I’m Brody Polinsky, and This Is How I Tattoo
Some time ago Adrià de Yzaguirre told us that he would like Brody Polinsky and Michele Servadio answering his same questions, and we have been fortunate enough to have both of them being part of this series
The interview turned out to be an spontaneous conversation between Brody and Michele, which inspired Brody’s Tattooers Talk series.
PART I · Brody interviewed by Michele.
You were 16 when you got hooked tattooing right?
Yeah. Well, 14… whatever, young kid.
And that’s exactly were your artistic name comes from.
Yeah, and had to get clean and sober first. And that was like 13 years ago.
Yeah, so when you were 29…
That’s when I started tattooing I think.
You started tattooing in Vancouver with Jay Tierney.
My mentor, yes.
Since you’ve been tattooing for 8 years now, you work freehand… do you?
Em… no, not really. I mean…
Let’s say that you can totally tell that there is the hand carving on your…
Yeah, and maybe the other stuff was much more freehand, the illustration stuff, which is a messy thing and then I manifest freehand stuff out of it, but, freehand for me means really drawing it straight on him, starting to drawing patterns but I really like a little bit of structure and then to let go from there.
And your style if defined through etchings, patterns, symbols, and dotwork, a clean and abstract geometrical work. Do you think…
I disregard all of that, but there was a point when etching was a think, but I would say spontaneous patterns that fit the body.
Spontaneous patterns, yeah, totally.
Maybe the process is the most spontaneous part, because they don’t know what they are getting until they show up, they maybe tell me where on their body, and then I try to get them something to get their palms tattooed.
Which is what happened daily here lately. Where are you located?
One word that best describes best how you work:
Just what you said describes how you work. It’s fine. I think it’s a spontaneous creative process that involves pattern, and…
And humans, so the placement is the key to understand your work, in some way.
How did you learn to tattoo?
I saw a bud like essentially getting a full body suit, dying to be a tattooer, but really blowing it in my personal life, so I finally went through three potential apprenticeships that were going to line up, the third one lined up, I just had to push hard enough to the person to just accept me, to hang out every day… yeah, I just pushed really hard.
What inspires you concerning tattooing?
People’s process, so people who are just going for it, highly motivated creative people. In tattooing people who are pushing, traveling in particular, people who are getting out in the world and getting uncomfortable, pensing what happens.
What is art?
If you put an F in front of Art is Fart.
Which tattoo artists have influenced your work most?
My dear friends. This guy right here. Michele, and Paolo, and Glue, and… People who just go for it. Talley and… David, really is mega-inspiring. People that have come from different perspectives, people who have come from different ways, you know?
Background is a big chunk that we always miss out when we look at someones work, we just say this style, or that style, but we never know what’s truly behind and why people are doing that style, there is always a culture behind it and few people are really really manifesting this, I guess.
Yes, I agree. And that transparency, being honest of where that work comes from.
So, tell us a bit about what a typical day is like for you.
I get up and it takes about an hour until I get grounded, it’s like an espiritual routine that I have and depending where I am I come to someone else’s space which is always like rolling the dice, you never know. Or I wake up at home at Berlin and then I know what is going to happen, and it’s just calmness, just manifesting my creating environment, so that I can feel free and connect with people easier. Or people come to me because I have never met them because I chose not to have much communication before, and it’s like a really neutral plane field so I need to be like together, so when they come to me our energies can match and not bounce of one another so I can communicate clearly with people, so that the process is easy because it can be complicated if there are too many options the people are maybe just not sure, but I find the people who come to me are quite sure generally, and I’m very lucky that people are pretty set on being, like essentially giving up the creative freedom. Very lucky.
Has there been some turning point in your life/career?
Yeah, to get sober, that was a big one, and at the same time I came out. And in particular in the last three years since moving over to here and meeting my dear close friends. They inspire me just walking down the street because they think differently, they do differently. We have multi tiered friendships you know? We are not just tattooers on the same page, or humans on the same page, or skateboarders on the same page, you know like, they have different perspectives on life, and their life previous to knowing me and we all bring that together. And get the vibe off there. We skated a burned out car two nights ago.
What are the apps, software or tools without which you couldn’t live?
The only tool that I want is a marker and a pencil. And I had a graph sheet that I drawn by hand like a 5mm square. Tracing paper. Actually a stencil machine. I love stencil machines.
I think that what really really matters is that as long as you have something to trace, then that’s all you need. I mean, you need to trace something.
And a tattoo machine. I’ve been using the same rotary for a long time and its made a big difference.
What is your workspace like?
It used to feel like you are at the desert, because it was all the same tone. It was weird (laughs). I love it, it’s like serenity. My workspace is like good music and tea, and that is it, drinking tea and relax, and being warm.
How do you organize your working calendar/to-do list?
I’m really bad at it. It used to be a lot worst, but now it’s better. I used to mess things up, now it’s a person a day instead of two so I have the potential of getting things right twice more.
Do you have any tattoo-related techniques, tricks or secrets that you could share?
Don’t be afraid to move shops. You know, like to keep going forward, you are not married to anyones environment or to anyones dynamic, you know if I hadn’t kept moving…
You got to be free.
You got to be free. And being transparent, being honest about what you need to yourself it’s really important. I didn’t even realize what I needed until it hit me in the face, and turned out that a private space is that. And travel half the year.
Is there anything that makes you stand out above the rest?
It was weird to come out online in the summer, the second time of my life. Like a big hindrance but a big push forward. Being really transparent and push inclusivity you know because.
Yes. Because I don’t want to be in a box, but I think the idea of not being in a box is that there isn’t have to be a box to be put in and once you, you don’t need to associate I know who I am, and if I can put out there who I am, those people who are also like that can come, meet me, and hopefully feel comfortable in their own skin in my space getting tattooed from someone that is likeminded, so the idea that I’m like a bla, I’m a bla, I’m a bla… skateboarder, homo, fucking sober, you know, those things are really important to me, and people wouldn’t know that unless you put it out there.
How do you see the world of the tattoo in ten years’ time?
It think people are going to continue to drop using color and it’s just all they gonna get really saturated with the last few years, big push of this black only and everyone… I think a lot of us assimilation, not enough… It’s interesting because some people coming out from woodworks that are really shining but then everyone else is just jumping on it, I think it’s just gonna happen what happened to the american traditional tattoo theme, everybody does it. 90% of tattooers in the world tattoo this old, they revival old imagery and there isn’t enough interesting stuff, so I think the amount of people doing this current style, there is a whole bunch of really talented people doing it, and the more…
It’s more, and more, and more people and then it gets highly saturated and it needs to… I don’t know, it just makes me lose interest…
Yes, it’s hard to stand out. People come in, and people come in stronger this days, they don’t just… they… yeah, I think even more people from different influences are going to come in which could hopefully open it up some more, but everyone wants to associate with being this, people that do this certain style. I think that in 10 years the people that are doing it well they are going to do it even better, the whole fluvium. the nice big divide because now there is sort of a level playing field that is kind of newish.
Yes, and more and more people are jumping into tattoos, they see this train working, and they just jump on it believing they can sort their lives out and they then just reach the peak and they go down and you will see how the ones who are really really interest on the whole package of tattooing: human relations, working on the bodies… not just applying this or that style in the skin, it’s way deeper, is research in the human being, and I think that who really is interested on that will have something to say in the long term.
Yeah, and I think the whole home tattoo situation it’s going to continue to get bigger and bigger, and all the people that are tattooing just for the sake of tattoo are probably to drop off, eventually.
I then you might have some the changing of the guards, another recycling will occur, I’m sure.
How do you see yourself in ten years’ time? Will you be there? Will you be there in ten years, tattooing?
I don’t know where I will be. I’ll probably be in Berlin though, but I don’t know. I hope to be in a warm place, often. And people to relax and have a couple of dogs.
And maybe reading something. Are you reading anything at the moment?
Yeah, but I think the most interesting thing I have finished is this book on Samuel Steward, this fucking sexual renegade, tattooer from Chicago, from like the mid early 40s, 50s, 60s dude, and the book is called Secret Historian. It’s a biography. He’s a literate, he wrote piles and piles of books, did tones of homo-erotic, fiction, and he was part of the Kinsey, he was the main contributor of the homosexual part of the Kinsey, the whole experiment thing that he did for all those years, and he quit tattooing before it was thing.
What do you do to recharge your batteries?
I go to meetings, and I see my dear friends. Just be good to my body, eat well.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Umm… when you peel a banana, peel it upside down, backwards, like a monkey.
If you could get tattooed by any artist living or non-living, who would you choose? What would you get?
Today I’m gonna get a tattoo from you, and I don’t know what I’m going to get, but that’s the idea. Mm… I would get something from Samuel Steward, that would be amazing, something classy, like a big huge long stem rose up my chest or something. Simple.
Which tattoo artist would you have us do this interview with?
Is there anything you would like to add that might be interesting for our readers?
Get off the internet.
Read PART 2 · Michele interviewed by Brody
Interview number IV of the How I tattoo interview series.
The How I Tattoo series asks the best tattoo artists to share how they tattoo. Every few days we’ll feature a new tattoo artist and the workspaces, routines, gadgets, apps, tips, and tricks that they use. Have someone you’d like to see featured, or questions you think we should ask? Email us to email@example.com.
How I Tattoo interview series is inspired by Lifehacker’s How I Work series.