Tattoos should be perceived as artwork, says Kazakh tattoo artist

ASTANA – Tattoos are artwork that should be created for each person based on the individual’s wishes and ideas and taking into account his or her anatomy and health, said Tattooskull Studio founder and tattoo artist Ruslan Batyrbayev.

Ruslan Batyrbayev.

Batyrbayev is a self-made tattoo artist. He was born in a lawyers’ family and followed the example by getting an education in the field. With time, however, he found his path in tattoo art. While serving in the army, he understood his interest and several years later, started to perceive it as a career path.

Although he had an interest in tattooing, he did not get one until 2012, a year after starting in the field.

“I was making tattoos for a year already, but I didn’t make a decision to have one myself. Also, my parents were against it. So, it lasted until I met a Kazakh showman and he impressed me with his tattoos… He had a batyr (Kazakh warrior) painted on his back. I had never seen an ethnic tattoo,” said Batyrbayev in an interview for this story.

He wanted to become an artist who makes tattoos for show people.

Photo credit: Tattoo Skull Facebook page.

“‘I do not believe that you can do something spiritual as you have no tattoos,’ he said to me. “He woke me up. The next day, I went and got a tattoo.”

Batyrbayev emphasised the importance of the connection and understanding between client and artist. For him, a tattoo is artwork that should be created for each person individually.

“I invite people to a preliminary consultation for free. If there is no mutual understanding between the client and the tattoo artist, then any tattoo will not please the person. It should give him or her joy, strength and energy,” he said.

“In the tattoo there is something sacred. If you do it with soulfulness, then the tattoo will carry out the mission embodied in it,” he added.

During the consultation, clients share their ideas and thoughts about their future tattoo.

“A person usually comes with an idea and sets it out. Together, we create an artwork based on the person’s idea. The person becomes a co-author [of the tattoo],” noted Batyrbayev.

The stories the artist shares about his clients inspire him, giving more value to his art.

“This is done not only for the sake of beauty or tribute to fashion. There are people whose lives changed after I made them a tattoo. There is a story about a man who stuttered who came to me. We made him a tattoo on his back of a phoenix rising self-born from the ashes. Two weeks later, I got a call. It was his phone number, but I heard a completely different person… not stuttering”, he said.

“He became self-confident. It turns out that a few days after we made the tattoo, his colleagues went to rest in the countryside. During the trip, he asked one of his colleagues to take care of the tattoo, as the tattoo was on his back. He put a lot of effort to that, because he never asked anything. He was in love with the girl he asked to help and after that, their relationship and his life changed completely,” added Batyrbayev. “This kind of situation inspires me to make positive adjustments to people’s lives. The tattoo works for everyone in different ways, but the main thing is that it works exactly the way a person wishes it.”

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Batyrbayev, who previously lived and worked for five years in Karaganda, opened Tattooskull Studio in the capital in October 2015.

“We have one of the few studios in Kazakhstan in which administrators are fluent in English. Therefore, a person who has come from abroad will always be understood here,” he said.

During EXPO 2017 he met many interesting people from around the world who got tattoos in his studio.

“Almost all of the Cirque Du Soleil artists got tattoos from the studio. Several times we went to their show; they invited us. We became friends with them. Such a friendship – it is eternal. They will not forget you, because you left a mark in the form of a tattoo,” he said.

The studio resembles a gallery with sculptures, paintings and other artwork, some of which he made. Almost every subject in the studio has a story.

“This is the original drawing of Yeraly Ospanov (Kazakh graphic artist). It was given to me by a man who at 73 got his first tattoo. By meeting me, he became acquainted with body painting. He said that he had seen a lot, but he was sceptical about tattoos… He could not think that the drawings on the body carry artistic value,” said Batyrbayev.

Two additional tattoo artists, Akhat Duisenbayev and Dana Shyntemirova, are now working in the studio.

“Before Tattoskull, I worked in two other studios. Here, I like everything. First, we have everything as clean as possible. We sterilise rooms, wash the floors; everything is wiped. We ourselves clean our workplace every day. Secondly, we are not just colleagues, we are friends. Ruslan does everything for our convenience. Everyone has their own office. There is everything you need for work and rest during breaks,” said Shyntemirova.

Batyrbayev pays as much attention to the studio’s team as the clients. Both artists spoke about his mastery and experience.

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“Ruslan is a very experienced master. Every day, you learn something from him. He gives advice. Now I work in the ornamental style, so Ruslan shares different photos of similar works and master classes on the topic,” said Shyntemirova.

“An advantage of working in Tattooskull is the opportunity to do your favourite activity with pleasure. I admire Ruslan’s experience, responsiveness and willingness to help and a sincere, genuine desire to develop tattoo culture in the country,” said Duisenbayev.

In 2013, Batyrbayev organised the first International Tattoo Festival in Kazakhstan that boosted developing the country’s tattoo culture. He continually hosts tattoo artists from the Commonwealth of Independent States and visits experienced tattoo artists and international tattoo events.

“Now, tattoo artists are developing in isolation from each other. When I was just starting, I wanted us to be able to gather and organise forums and guilds so that we could share not only our experience, but also our opinions about the precarious state of the tattoo culture. Now, it is a mass consumption chasing after hype. I would like it to be created for the sake of art,” he said.

“Now, our studio has a goal – to attend tattoo conventions together, to develop ourselves and develop tattoo culture through our studio,” he added.

Batyrbayev has the goal of developing a tattoo institute to train high quality tattoo artists. He imagines an institution supervising novices’ competence that would develop the tattoo culture and improve the quality of artists and professionals.

“We propose creating an institute where students will work with tattoo artists individually, work at every stage of their development. If one is already a professional, then one can still apply to this institute to improve one’s qualifications. If one is a beginner, then one can be directed to a medical institution by the institute, where you are given the skills of pre-processing, sterilisation, and identification of healthy skin,” he said.

He added there are many nuances and details that need to be taken into account, as every person has his or her own peculiarities.

“They can also learn how to work with people with poor blood clotting, eczema, psoriasis. These are also people who want tattoos, they just have features to take into account,” he said.

“Trust your body only to professionals and remember, tattoo is painful, expensive and forever!” concluded Batyrbayev.

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