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INTERVIEW :
CAESAR OF THE SHADES

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Issue #5, March, 2012, Tattoo Mag - Argentina

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I would like to say a thank you for Daniel at  Revista Arte Tattoo Magazine for publishing my work.


I have no clue what is written in this magazine because I've been interviewed in English and I only can hope that the Argentinian translation is based on that :-)

Where are you from?

Hello there! My name is CAESAR. Originally, I’m from Hungary, but for the past 9 years I’ve been living in the United States.  Since 2008 I’ve been running my shop in New York City’s East Village.

How did your tattooing career begin?

I was always a little better with a pencil than the kids around me. It’s something that I probably inherited  from my father. Drawing was always part of my life—however, not on a consistent basis. Sometimes I wouldn’t drawn anything for months, and then there would be times when I wouldn’t put my pencil down for days.
Since Hungary was invaded by Russian troops during World War II, our political system was set up accordingly. In a socialist regime, tattoos meant serving time somewhere in the army, a jail or a gulag. Designs were primitive and the technical execution reflected the quality of the available equipment—mostly shade tree mechanic’s homemade rotary machines. Images were blurry with some sort of meaning behind it.
The regime change in 1989 opened new doors up for the people. The Republic of Hungary started letting the “evil western” influences in. This period was crucial for the Hungarian tattoo industry, because tattooing was legalized and the first legitimate parlors opened.  Now operating in the mainstream, onetime underground tattoo artists were exposed to proper procedures and better equipment.  Keep in mind that we are talking about the early 90’s which was only 20 years ago. Hungarian tattoo artists from this era are self-taught because they were pretty much pioneers in this industry. There were no opportunities for them to apprentice under an accomplished artist within the country.
I got hooked on tattooing around 93’ when I got my first tattoo. During my tattoo session, I decided that I would give the profession a shot. And this is exactly how it started: from scratch without any training, because there was no one to ask. I am self-taught and my knowledge is based on careful observation, documentation, and common sense in addition trial and error. The first things that I learned however, were what not to do…after making some mistakes.
Despite tattooing having only been legal for a short time our little country has produced internationally well known artists , like Boris, Sarkozi Zsolti, James, Mullner Csaba, Nyiri Sandor and so on .


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Seeing your works, I would say that your tattoos are based on fantasy and realism. Do you agree?

I agree with you 100%. No question about it, and I’m flattered that my work clearly and readably reflects my intentions. No matter what direction I’m going, I always end up with realism.  I might start to play around with a 2D image, adding a little of this… a little of that, some form shadow, a little cast shadow and there you go… a 3D design shows up.
I’m a big fan of classical paintings—mostly from the Baroque era—and of course, the Academic painters. What they have taught me through their work is invaluable. I’m continually amazed by what they accomplished in an era with no computers or camera…only pure observation and mastery of different mediums. Unfortunately, one lifetime isn’t enough to study and absorb all that they have to offer.
I don’t know any other way to explain why my pieces materialize as they do other than to say that realism is the way that my mind works. That is just the direction that I naturally take…of course with a little Caesarian spice to make it different, unique and recognizable.

What are the boundaries between fantasy and realism in tattooing? What is your particular vision?

This is a difficult question and I don’t know if it can necessarily be answered. This is like asking where the border between illustration and fine art exists. I don’t know. In my world, I use the same elements and techniques regardless of the topic. I try to keep it fresh and avoid repeating boring elements. And trust me, this is not an easy task to accomplish.  Reinventing constantly reoccurring topics like Heaven and Hell, Demons and Angels, or Good and Evil is not an easy task. 

Most of your works are in black & gray and some also contain red. Why do you tend to do this?

I’m not a colorful guy. My favorite color is Black and all its shades. My shop is all black. That’s how I feel most comfortable. Gray layers tell me much more than the color hues. A monochrome world is more understandable for me and we get along much easier. However, using one contrasting color is just a little spice that I’ll add in certain pieces. A touch of the red is just another tool for emphasizing a certain part of a piece or to lead the eye of the viewer in a different direction.

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In many of your tattoos there are different kinds of demons, vampires and warriors. Do you have a taste for them or is it only customers request?

As I mentioned earlier, I try to avoid using the same reoccurring elements in different compositions. Mixing different ideas and designs creates novel moods and feelings for a piece.  When I work with a customer we need to find a cohesive idea that creates a sense of unity, otherwise the viewer might get confused. The more successful the composition is the easier it is to read from alternate perspectives. It took me a long time to learn that less is usually more.

You also use Oriental and biomechanics motifs in some of your works. By what criteria you apply them in your tattoos?

The customer brings the basic idea most of the time. During the consultation we start throwing ideas around about topic and work on tuning it up. This is how the first draft of the composition develops.  Then as the basic idea of the piece continues to develop we keep the usable ideas and discard those that don’t fit. I like taking personal elements, such as zodiac signs, numbers, landmarks, and words or quotation from the person’s life and melting them together in some meaningful that creates one large solid piece. The basic idea determines the tools that I can employ. For example, if I am commissioned to create a dragon design, the piece might not easily lend it self to the use of tribal elements. Nevertheless, if that is what the client is looking for I have to find a way that I can blend them together and still create something that we will both be satisfied with. These are the challenging parts.


Is there any advice you can give us on the application of shadows?

I use a soft touch during the shading process, which allows me to go back to the same spot—multiple times if necessary—without destroying or overworking the skin. My own premixed ink system allows me do consistent shade work. I usually use 6 shades out of my bottles and an additional 7 when I’m setting up my workspace. I use 13 ink caps filled with different shades during one session.  This is something that I’ll talk about in great detail on my lecture website. seminar.caesartattoo.com. The way that I work and all of my little tricks are going to be revealed there. Hopefully the website is going to be up and running in another 3-4 months…by Christmas 2011 at the latest.

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What can you tell us about your technique?

I’ve been using the Cheyenne Hawk Tattoo Machine for close to 3 years now and have a high opinion of it. It works pretty well with my pressure sensitive technique. It is like using a pencil. The greater the pressure you exert the darker the mark…although you must not forget the value of the shade that you are using. If you force it you might overwork the skin! I just place the layers on the top of each other until I am visually satisfied.  Learning how the different shades will heal and projecting it during the tattoo session is the point when you can feel that you have mastered the media.

Are there any tattoos that are your favorite or that you really took a liking to over others? Why?

Favorite tattoos that I’ve made? Sure…the latest one.  That’s the one that contains most of my knowledge in almost everyway. I have had topics of course that were closer to me than others, but I put the same amount of energy and thought those as all of my other pieces. This is what makes the design process extremely interesting...and even torturous at times. The tattooing is the fun part.  Especially since that is what you get paid for ?.

What are your artistic influences?

I can split my influences into two distinct groups divided by media: Painters and Tattooists. I like painters from the Baroque era. Those guys were amazing. I have no clue how the hell they created works of that caliber considering what they had to work with.  I can literally look at their artwork for hours analyzing and study it. So much information, knowledge and life experience is squeezed on a framed canvas teaching and showing us the way to the perfection in vision, composition, color choice and so on.
Likewise, I am inspired by many of my fellow tattooists. If I need to name them… Tommy Lee, Den Yakovlev, Zhivko, Dmitriy Samohin,  ????? ????????? and so on.

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What projects do you have going on in the future?

I’m going to continue to make seminar videos for a while to help fellow tattoo artists out—specially, beginners who are just considering a start in tattooing. But I truly wish to move toward classic oil painting. This is a nice and calm way that I can express myself and represent life as I see it. Tattooing is commissioned art so you have to constantly keep the clients demands in mind. And also, let’s not forget that we are working on a living organism all the while.  All skin reacts to tattooing application and pigments differently and it is the tattooists job to figure out how to make it all work. When I am painting on canvas I am not limited by these constraints and I am free to go as crazy as my mind wants.


Thank you  for the interview Daniel!