A brain floats with the plume of a jellyfish, which features dark solid lines snaking through it. A finch is perched on the stem of a flower that acts as the rigid post of a unicycle at its other end. This is the surreal world of London’s Otto D’Ambra, a tattoo artist who also works in pen on paper and various types of etchings in thin, black line work.
Bits of Salvador Dali are combined with Monty Python-era Terry Gilliam and reimagined for the human canvas with black ink. The styles are refined through mediums less high-stakes than human skin, while each reinforces and inspires the direction of the other.
“I believe drawing is a fundamental practice for tattooing in general,” D’Ambra tells The Creators Project of the way his works in pen help inform his tattoo art. ”I spend a lot of time in my studio just drawing and working on new projects and designs which, even if they are works for themselves, they inspire me for new tattoo projects. I believe the relation between drawing and tattooing is fundamental to improving one’s own work.”
That studio time plays a direct role in what ends up on his clients’ bodies as well. They give him ideas or inspiration for what they’re looking for, which he uses to sketch out. Then they meet in person and come up with the final idea together. Sometimes, depending on the shape and place of the piece, he will sketch ideas out on their body. “I always finalize the design the same day on client’s skins,” he says. “I don’t have a fixed method when I work on skin but I have a lot of fun playing around with stencils, skin markers, and other tools.”
His tools vary when it comes to the actual tattooing, but he sticks with a few sizes and combinations of thin needles and different tattoo guns to mix up the styles of lining. Within those choices, he mixes and matches on the spot as he sees fit. And while D’Ambra holds a personal appreciation for and fascination with color tattoos, he only works with black ink. These restrictions allow him to zero in on specific ideas. “I just focus on concepts, shape, and composition of the design. I prefer to make a solid, simple, and strong design where the ‘message’ is clear,” he says.
See more of Otto D’Ambra on Instagram.
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