People really liked the work that I did. Fast forward to today, we have 13 artists working as a team, learning from each other, and more importantantly, growing happily, and this is just the beginning of many more decades to come.
Can you tell us the entire process of tattooing and colour techniques?
I can show you the tattooing process better than I can I can tell you. The needles that we use come from Germany, the ink comes from the USA, it is all vegan and organic. We are using quantum ink from Hollywood, California. Every single thing that we use is of disposable material that is of one time use only, whichever thing touches your skin is disposed immediately after tattooing, and that not only includes needles but everything else in the process. It is completely sterilised for one time use only.
What are the common misconceptions in the minds of people about tattooing that you have come across? Because you yourself mentioned that you had to pay your friends and acquaintances to tattoo them.
The most common misconception is that one can contract diseases like HIV, hepatitis or blood cancer. In the USA and Europe, there the laws surrounding tattoos are strict. The ink has to be tested and approved, which means it is safe for the skin and people cannot use Chinese ink like in the previous days which has chemicals in it. The ink that we use is completely organic and vegan and hence it is completely safe.
With the new normal in place, what are the sanitisation protocols at your studio?
We are in an environment where we have to be really careful; I consider this studio like a clinic. The equipments need not be touched by anyone; they have to be completely sterile and safe. We use similar disinfectants that are used in hospitals and in the operation theatres to ensure utmost safety for our clients.
Do you require any kind of government approved license to run this kind of a setup?
First thing we need to understand is that there has to be some laws to govern this entire process. Currently there are no laws regarding tattooing in India.
Currently there is no government body or licensing authority to regulate this in our country. We have to regulate and take utmost care of everything accordingly. At our studio, we strictly stick to the European standards. We always try to bring the global standards here in our country and educate our clients regarding this as well.
Being in the top 10 tattoo artists across the globe is a huge achievement in itself. Have you ever tried to set up any governing body regarding the safety and hygiene related to the tattoos with the help of government?
We tried it long time ago, but it didn’t go through. There are a lot of tattoo artists in the country and some even started revolting. I think till the time a government body intervenes, nothing will happen. From my side I am always ready to educate people, whenever I conduct seminars about hygiene and other small aspects regarding tattooing. There are thousands of tattoo artists in India and at times it becomes difficult for us to make them understand about hygiene and sanitisation. Sometimes budget becomes a big constrain for not following hygiene for a lot of tattoo artists.
In European countries, there are health inspectors appointed who visit the shops anytime and keep a check about sanitisation and other allied activities. In our country, till the time there is no enforcement about this from our government and there are no firm laws about this, it will become difficult to change the current scenario.
You have learnt this art all by yourself or the scientist’s way, but are there any academies in India that conduct courses?
There are no professional academies to get a certificate or degree in India. I have been teaching since 2007, certificates are issued by us also, but to everyone’s dismay, there is no recognised degree here in India. If someone wants to learn, they can learn from us.
Every art we look up to has its own culture; can you tell about the cultural history in tattooing?
Tattooing has a culture that traces back to thousands of years. From the tribal areas of the East, to the areas in the West of our countries, we have always had the culture of tattooing, though it was a lot more traditional. The tribes used to adorn their bodies with all these traditional symbols and patterns. Nowadays, people are not getting those symbolic tattoos and are rather going for a modern touch. You know you are always inspired by something that you are not, like the Western people are getting inspired by Yoga and we are getting inspired by things they have. I do not think culture in modern tattooing is playing any role but some people still get traditional tattoos.
"Tattoing is one of the most dynamic forms of art on human body. There is no eraser option available and you have to be extremely conscious."
How many tattoos do you have on your body, did you do all of them by yourself?
I have done a lot of tattoos on my own body while I was learning the art. I have lost the count of how many tattoos I have on my body right now.
Tattoos can be removed as well; does the process have any immediate or any long lasting impact on the individual?
I have got my tattoos removed and it is completely safe. The skin does get back to normal. Pico laser is the most modern laser and has proved to be a better option over the conventional laser in tattoo removal.
Describe your art in a line?
Tattooing is one of the most dynamic forms of art on human body. There is no eraser option available and you have to be extremely conscious as people are wearing it on their bodies, not something that goes on a wall or in a personal collection. I feel very lucky to be a part of this art.
What is your greatest professional strength?
I think I am extremely balanced when it comes to art and business. I don’t see this skill set of mine as one completely from an art perspective, as well as I do not see this from the business perspective also. We will never have a franchise of our studio but we will also not work as only artists who just create art by getting lost in nature and leave the monetary part behind. So balance is my biggest professional strength is what I feel.