Ivana Tattooes Lil Wayne, Chris Brown or Mia Khalifa From The Privacy of Their Own Homes (Interview)
"Lil Wayne is my favorite, Ellen DeGeneres always tries to steal my clothes and Chris Brown is very silly," says the famous L.A. based Slovak ink artist
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Tattoo artist Ivana Beláková comes from Slovakia, but she has been living in the United States for nine years already. She claims that living in the States has been a dream of hers from an early age. Before that, she lived for some time in Australia and the Caribbean. She likes coming back to Slovakia, although she does not plan to return permanently.
She became so famous on the other side of the pond that her tattoos are now known to art lovers all over the world. Prestigious foreign tattoo magazines call her one of the most outstanding talents of the last decade.
Her work has also been praised by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome, and her Ivana Tattoo Art studio in Los Angeles is frequented by the world's biggest celebrities who have fallen in love with her work and style. She regularly inks Chris Brown, Mia Khalifa, Quavo from Migos, Lil Wayne or Rita Ora.
"Clients usually pay me $ 10,000 to $ 15,000. Americans are used to paying higher amounts for tattoos, not negotiating the price or complaining that it's expensive. In Slovakia, this is different, but we must take the standard of living and salaries into account. However, Americans envy the quality and variety of our tattoos, " Ivana reveals.
- Why she likes Lil Wayne the most out of all celebrities and how he's won her over
- Whether she's heard his upcoming unreleased album at his house
- Which stars she's inked and how are they in private life
- How do celebrity requests differ from other clients
- Why she respects the ex-porn star Mia Khalifa
- What's her opinion on couple tattoos
- What was the most intimate body part she's inked
- How to complain about a tattoo and whether it's possible to "return" it
Do you experience more stress when tattooing world celebrities?
Not stress, per se, it's more mentally and physically challenging. I usually tattoo them at night. For example, I would start at 11, even though I'm usually in bed by 10.
Recently, you've tattooed the rap legend Lil Wayne. What is the purpose of his tattoo - EKG symbol?
It represents feelings, love, passion.
He had it inked directly on his face. Is it a greater honor for you?After all, face tattoos are more important to a person, being on the most visible part of the body.
Yes, I've suggested it myself. Rappers don't care where their tattoos are. It adds to their image. Lil Wayne has impressed me. He was laughing, radiating energy, humility, art... Simply put, he is truly an artistic soul. That's exactly the kind of people I adore. He was very kind, respectful and generous towards me. Just the way I'd have imagined a celebrity of his caliber to behave. For me, Lil Wayne is top of the top! This day has brought out great feelings that cannot be described.
Celebrities must trust you to let you tattoo their faces.
Yes, they do. Basically, they ask me for advice and let me do anything.
Aside from him, you've worked with many other world-famous stars. What are some examples?
Chris Brown, Quavo, Mia Khalifa, Rita Ora, Lil Twist, etc.
Which one of them had the most interesting piece done?
From the ones that I've mentioned, probably Chris Brown.
What was it?
It was a portrait of his son Aeko in a futuristic punk style. I know he likes colorful and "spacey" things, so I've suggested this particular design to him.
Chris Brown is incredibly talented, constantly joking around and creating. He loves art and loves sharing it too. When we make graffiti together, he's always singing and running around the house.
Whose ink was the most difficult?
Probably also Chris's.
How much did it cost?
I don't want to say.
What are celebrities like Quavo, Chris Brown or Mia Khalifa in private?
Each one of them is different. Personally, I prefer Lil Wayne. He has amazing energy and radiates such peace from within. He is a legend in my opinion. Chris is incredibly talented, constantly joking around and creating. He loves art and loves sharing it too. When we make graffiti together, he's always singing and running around the house. Relentlessly on 100%. Such comic.
Mia Khalifa is the biggest entertainer. I'll laugh the most around her. I think she's also amazing in what she does. She contributes to various charities, helps others and invests a lot of herself into politics. Ellen DeGeneres is also very nice and funny. Every time we meet, she wants to steal my clothes.
Quavo is quite a family man, young but very nice. The last time I was with him, he was playing his new unreleased album about a hundred times over and over. Singing and repeating his lyrics the entire time.
Was it difficult to get into such company?
At first yes, because people who work with celebrities, especially here in the U.S., usually have managers or are represented by agencies. But I got amongst them thanks to myself and my own efforts. So it was a bit more difficult, but I'm enjoying it even more now.
Are celebrities more high maintenance than the „regular“ clients? Their biggest requirement is for me to come to their house or recording studio and usually there's no cameras or recording allowed in there, which I totally get and respect. The rest is not important for me. They always have assistants that cater to their every need.
More and more young people are getting inked up these days. Teenagers want to look like their idols. What age do you think is appropriate to get tattooed?
That's hard to say, since I don't have children. For instance, I would totally get a tattoo as a 5-year old. It all changes over time, especially our taste when it comes to design. Regardless if you're 18 or 40. But if I had to draw a line somewhere, I'd probably keep it at 18.
Americans are used to pay higher amounts for tattoos, they don't negotiate and don't complain that it's expensive.
For a long time, there's been a prevalent opinion that a person with ink will have issues finding a job. How is it in L.A.?
It's not a problem over here, I ink lawyers, doctors, teachers. That's exactly what I wanted, ever since I started doing this. To remove the stigma when it comes to tattoos. In 2018, tattoo art was recognized as a temporary fine art and I am the first and only woman in the world to receive this award and honor of my tattoo art to be classified as fine art.
In one interview, you said that there ain't much difference between the Slovak and American tattoo scene. On the contrary, Americans are apparently said to envy us. How are European tattoo artists different?
Tattoo scene in Slovakia is very up and coming and there's many incredible artists. Americans may envy this quality and diversity. They love the European scene. There are a lot of good tattoo artists in America, their style just isn't so recognizable. Americans are used to pay higher amounts for tattoos, they don't negotiate and don't complain that it's expensive. In Slovakia, this is different, but we must take into account the standard of living and salaries.
You have been active in this industry for more than 20 years. What are the current trends in tattoos?
Currently it's all about small pictures, inscriptions and so-called single needle work, which is tattoos made with only one needle.
You've called your own style Funky Color. How would you describe it?
My works are classified as contemporary fine art. Colorful, abstract, they look like illustrations, in which playful components are incorporated. In any case, there's a balance between the colors, background and the main theme.
I call it organized chaos, though everything is still in perfect harmony. I think my biggest advantage is that I see colors. When a client comes in, I see his colors and determine what the tattoo will look like. My Funky Color style is a collection of several things combined - illustrations, graphic design, street art, realism, graffiti and such.
I love my style. I can create freely what I want and no one can tell me anything about it.
How much did your most expensive tattoo cost and who was it for?
I don't exactly remember the most expensive one, but it's common for a client to pay around $ 10,000 to $ 15,000 for a tattoo. It depends on how complex the work is. For larger pieces it's more, of course.
Have you ever messed up a client's tattoo in your beginning?
I have, for sure. Especially in the beginning. I still remember it. Now it's a bit different, because my style is looser, more abstract, so if I mess something up, no one would even notice. Not even my client. (laughs) I love my style. I can freely create what I want, and no one can tell me anything about it.
If someone is still unhappy with the result, is there a way to "complain"?
I would solve it by correcting it in the second session or not taking money from the client. In most cases, however, all can be fixed.
What is the most intimate place you have tattooed?
On the penis and around the ass. I mean explicitly around the hole.
Which body parts are the most painful?
In general, where ever there is a bone, i.e. elbow, shoulder top, sternum, knee, ribs, palms. But even the neck is a pretty painful place in my opinion.
Are there any body parts that can't be tattooed?
I'm not aware of any.
What do you think about couple tattoos or when a dude has his girls name tattooed on his body?
They're cool, I'd totally get Veronica's name tattooed (Ivana's girlfriend).
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