Christos (Christ) Zacharopoulos

Artists - Studios - Issue 12 - 13

Christ, aka Christos Zacharopoulos, gave HeartbeatInk Tattoo Magazine an interview for his passion about the tattoo, life in Cyprus, whether his identity as a tattooist has been influenced by the fact that he is a father, the growing popularity and partly commercialization of tattoo nowadays and reality tattoo shows that he characterizes as "tragic".

Photos & interview by Ino Mei.

How did you get involved with tattoo?

I was best friends with Tassos (e.n. Tas Danazoglou) and one day I went to get tattooed by him at Mike the Athens’s private tattoo studio, where he was working. That’s how I met Mike around 1997 and he suggested that I become the shop manager. In 1999 I did my first tattoos for friends, my sister and on myself. Basically, nobody taught me how to tattoo. I was crazy with tattoo and I found myself in the ideal environment with Mike, who showed me how to solder needles, with Tas and Yorg Powell. Just like that, by looking at the guys for a while, at some point I started tattooing. And that’s what I developed. 

I feel that we were very lucky, because Mike is a high class artist. And aside from us, he helped other people as well become what they are now. It’s very important that there was a person like him in Greece. Of course there were others that were tattooing in Greece and they were also good, it’s just that Mike had what we wanted. We feel that he is kind of like our “father”. 


When did you leave Athens?

The summer of 1999 I went to Cyprus to find Tas and I worked with him at Pari’s studio in Agia Napa. Until the summer of 2004 I was going to Cyprus every summer and I was working throughout the tourist season in a “touristic” studio that a friend from Greece had opened.  That’s a thing that helped me when it comes to tattooing, because at the time I was just starting. The rest of the year I was mostly traveling and I made certain guest spots, like the one in LTW where Tas was working in Barcelona, here in Athens at the guys and at Jacqueline Spoerlé in Lucerne, Switzerland where I still go. Jacqueline is an extremely talented and humble woman.

How come you decided to move to Cyprus after all this “wandering”?

I started tattooing “professionally” in Cyprus, so as the years went by I started having regular clients. I also liked that it was pretty quiet there. Traveling is nice, but you need a base with a slower pace to come back to. I have been in Cyprus permanently since 2004. Cyprus is the ideal environment for my children too. Moreover, I have many artists making guest spots in the studio I own, Tas, Yorg, Jacqueline and others among them.

What was the thing that captivated you the most in the art of tattoo?

It was the art of tattoo, its essence. Not the lifestyle or the fact that it’s easy going. When I had my first tattoo I was in shock. I said to myself that I was going to get more and I did very fast. I couldn’t not get tattooed. Then it evolved into work too and not because I had to make a living out of it, but because I liked it that much. Perhaps that’s why I see things so differently. Of course on the other hand it’s nothing more than a tattoo. Sure, you are doing something creative with a certain level of difficulty and a lifestyle that doesn’t change. Nevertheless, it’s a job. You are there every morning like every other person does. It’s just that we get to check in a little later. (laughs).


How does your tattoo style range?

I am mainly doing Traditional Tribal Work – from linear to total black, from various civilizations. My inspiration is inexhaustible. These are the ones that I always liked and these are the ones that ‘come out of me’ the easiest. But since I have a studio in Nicosia and also due to the fact that I am working with guest tattooers I have to be able to do any kind of tattoo. I should be able to, once the client asks for it, and I face it as a challenge. Sure, I wouldn’t do it in a tattoo convention as there are artists that do portraits better than me for example. The outcome will be very descent and the client will go home satisfied anyway.  

I assume that Tribal tattoos are done mostly freehand?

Yes, 99% I do them freehand. You can’t stencil in this genre. It will have to be something very symmetric or absolute to make it into a stencil. Freehand has a different kind of magic as the contact you have when you are painting directly onto the skin is different. The client may possibly also feel that it’s more “unique”. 

Is there someone who has inspired you in your work? Which tattoo artists do you admire?

I admire Mike, Tas, Yorg, Jacqueline, Alex Binnie and Curly. They are all top artists and their level is so high that the only thing you can do is simply follow it at any point you can. Not competitively. And of course, what could anyone say about Filip Leu… I have been inspired by all of them and especially from Curly’s and Alex Binnie’s work. In the past, I have been influenced by the traditional Tribal and liner work of Tas, which I believe each one of us has developed in his own way.


How do you perceive the increasing popularity of tattoo nowadays?

I am sitting in my “hole” and I don’t care much for it (laughs). Like everything else, this also has its positive and negative side. I am just wondering sometimes, where is this going to go after all…? Everybody get’s tattooed. It tends to lose it’s magic… And also everyone wants to get involved with tattoo because they want to be “cool”.  

Because of its commercialism, a lot of people look only at the present and not at the past, the history of tattoo and its techniques. You ought to learn some things and respect them. For example, you cannot be a tattooist and not know who Alex Binnie is. That way, tattoo not only doesn’t develop, but it’s taking steps backwards. 

On the other hand that’s how things go and essentially the artist chooses his clientele. Just as the professional client will choose to go to a professional tattooist. Meaning that what you present will be understood by those who can understand your work. If I see someone who looks like he’s into fads and wants to get tattooed because it’s something popular e.t.c. I kindly refer him elsewhere. 

Also this thing where people do tattoos at home is in no way “underground”. I think it’s miserable. And that has become some sort of fad as well. That I won’t go to a studio and pay, I will go to John’s house for instance and it will turn out fine. Sometimes I think you have to make mistakes in order to learn that whatever you give, you receive as well. Even though this doesn’t apply completely when it comes to tattoo because there are people that charge a lot because they are supposed to be “high class” artists and you end up getting something of lower quality.

Finally, people switch on their television and they see Beckham with his tattoos and they go get tattooed themselves. Even that benefits our business at some point; it’s just that these people believe that tattoo is something easy. I mean that people watch “Miami Ink” or some other trashy realities and they come to you the next day and they are like “hey, give me a tattoo”. But you’ll have it on you for the rest of your life! What kind of logic is this? Now it’s in fashion. Tomorrow it may not be. What are you going to do then?


What are your thoughts on reality shows that focus on tattoo?

I think they are tragic. Whatever comes in the shape of a reality show, I don’t like it and I believe that they are overdone. Surely though someone that can understand a few things about tattoo could learn something, regarding quality tattooing by watching them. This is their “good” side. Because even though their aesthetics may be bad in these shows, however, skill-wise most of the candidates are good tattooists. So you can at least see some “clean” work and understand partially how things work when it comes to the technique. All the rest basically is food that has been cooked and served to you without them having shown you how to make it to begin with. People then think that they will go to a studio and they will ask for a full back tattoo and that they are simply going to hand it to them as if it were a piece of clothing. I would be curious to see what they would do with a backpiece after…   

You mean if they would be able to “support” it?

How much you support something, in this case your tattoos, is something that shows in your daily life. If what you get is something you have really looked for and researched it, you will always be able to support it and you will always dig it. Even if it’s well done, average or of poor quality. If you do it just to do it, when you go to a wedding for example with your parents and everyone looks at you strangely, you will be hiding. No matter what, you are the one who chose it.

I have some clients that work in a bank and they tell me that their boss will come to work in the morning and that they are afraid of being scolded on their tattoos. I don’t get that. Are you going to perform any less or are you going to do anything differently? How do people work in England at a bank while being covered in tattoos?  Therefore, it’s up to you how you present it to people and how much you like it. If there are times where you want to show them and others where you want to hide them, then –I believe that it’s better you don’t get a tattoo. That’s why you need to think it through before you decide to get it. Because tattoo is forever. And that’s the beauty of it.


You believe that the notion of permanency is part of the charm of tattoo?

Certainly. Tattoo goes with you as much as you do. And maybe some more (laughs). I am who I am with my tattoos. If I “take them off” I will be a different person. My children won’t recognize me.

Children that are born in families like yours and Tas’, where your tattoos cover a big part of your body and go up to your face, how do they view them?

They get used to it. They have their questions of course. My younger son asked me the other day “dad, why do you have so many tattoos on your face?” because he sees other parents and they don’t have. I told him that it has to do with my job and that I like it and also that everyone is a little bit different. And artists maybe even a little bit more.

The fact that you are a father and you have a family, how much has it influenced your work as a tattooist? 

When it comes to the creative part, it hasn’t influenced me. My daily life is about tattoo and I think about it all the time. Even when I look at myself in the mirror… you understand (laughs). The only thing that has been practically influenced, are the many and spontaneous trips I use to take in the past, which have been reduced consciously on my side because my family always comes first. Sometimes though when it’s feasible I take them with me! In general I believe that you can organize it, it just takes extra effort. For example I have been with my older son (e.n. now six and half years old) in London, at Into You. 

Also, my sons come to my studio. They like it very much! To be precise, my older son washes tubes and the young one is drawing. They sit by me and they slowly initiate themselves into this ultimate art. I don’t know if they would make it to follow it, thus I will be very happy.


How do you define tattoo as an “ultimate” art? 

The tattoo is one of the most ancient art forms and stays upon your skin forever, which is something that makes it necessarily unmistakable. It has a high level of difficulty. Because if for example you are creating a painting and the outcome isn’t the expected and wanted, you can correct it or worst comes to worst, you throw it out and you create another one. In tattoo, this doesn’t exist. If something is “off” in a tattoo it’s very hard to fix it. As an art, it’s very difficult. At least that’s what I believe. I do though think that if you ask others that are in the business, they will agree.  

Aside from the level of difficulty that you mentioned, isn’t the responsibility something of great importance too?

Surely. The responsibility you have for the person that is getting tattooed but also for yourself too, because if you don’t get it “right”, you will be feel bad. Fortunately or not, there is no room for mistakes in tattoo. 

How do you, tattoo artists, deal with that? 

When a good tattoo artist doesn’t feel well or doesn’t possess the energy required, he won’t do a tattoo. He has to be there 100%. So, if he respects himself and the client, he will tell him nicely that it’s not his day, that he’s not feeling up to it e.t.c. and he will reschedule the appointment for another day. I think that as time goes by, stress decreases, as you become an experienced tattooist. I myself were stressed in the beginning, mainly with the larger pieces.


How do you view tattoo in Cyprus? 

Since 1999 when I went to find Tas, the number of tattoos the Cypriots had impressed me. Even though their population is smaller than ours, tattoos where proportionally more and people where more familiar with their existence. That’s a fact that surely originates to the many English people. Personally I think Cyprus was ahead of its time. Even now there is a lot of work to do and plenty of people with tattoos.

Beneath the numerous tattooed individuals that you describe, are the also many tattoo artists on the island? 

Now there are artists too. But I wouldn’t call them “artists” with the true meaning of the word because I believe that the level is still relatively low. And I say that without wanting to sound spiteful. They are simply people who try and perhaps don’t pay as much attention as it needs. Some of them of course develop slowly, however some of them do it to make a living or others who start, might be doing it because it’s part of the “high life” and not because they truly like it.  

What do you mean “high life”?

They see the rockstars and they think, “that’s it”! For a rockstar to become what he is and have a limo waiting to pick him up, he has faced a number of difficult situations in the past. That’s how it is with tattoo as well. You can’t reach the top within a day. You must follow a path first. You don’t go to a club and say that you are a tattooist and you don’t expect everything you order to come on the house because you think you are an “A lister”. Nothing like this happens. Thereafter, I think that if you chase it too much, in the end it won’t happen. You are involved with the tattoo because you love it. Otherwise you shouldn’t be doing it at all.   


What is your opinion on the Greek tattoo scene?

The level is now very high when it comes to tattooists, but I also think that people are more receptive of it too. In this matter the internet has helped a lot. I myself remember that when I left Greece, there were five people that could do a good tattoo. Now there are forty of them and they do a great job. 

Where do you think tattoo is on a universal level?

It has completely gotten out of hand! Level-wise, tattoo has reached the top! It’s also kind of a ‘must have’. Almost everybody has a tattoo for their own reasons. 

So you believe that in ten years from now the social landscape will be different from todays? 

We can’t know that. It will be more acceptable of course, as the generations change. It’s a different kind of generation our parents grew up in - and thank God my father is an open minded person and he accepted it-, a different one than the one we grew up in and another one for our children. It’s a logical thing to be more receptive of tattoo as time goes by. Most of our generation has tattoos. So our children grow up with tattoos around them. It’s a rational continuation.


How do you feel about tattoo conventions?

In tattoo conventions people can see the development of this particular art. There is for sure a commercial side to them as well. Nowadays, every weekend there is a tattoo convention taking place somewhere on the planet. Surely you meet artists with an “attitude”. I am not like that. Nevertheless, a convention that is properly organized, can function as something very positive and they should be happening after all. 

Who has tattooed you?

Numerous people! Tas, Mike the Athens, Yorg, Jacqueline Spoerlé, Curly, Neil Ahern, Daniel Di Mattia, Valentin Steinmann, Alvin Chong, Xavi Castano, Tomas Garcia, Croc, my wife Elina and I myself have done it on me. I might also have something small on me from someone that I can’t remember now. We might have been wasted in a convention (laughs).



HeartbeatInk Tattoo Magazine would like kindly to thank Honest Tattoo for the hospitality and the realisation of the photoshoot.

Tattoo work photographs courtesy of Endangered Species Tattoo.









































Christ and his family.


Crhist and Tas Danazoglou.