Authentic and extremely loved by the people, Konstantinos Dovas, known as Dovas, spoke to HeartbeatInk Tattoo Magazine about his first experience with tattoo that was symptomatic and... uncomfortable, the reasons why he believes apprenticeship is necessary, the code of ethics in tattoo, the personal relationship that develops between tattooer and client, his love for tattoo and how tattoo has become a way of life.

Photos & interview by Ino Mei.

First of all, tell me how you came into contact with tattoo and eventually into tattooing? 

I was involved for years with BMX and during a competition in Athens the first three to finish the race were given a tattoo as a prize. I was in the top three but at the time, getting a tattoo had never crossed my mind. In the end, since I had won it, I got it. 

What year are we talking about?

It was 2001. The tattoo was done by Panayiotis from Lizard Tattoo. To be honest, I didn’t like the experience. I used to say, “who would get a second tattoo? Are people that dumb"(laughs)?

Why? What happened? 

It was very painful. However, I didn’t make a sound during, my mouth was shut. Later on, when I was in the army, I got another tattoo. It’s a slippery slope (laughs). 

Even though I was always painting because I really enjoyed it, I never thought I would be involved with the tattoo…

What were you doing at the time?

I was into punk rock and BMX. Nothing else. 
Before getting in the tattoo scene, what was your job?

I was a constructor. It was kind of a rough job. My father had been doing that job for years. I started working with my father and when he had a very serious work related accident, everything changed and I ended up working in a clothing store, owned by some friends of mine. 

The guys from Tattooland, Pavlos and Moses, are my cousins. I used to go every once in a while to get a tattoo and that resulted in them hiring me to do body piercings - and there I started gradually learning. That was almost ten years ago. During the first two years, I was both doing piercings and working at the shop, selling clothes. When I got fired from the shop, since I wasn’t any good at it, Pavlos said to me, “come and I’ll show you how to tattoo”. And that’s how I got to start an apprenticeship for a year.

Were you Pavlos’s apprentice?

Yes. Good times. Tough ones. Tough but good. 

Was he “pressuring” you?

No, not at all. He was very easy-going. You just have to go through that phase in order to learn. An apprenticeship is necessary.

In what way?

I have experienced it from my previous job as a constructor. You need to stay close to someone who knows, to see what he does and how he does it and not why he does it. The “why” comes later, doing it yourself. An apprenticeship is the right method in order to learn the job, especially when it comes to tattooing. There are of course talented guys that show up, take the machine and create amazing tattoos, but in my opinion, the right way is this; step by step. 

Tattooing is a craft. You need to be good with your hands. To know when to be tender and when not. It takes a lot of knowledge, which you get by being next to your craftsman.

So, when did you actually start your apprenticeship?

I started tattooing in 2008, so in 2007 I was doing my apprenticeship. 

Where you a body piercer for a long time?

For two years, and in the meantime, I was learning how to tattoo. I am not really good at period pointing. But I can say that I was in Tattooland for seven years and I have been here in Tattooligans for three years now. A chapter finished and another one started.

How were things in the beginning? 

I was kind of lame when I first started tattooing. Punk rock, BMX and beers till the break of dawn. Gradually, I realized that that’s not how it goes. This job requires much more devotion to it! I took trips, I went to festivals, I travelled abroad, I met people and things started getting more serious because I started to get to grips with what I am doing. After every trip - which I still do - I understand that I can get better and that everything can be done differently. To sum up, a trip can be a real eye-opener. 

And the trip is perpetual, it never ends. 

Yes, and especially in this job it’s a long trip. With many stowaways unfortunately.

What do you mean?

Unfortunately, many of the people who open tattoo studios, or who tattoo, don’t have any respect towards the profession and simply, they shouldn’t be in the field. 

Should we dare to say that this is potentially a “bubble” in the tattoo scene at the moment?

If you had asked me two years ago, I would have said that it’s a bubble that will burst. Unfortunately, I don’t think that any more. The average Greek has a bad way of thinking when it comes to money. How to explain it better... They will go on a search to find the cheapest and not the best tattoo studio. And that is what preserves these studios. The people who will search and will understand what tattoo is and who will understand why it costs - even though it doesn’t cost that much in Greece - are potential clients of ours. They know how it goes and why he would have to give that kind of money. The rest come and go and then come again with “smudges” that cannot be corrected and in the end, they whine about them too.

When did you start leaning towards Old School?

As a theme, as a branch of tattoo, Old School had appealed to me for years. As a style, I started doing it here in Tattooligans these past few years, because up until then, I used to do a little bit of everything. I was a “classic” tattoo artist. 

You mean with the old concept of “I do everything”?

Yes, exactly, the old but not bad. I am glad I started like that, it’s good to try everything at first, and it’s a good base to build upon! Here, I got the chance to specialize a little more with a lot of efforts: mouth shut, and plenty of climbing. It takes patience, persistence, and it requires a lot of sacrifices that a lot of the clients and friends cannot understand. You spend the whole day in the studio and then you have to paint and do internet research. The right kind of internet use is very positive, amongst others, it gives you the chance to see the work of other tattoo artists. I try to avoid “taking work” home with me, but it’s not always easy. Even if I go out to grab a beer, the discussion will eventually end up being about tattooing. “What did you do today? Did you see what he did online?” etc. It’s a form of disease. Tattoo is addictive, whether you are on the inside or the outside. 

Why do you think that is?

I honestly don’t know. I told you, my first experience was a very bad one. Whoever claims that they enjoy getting tattoed, I believe they are lying. It’s the result they like. I’ve been complaining all these years. And I still complain. Just the other day when I was getting a tattoo, it was the same thing all over again.

Tattoo and pain are inseparably connected. Is it something perhaps that “excites” people? What do you think?

People are dumb (laughs). Myself, in the beginning I used to be into it because it’s kind of like fighting with yourself. You are like, “I made it”. You reached your limits. Then you try to control it and when you are about to crack, you power through. It’s a trip. And the pain is part of the beauty of tattoo. If tattoo wasn’t painful, I believe that people wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t do it. 


Because it would be, “bang - goodbye”. Done and gone. 
So the “trouble” is part of its charm?

The charm is in the trip and not the destination. 

Coming back to your tattoo style, have you really settled on it?

I believe I am there, yes. It’s the kind of style with which you can toy with and add various elements without it going bad. 

What got you interested in the Old School and how did you develop it along the way?

The timelessness of the style is what I like. On the one hand, it’s classic, but on the other hand, you can experiment with it. You can blend in other styles, such as the New Traditional. Old school is a little more strict whereas New Traditional gives you the chance to maneuver. That’s why I blend them. I’m not purely one or the other. 

Do you believe that New Traditional is a fad or a style that will be established and become a household name?

All the styles have been established and will remain. Tribals, Chinese letters, Realism, everything. Because it’s on your skin and it will be for a lifetime. No matter what the style is, no matter how much people will change, they have been created and they will be there. They are tattoos and not an item of clothing that will be worn for one season and will be thrown out of the closet the next. All tattoos are always “in fashion”. 

How do you feel after being voted “best artist by visitors”, two consecutive years in Thessalonink tattoo convention? What is it that you do and others don’t (laughs)?

First of all, I wasn’t expecting it, not in a million years. Yeah, it is my city and I do have friends there, but consider that the first year, even my wife didn’t vote, she didn’t know that such a thing existed, neither did most of my closest friends. Other friends of mine told me they voted for me but I wasn’t taking it seriously. I was kind of startled. Generally, I am goofy, but when I got on the scene, I was like “what now”? I couldn’t really grasp what was happening. I haven’t received many prizes. I have received some abroad, which makes it even more sentimental and important. It was a great honour for me to get this prize from the city I love. 
From what it seems, it loves you too. 

Yes, it loves me because I do not consider myself a “top artist”, I just try. 

So, you are humble?

Yes, I am humble (laughs). No matter what you do, no matter how good you might be if you are a show off, you lose your value. And I am saying it, I do not believe I am accomplished as an artist. 

Do you create all of your designs? What is your pattern of work?

I try to create as many designs as possible and I promote them to my clients too. Sometimes they bring me a design from other artists of my style, but I still tell them “hey, you know what, I will do something of mine. If you don’t like it, I will do that, but not 100% like that”, because in the end, it’s not nice when somebody’s bringing a tattoo that someone else has created for someone and then have someone else wear it too. Even if you try to do the same, it will always be a cheap copy of it. However good it might be. From my designs, I have never done a single one twice. And I never will. You work with similar concepts because this is what the subject is, it cannot change. 
Since there are pictures with your tattoos on display, isn’t it reasonable that some people will take them and ask someone else to give them something similar?

Personally, if I see someone “stealing” my design - which has happened before - I would mind on the one side, but on the other I would also think to myself that I created something worth stealing.

Yes but from the client’s side, when their tattoo is on display, doesn’t this go against the concept of it uniqueness? That someone might copy your tattoo and end up having the same thing that you do?

That’s a double-edged sword. It cannot not happen, I just try to contain it as much as possible. 

What you are saying is that it depends on the artist’s morality when someone brings them a tattoo made for someone else to tell them “you know what, it is not right for me to do the same tattoo on you”. 

Morality. That’s really good, I like it. Morality when it comes to the design but also the artist’s work. I mean that I have had clients come from other tattooers to continue a tattoo they have started and I explain to them that I cannot do that, it’s purely a question of morals. Of course I have continued a tattoo of an artist who had died… 


Yes. The guy was from Athens, and had the tattoo for years, it was an iconography. It had lines, and I did the whole thing from the beginning. He wanted to get it finished. He was great. He said to me “I understand if you don’t want to handle it, but that’s what the case is” and he explained. It was honouring. 

The relationship between tattooer and client is personal, I’ve had a case where people have told me “you know, I don’t want to go back to him, he said something to me that I didn’t like”. Other times I will continue a design but I will try to avoid it. In any case, I never upload a picture of a tattoo I have finished for someone else.

The personal relationship you mention is a very important part in your profession. How do you interpret it?

We tend to see a lot of people and sometimes when a client stops you on the street and they are like “hey, what’s up?” you can be a bit “reserved” at first but then, they show their tattoo and you are like “hey, how are you doing?”. But it still remains special. The relationship can be different with someone who will do letters - you are still his tattooer and you owe it to him to treat them right and talk to them nicely - and different with someone else on whom you will do a large tattoo, which will be more personal and will tell you the story behind the tattoo, you will be the one building it, you will be altering it with them, and you will spend a lot of time with them. There are clients who become your friends and you travel with them after a while, you go out for beers and it’s great. They carry you on them. It’s a nice thing. It’s like flirting between a man and a woman. Someone comes up to you and they say “I saw you on the internet and I liked you”. And you are flattered and you pay a little more attention to them, it’s nice. I like that. 

It’s a relationship that is alive. 

Yes, like I said, it’s like flirting, the other guy saw you and then you build it up. I like associating with nice people, who understand what I do, how I do it and why I am doing it. You build a different relationship with them. 

What is tattoo to you overall?

To me, tattoo, as common as it may sound, is a lifestyle. I will wake up, I will look tattoos up, I will work with tattoos, I will draw for tattoos, I will look on the internet for tattoos, I will bore my wife and my friends about tattoos. It’s a routine. I like getting involved with it, it is love. 

Tattoo work photographs courtesy of Tattooligans.