Dimitris Aronis

Artists - Studios - Issue 7

Talented and exceptional, Dimitris Aronis spoke to HeartbeatInk Tattoo Magazine about his course, tattooing in our era and how people perceive it, as well as his great love for Dotwork.

When was your first “initiation” into the world of the tattoo?

When I was young I used to draw and paint all the time. However, I wasn't aware of the existence of the art of the tattoo. I didn’t come into contact with it until 1996 when I was twenty years old and was doing my national service in the navy. I saw tattoos for the first time on sailors while on a frigate. I was enchanted straight away and I started looking into how it was done. I then made my first makeshift prison-like tattoo-machine and started doing tattoos on others. I tattooed sailors until the end of my national service. When I finished I began doing it at home.

Did your “encounter” with tattoo during your time in the navy, changed the course of your life?

Yes. I was a car electrician and after my national service I planned on opening a garage…


How were the first years of your foray into the tattoo world?

In the beginning I worked at car garage in the mornings and tattooed at night. There wasn't much money in the car business unlike tattooing, so at some point I gave it up completely and devoted my self to tattooing. I opened Dermagrafics in 1998 in Korydallos where it still is today. In those days there were very few tattoo studios in Greece. I remember people coming from all over Athens, because there were no local tattoo studios. Today on the other hand, every neighborhood has two or three studios. The level of tattooing is generally good, so many people get them in their neighborhood shops. I still have clients from the country and the islands. I have clients that come and get their tattoos and then leave with the next boat on the same day.

You are self - taught. Is there something that guided you during your first steps?

I had a book then, by Huck Spaulding - classic American tattoo book – and I learnt through that. So much as it is possible to learn from a book that is… I don’t recommend it to anyone. It is psychologically tiring to learn tattooing on your own. The only way to learn, in my opinion, is through apprenticeship. 

Could you perhaps define apprenticeship within a specific time frame?

It clearly has to do with a person’s perception. I mean, I have met people who did “proper” tattoos within six months. However, two years is nothing when it comes to really learning tattooing. Learning the art of the tattoo never ends. I have been at it for fifteen years and I now feel that I “know” what I am doing. I have found my style and I am doing something correctly. Of course I still feel that I have a lot to learn.


How would you describe your style?

I have been mainly doing Dotwork for the past four years. I also like traditional Japanese and Old School tattoos. I am generally drawn to anything traditional, “clean” and bold. I prefer tattoos made to last through time. The tattoos I do get better as time goes by. There is a trend in which some tattoos seems like there are made to be photographed. Meaning they look “perfect” the moment they are finished but as time passed they fade… That is not a tattoo in my opinion. Tattoo isn’t just “drawing” the body. It has a different ideology. The tattooer is expected to have the “tattoo” on his mind and not just the design.

What is it about Dotwork that has attracted you?

As time passes, I like more primitive forms. Dotting started from cave drawing. It was the first form tattooing. Other than the primitive element it has, I also like the way it “sits” on the body. It gives me the freedom to “embrace” the body very nicely. Also regarding the creative part, I can either only do dots, or I can play with lines or I can add a lot of black or a portrait. Sometimes, I mix different styles.


Which tattoo artists do you admire and where does your inspiration come from?

I really like Thomas Hooper, Jondix, Marco Galdo who is amazing at what he does and Cory Ferguson. They are all an inspiration for my work. There is a thin line between inspiration and copying, so we need to be careful. They mustn’t be confused. I do my own stuff; I don’t use ready made designs. To be specific, anything I did this past year years has been my design. Even when a customer brings a ready made design, I try to change it so it doesn’t remain the same. The irony is that lot of people seem to have problem with that. They bring designs they have seen on the internet and they like and I tell them I'll do something similar, but they will be the only ones with it and still they want the ready made one.

Where does this attitude come from?

I believe people still haven’t realized the potential of the artists. Greece has amazing tattooers right now. They don’t seem to get that. I mean, they go to an artist who is good at something in particular and they ask for lettering for example. And if he says no, they are annoyed… It would be good for people to understand what they like and then find someone who can do it properly.

But doesn’t that presuppose a certain cultural education?

Unfortunately we are rather behind when it comes to that. Of course there is a portion of people in Greece who really know what is going on. 


Nowadays people seem to be getting more and more tattoos. What has changed in your opinion?

The taboo that existed regarding tattoos has definitely disappeared to a great extent. You can go out with a sleeve and they don’t look at you so weirdly any more. I remember when they would point at you even if you had a tattoo on a visible part of your body, even a small one. That seems to have changed. Television has also played its part. By promoting athletes and “celebrities” full of tattoos, it has made tattoo more familiar to the general public. That way even a grandmother might say that since “that guy” has one its ok for her grandson to have one too (laughs). I believe the “badness” of the tattoo has greatly disappeared. On the other hand, I think the financial crisis has really hindered us. I meet a lot of people who want big pieces and they can't afford them so they go for the smaller ones.

Do you happen to tattoo more women or men?

Because I do large pieces, I mostly tattoo men. Generally, in the shop the rate is 50 - 50. With the style that I do, I have fewer women. However, when a woman decides to get a sleeve done, nothing will stop her. They will consider getting tattooed less than a man would. Women seem to be more comfortable and determined. A man will think about it more and will wonder for example what his family or wife might think. In the contrary, if women have something in their mind, they will go for it!


How do you see tattooing in Greece, at the moment?

Regarding Greek tattoo artists, the level is very high. It has been recognized abroad. From one hand there are several Greek tattooers that have come out and been distinguished at conventions abroad, while on the other hand there are important artists such as Mike the Athens, Tas Danazoglou and Yorg that are more known worldwide, than here...

Why do you think this is happening?

It has to do with the lack of cultural education. Most people don’t look at the tattoo as an art from but as something very superficial. They look at it as a trend. But when the trend passes, they will still carry their tattoos and have it bad.

Do you have many people coming for a cover up?

As a studio we do a lot of cover ups and they are mostly bad tattoos done at home. I know a lot of studios that don’t take on cover ups. Personally, I see them as a challenge. I like the fact that I am helping someone recover the damage that has been done and “give” them something good. I like that I give them joy. 

Now that more people are getting tattooed, have your cover up percentages increased? 

I don’t believe so. I have the feeling that in the past we used to do more cover ups. I think people have realized the risks they are taking, the “damages” have become known as well and in the past couple of years there is less in - house work done compared to four or five years ago. At the end of the day, it’s not financially rational if one contemplates the money they will need not only for the tattoo, but for the cover up too.


Apprenticeship seems to have constituted an inseparable part of your course in tattooing...

I opened my studio in 1998. I hired my first apprentice the next year. I had a lot of work and I needed an assistant. I have taught a lot of people that are currently working in the field… First was Paul who now owns Destiny. Then Vasso (Eightball) came along and she stayed with me for one year Then there was Piperakis (Dr Pepper) who opened a studio of his own. There were more for shorter periods. From the guys that are now in Dermagraphics, Litsa, Manolis and Aggelos (he is on his second year of  apprenticeship) are my apprentices. Μeizar and Kiko were tattooing from before.

Apprenticeship it’s a rather complicated situation... It’s the base of tattooing, you can’t have it any other way. But it’s art and there is money in the way too. It’s just that some might end up leaving in a bad way. Unfortunately there is also this side of the apprenticeship, which is more obscure. 

What would you advise a young person who would like to be involved with tattooing?

The most important thing is to find a studio so that they can get an apprenticeship. An advice would be to get tattoos themselves, if they can afford to, from the best tattooers possible. This is a very good lesson. It also requires devotion. You have to give yourself to it 100% .You have to drop everything else and focus only on this. And most of all, it requires a love for the art. 

Isn't talent necessary in tattooing?

I have had some guys come to me and tell me they want to learn how to tattoo and I ask them if they draw and they say no. You can’t not draw and want to become a tattoo artist! I know some who don’t draw but just “carve” tattoos. They are good from a technical aspect, but there is no development. You can’t have someone that doesn’t draw create their own patterns and tattooing style. He will always be copying others. 

Morals are also very important. I see youngsters who get high on power very early on and even though they are talented, you can tell that with this kind of attitude, unfortunately, they won’t evolve. I believe that the development of social media has contributed to this phenomenon happening. I mean that when I started tattooing and I wanted to show my work to someone, they had to either come to my house or my studio. Now a lad does something that is mediocre, he uploads it onto Facebook and his friends like it and he gets 500 likes. It doesn't help the to keep it together. Let’s be realistic, our life is inextricably connected with social media. 

On the other hand, internet and social media have helped tattooers a lot, isn’t that so? 

Yes, now I do a tattoo and I upload it for the whole world to see. It’s amazing. In the past, in order for you to show your tattoo abroad, you had to travel to a tattoo convention and get published in magazines. This entire scene is different now. It just needs control.


Photos & interview by Ino Mei.


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