Lazaros Brone

Artists - Studios - Issue 16

Lazaros Brone, aka Lazaros Passias, spoke to HeartbeatInk Tattoo Magazine about how tattoo changed his life for the better, his love for freehand drawing, his "dark" influences and the different treatment of the Greek tattooists abroad.

Photos & interview by Ino Mei.

You are relatively new in the tattoo scene. What did you do before?

I have done a lot of jobs that have nothing to do with tattoo in the past. I have worked as a builder, in flyer distribution, delivery and even in a bakery. As you can understand, I had no contact with tattoo, I simply painted since I was young and did some graffiti. In 2010, I started doing freehand drawing for the first time.  I went to classes and in the meantime, my brother mentioned tattooing to me and got me hooked. I bought a tattoo machine from Spyros (Nico Tattoo Crew Athens) and timidly began tattooing friends at home. Spyros gave me some good advice, which I kept and applied. Over time, I saw that I could take some steps further so I persisted. I would say that I have been doing it professionally for about two years and I am at Ritual Tattoo.

What were your plans when you started drawing?

I was working as a builder with my father and at some point I gave up and told myself I couldn’t spend my life doing that so I started studying graphic design. I remained at college for only a month, because I got kicked out due to a mistake with my application forms – I had a leaving certificate from the Greek Manpower Employment Organisation but not from high school. That’s when I began classes in freehand drawing, because that is basically what I really liked from the beginning. After classes I went to night school and started tattooing in the mornings.

So we could say you learnt to tattoo “on the job”? 

Yes, on the job and also watching-studying various artists, either at tattoo conventions or anywhere else. In general, whenever I happened to be somewhere where tattooing was taking place, I observed. Just like when I observed Ozone give me the tattoo on my arm for example. I believe I am still at a relatively early stage and, in any case, you never stop learning when it comes to tattooing. 

How did you progress so swiftly in tattooing, in your opinion? 

Lots of studying, lots of drawing and lots of work. I devoted myself to tattoo and I haven’t done anything else these past two years. I try and work all the time and make as much progress as I can. The help and support of all the guys here at the studio was also very important in this endeavour. 

Looking back, do you think you would have preferred an apprenticeship under a professional in the field? 

Of course, it would have offered me a lot more if I had someone to explain things that I had forced to figure out on my own in time and to guide me. It was very hard learning all the things I know today. I made mistakes at first, like everyone has I believe. If I had someone to pass on his knowledge to me, maybe I wouldn’t have. 

Had you approached anyone in the beginning for guidance?

No I didn’t.  To be honest, I didn’t have any contact with the scene or the subject so as to know what was best for me.

Which tattoo artists have you “studied”?

I admire and respect all tattoo styles. I generally admire all “good” tattoos. I have mainly studied the realists, likes Boris, Carlos Torres and Josh Duffy. I really like Duffy. I used to sit and watch him for hours whenever I saw him at conventions… Of course, watching is different from doing. But you try and do what you see. Personally, the internet didn’t help me, because I didn’t for example watch YouTube videos. I liked watching the whole process live and that, as I said, is what I was after. 

I also admire Paul Booth and the “dark” Robert Hernandez, Riccardo Cassese – for the quality of his shadows – and Victor Portugal. I like the fact that they mix realism with their own surreal elements. 

So you prefer darker thematology?

Yes, I do that a lot. I think that anyone who sees my work can easily understand that this particular theme is dominant. In general terms, my work thematology is mostly faces, animals and skulls.

Which tattoo style do you practice more?

Photorealism really drew me in from the beginning. During my first steps, of course, I tried my hand at everything without choosing, as one does, so as to discover what I was best at. However, I quickly realised that realism and portraits were what I liked and did best. I found what I liked fast and that is the positive thing. I feel lucky. 

Do you also do colour or just black & grey?

I prefer Black & Grey and I generally don’t do colour. I have done a little, mainly on some “cartoon” tattoos. The truth is that I have not really dealt with colour yet. Therefore, I believe it is a bit risky to do realism with colour. I need a little more time. I am used to Black & Grey, the way I use the contrast and I feel sure on my feet with it, so for now I don’t want to risk it with colour. I am a little scared of it, I don’t know why…

Do you paint?

I paint at home, mainly oil on canvas. I had done some classes in freehand drawing in the past but I would like to go and continue it. Those classes really helped me, without taking into account that they lead me to tattooing. My goal is to become better and better in tattooing and painting, through any means possible. 

I believe that if you don’t grasp the logic of painting, you can’t tattoo.

You have already taken part in some tattoo conventions abroad. How was that experience and what was the attitude towards a new Greek tattooist?

I have attended conventions in Amsterdam, Maastricht and Cyprus and now we are going to Brighton. Attitude towards me was generally positive. They seem to know of the high level of Greek tattooists and they admire us for it. I have received good reviews from people who come for tattoos, and also from artists, but when I go to conventions I usually immerse myself in my work and don’t look up. I don’t talk, I just work. 

Recently, I was a guest artist in France at “La machine Infernal Tattoo”, where some of my clients had really positive things to say about me which I haven’t heard from anyone here… It seemed as though they were really appreciating my work. I think that tattoo artists are respected and seen differently abroad… The first thing they look at here is whether you will offer them a better price. Not everyone does that of course, but there are a lot of them. 

I generally ask people’s opinion of my work when I talk to them. It helps me a lot, to know how someone sees me. I have received both positive and negative remarks, which have helped me improve. I am glad that there are good artists in Greece, a lot of talent and therefore more competition, because I believe that competition pushes you to become better. I am really satisfied with that because things are also difficult in Greece at the moment, so that is surely something positive.

Do you mean that, during all these years of financial crisis, tattooing has risen in contrast with other industries?

I believe it has. In conjunction of course with the level of the artists which has also risen. Generally, though, people have no money. A man who hasn’t got food to eat will not get a tattoo, or someone who makes 400 euros a month won’t pay 250-300 for a tattoo. So most of the people who come in, are probably saving up… Maybe that is why there are a lot of people who go to home-tattooists. They are more interested in the price and not so much in the quality. It’s their right to do so, but it is surely better in a studio with regards to hygiene and quality. It’s no coincidence that until now, all the cover ups we get are for tattoos done at home. 

So in the end, is the tattoo not more expensive as whole?

Yes and some people also use laser, which is double the trouble and price. Furthermore, there are specific designs which can be done, so as to cover up the previous tattoo. 

How do you imagine yourself in ten years? What are your plans for the future?

In general, tattooing changed my life. It is the only thing I have been doing for the past two years and it has helped me in many ways. My life has improved not only on a personal level but in its entirety. I like being in contact with people, even though I have had clients over the years with which there was no chemistry. Tattoo is in my mind all the time. I do something I love, I am calm, and I know what I do and why I do it.  

I don’t know what I would do if I dint have this profession. I don’t know if I could do something else seriously. I mean, before this, I used to do odd jobs and I never expected to be at peace and settled down. I never expected I would want to work all the time. I have never woken up and said, “I don’t want to go to work”. I don’t see it as a job but it is a job at the same time, since that is how I make ends meet. I am happy when I come here. Me and the guys have really become close, the atmosphere is calm and happy. They have really helped me and we generally try to do the best for the studio. We have common goals.

Tattoo work photographs courtesy of Ritual Tattoo.

Lazaros Brone Artwork.