Arminas Stanulevičius is a tattooist whose skill for sharp lines was developed during his time as an interior designer. His tattoos are inspired by the darkness in the world, as well as the daily things he sees while traveling extensively. An artist the utilizes both traditional and digital media in his work, Arminas discusses the benefits technology has had for his practice.
What is your name, birthplace, and year of birth?
Arminas Stanulevičius. I was born in a small industrial town called Panevėžys in Lithuania–it was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1988.
Where did you grow up? Please describe your upbringing and sociocultural background.
I am a post-Soviet child. I grew up in the 90’s, a dark and morbid chapter in Lithuania while it was still under the shadow of U.S.S.R. It is hard to explain, but “unwritten prison laws” were the code of the streets everywhere. Unfortunately, I had to walk these streets on my way to school. Yet, I was pretty lucky to grow up with decent parents who taught me to think with my own head, to not follow thugs in the slum. Therefore, I started to attend art school and met lots of creative people. I practiced my drawing skills for six years there.
Where do you currently work? Prior to that, where have you worked?
I work at my own private tattoo studio, located in the capital of Lithuania–Vilnius, in the old town. Before that I finished my apprenticeship at a tattoo shop in my hometown and then moved to Vilnius.
How long have you been tattooing?
I am really fresh in to tattooing–all in all I have three years of experience.
What inspired you to learn tattooing, and what did you initially learn how to tattoo?
I used to be an interior designer and was part of a manufacturing team who made classical wooden furniture and custom designs. One day I got pneumonia which led to some serious complications and developed into asthma. I could not be a part of the manufacturing team anymore because the dusty environment caused asthma attacks. I quit my job and started to look out for something requiring a lot of creativity that was extra clean and neat. It was exhausting to find it but voilà–tattooing was the answer. I showed my portfolio to a few studios and tattoo artist Ernesta Katkevičienė decided to teach me. That is how my journey started.
Were you trained through a formal apprenticeship? Describe the circumstances of learning.
First of all, I learnt tattooing hygiene and cleanliness and the set up in a tattoo shop. Later on, I tattooed my girlfriend and all my friends who believed in me. I was lucky to have so much skin to practice on so I improved fast, yet I wasn’t immune to mistakes.
Have you previously studied art in an institutional setting? If so, what level of training did you reach and in what disciplines?
I’ve had strong artistic tendencies since I was a kid, attended art school, invested many years in my fine art skills, and had a chance to explore many art forms. I gave up fine art due to everybody's strong opinion that it is too hard to make money from art. For this reason I graduated and moved towards interior design.
Did that training help as you learned the mechanics of tattooing?
Yes, I guess it shaped my techniques. While studying, I drew millions of straight lines without a ruler in order to sketch interiors–I’ve been called ‘Mr. Fine Line’ in my life! Now it sounds so stupid, but at the beginning, I used to prepare my tattoo designs using a drafting software called AutoCAD, which is usually used in architecture, construction, and manufacturing to assist in the preparation of blueprints.
How did you develop your style? How would you describe it? What are your influences?
I am inspired by dark, weird, unusual stuff, and people's phobias. This involves hallucinations, prison tattoos, and satanic symbols. I love to mix it with pop culture or romanticize it and create odd visions. The technical description of my style would be black graphic but how to describe my style I have no clue. Let’s name it schizophrenic illustrations.
Where did your interest in dark an unusual material come from? What draws you to it?
I've never questioned this strange attraction to things which are darker, but it's been there for as long as I can remember. So, it is not just a phase, it’s just my natural personality. Since I was a kid I thought the idea of spooky things was awesome (I mean, all kids love monsters, don’t they?). It is just something I never grew out of. I was always going to be someone who enjoys horror movies, angry music, and loves the bizarre, frightening things.
In addition, I feel perfectly normal. I’ve never had any mental traumas, no hidden depression, no need of any counseling or cures. I accept the dark side of life as an integral aspect of life–I mean look at the symbol of "Yin - Yang". I am honest enough to admit the presence of Darkness inside me and express it honestly in front of the world. That is being who I am, and by refusing to be ashamed about it, as long as I am not harming anyone, gives me the freedom to play with whatever ideas I want in my arts.
Still, I am social, I laugh a lot. No one would describe me as all doom and gloom.
What do you look for in a shop?
Perhaps it is some hangover from my previous job, but I always check out the interior first–I am a big fan of minimalism in interior design. I practice less is more and the bare-bones concept is beauty to me; I prefer any clutter-free shop without unnecessary details or things, with spacious work spots.
Do you have any hobbies outside of tattooing?
In my spare time, I create art in different medias like painting, drawing, sculpture, street art projects, installations etc. But I have too little free time–at the moment all my efforts are concentrated on tattooing related matters only. To preserve my mental well-being and detach from work stuff, I usually enjoy attending live concerts or travelling. I have managed to visit over 40 countries already.
What inspires you generally?
Inspiration for me is everywhere–from the song lyrics of my favorite bands to random scenes on the documentary channel.
How does your inspiration from everyday life translate into your tattoo work?
Here are some examples that popped to my head. I admire Japanese culture a lot, so I always enjoy watching documentaries about it. I once watched a creepy documentary film about the Aokigahara Forest (青木ヶ原) which is the most popular site for suicides in Japan. The site holds so many bodies that the Yakuza pays homeless people to sneak into the forest and rob the corpses. All the dreadful facts about this spooky place moved me and inspired to create a tattoo–a black metal band logo with tree roots acting as the font, spelling the name of the forest in Japanese characters.
I am fan of World War II era documentary films as well. I was amazed to discover that Walt Disney designed children's gas masks that looked like the popular cartoon character Mickey Mouse during WWII to make kids less afraid. I couldn’t help but smile and create a tattoo design with it.
Are any other forms of media, traditional or digital, important to your work?
I mix traditional and digital media in my work. I always feel pleasure in drawing on paper but we do live in this digital era of 2019; human-technology co-evolution. Advanced technology is an increasingly pervasive part of my life and it’s having a growing impact on my art as well.
Please can you expand on how advanced technology is becoming more pervasive?
Today, thanks to technology, I save so much precious time while creating my arts. iPad’s Procreate app is a game-changer for me. I started using it only a few month ago. Before, I did everything by hand on paper, but now I do all my art on there. I am able to easily delete and correct, create art faster, and share my work instantaneously. I have almost left my traditional art tools behind. Having fast access to information helps me research ideas and topics of inspiration, which in turn helps improve the quality of my artwork. I also have more ability to spread my message across the world via Instagram, establishing communication and attracting attention to what I am doing. Not too long ago I was heading to buy TTTism magazine and now I am giving interview to the website. Without technology that would not be possible. That is just how cyber magic works.
Is traveling important to you? If so, where do you usually travel? Do you have any interesting experiences abroad that you can share?
I have always travelled a lot. Traveling is a spiritual experience, it helps me clear my head –it is like meditation to me. One year ago I spontaneously bought tickets to a Death Grips concert in Berlin. I planned a short five day trip to get away from work in Vilnius. My girlfriend encouraged me to try out some guest spots in Berlin as we were there anyway. At first, I was too shy to contact any studios because I thought my portfolio was too weak, but I tried and 1928tattoo club accepted me with open arms! Furthermore, I managed to get fully booked which was an insanely good feeling–my head exploded.
Since then I pick a destination to work in and travel every month; it feels like a rock star lifestyle. I fell in love with Berlin and it’s the place I come back to most often. I also enjoyed working in Cologne, Hamburg, London, Amsterdam, Bern, and Zurich. I am planning on visiting many more places–travelling gives me a chance to meet and learn from other artists whose life experiences are different than mine. Every person has a story to tell, tips to teach, and I feel fortunate to be able to hear their stories and learn from them a lot.
What is the main challenge of tattooing today?
I must never stop working on personal development. I set goals higher and higher and push myself to learn in order to reach my full potential someday.
Ideally, how would you like to see tattooing evolve? How do you think it will evolve realistically?
As our population is evolving, so does tattooing. I can’t predict an answer to such a big question.