Denis is a Ukrainian tattooist based in Kiev. Denis’ work applies a strong graphical style to imagery adopted from cyberpunk and other dystopian aesthetics. For the past six years he has been curating a sharp and fun body of work that tends towards minimalism.
What is your name, birthplace, and year of birth?
My name is Denis. I was born in Kiev, Ukraine in 1989.
Where did you grow up? Please describe your upbringing and sociocultural background.
I’ve lived in Kiev all my life. It was hard for me to live in a Post-Soviet country as people here are narrow-minded. If they don’t understand something, they hate it. I remember a situation when I was 12; I was going home from school and got beaten up by some guys just because I was wearing wide pants with the Prodigy logo on them. The pants were too wide for these guys and they found them ugly. All my childhood, I was limited in my self-expression—not just with clothing but everything else. Nowadays it’s ok; there are not a lot of people who will judge you for your clothes, and so on.
Where do you currently work? Prior to that, where have you worked?
I now work in the shop that I co-own with my wife Helen (@helen.poputnikova), Stroom (@stroom.kyiv). But I am usually still on the road.
How long have you been tattooing?
What inspired you to learn tattooing, and what did you initially learn how to tattoo?
I was working in an office and my friend (@naum_tattooer) opened a studio close to the place where I worked. When I’d have lunch break, I would often go there and look at what they were doing. I found it really inspiring—they seemed very openminded and this is precisely what I was looking for in my own life. I just quit my job and started to tattoo, learning by myself mostly.
Were you trained through a formal apprenticeship? Describe the circumstances of learning.
There is no traditional way to begin an apprenticeship in Ukraine. I just rented a place in a studio, paid monthly for it, and from time to time I would get advice from others tattooers. There was not a lot information on how to tattoo, so in the beginning I made a lot of mistakes.
Have you previously studied art in an institutional setting? If so, what level of training did you reach and in what disciplines?
I have two degrees in law, but I’ve never studied fine arts. I just started to draw and learned it very slowly. My wife was also drawing at that time and she helped me a lot with techniques.
Did that training help as you learned the mechanics of tattooing?
Not really. I just started from scratch.
How did you develop your style? How would you describe it? What are your influences?
I reflect on what is happening around me—my biggest influence is the internet.
Have you had or do you have plans to take on apprentices?
We have one in our shop and he is doing really well.
What do you look for in a shop?
Good vibes. No drama and no big dick energy.
Do you have any hobbies outside of tattooing?
Procrastination and doing nothing is my main hobby! Instead of it, I just spent my time with family, or watch anime and play Playstation. The rest of my time I’m drawing or tattooing. I travel a lot and it’s a really emotional thing—meeting lots of new people and visiting different cities. I try to take a break mentally between trips by doing nothing.
"[M]y friend opened a studio close to the place where I worked. When I’d have lunch break, I would often go there and look at what they were doing. I found it really inspiring—they seemed very openminded and this is precisely what I was looking for in my own life. I just quit my job and started to tattoo, learning by myself mostly."
What inspires you generally?
Life, people, and their decisions and mistakes. I watch a lot of interviews now with different people and find it really inspiring. Other things come from my childhood; I watched a lot of cyberpunk movies when I was kid, like Johnny Mnemonic, Bladerunner, Strange Days, Judge Dread. It’s all still in my head.
Is traveling important to you? If so, where do you usually travel? Do you have any interesting experiences abroad that you can share?
Traveling is everything for me. I don’t have a lot of work in Kiev, usually it’s around three to five appointments per month. I travel seven to ten times per year. I really like traveling and visiting new places, new studios, and meeting new people. Going out of my comfort zone is really important for me—it’s a big part of growing and I can’t live without it. Usually now I travel to Berlin, Stockholm, Zurich, Milan, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Moscow, and Tel Aviv. Those cities are always on my list, but every year I choose other cities to visit as well. Every city is unique and has a personal vibe.
What is the main challenge of tattooing today?
There are a lot of tattooers now. I see people come into this industry, blow up, but after one or two years they become nothing. The main challenge is remain fresh for the long term, to stay humble and find something new in tattooing.
Ideally, how would you like to see tattooing evolve? How do you think it will evolve realistically?
I think about it a lot and it blows my mind—it’s hard to say something concrete about it. I hope tattooing will transition from the type of work being done in tattoo shops to other forms of tattooing.