Interview with Łukasz 'SMYKU' Siemieniewicz

Although I’ve been interested in tattoos for as long as I can remember – they intrigued me when I was still a kid – I began to explore any knowledge about it about 8 years ago. That’s when I was for the first time at the convention – in Lodz … Social media were not so obvious and probably did not yet play the role of such a major promotion tool, there was no Instagrama, I only fb founded two years later … There were several industry newspapers, in You could see the work of various tattoo artists – I remember how the tattooers I knew were waiting for them and when they appeared – with little effort – they quickly ran to the empik [a polish bookstore]. With this argument I am actually going to the fact that although the flow of information a few years ago was incomparably smaller, I perfectly remember that you were already a very well-known person in this industry. You are, Luke, probably an “old” stager, eh?

Festivals were a dream come true for me. I remember my first steps in the field of tattooing and as a guest I went to the convention. So many great artists and tattoos that they did, wow, there was just so much going on. And just then, somewhere in the head a dream came to be one of them…To be able to proudly represent your region as a tattoo artist. Back then it was a dream unachievable to me, more sighing and thinking how much I would like. Those times have taught me great humility and perseverance in what I do. It was simple, if you really want it, only stubbornness, determination and constant desire to develop will lead to this. As soon as I was able to open my own studio, I decided to make my dream come true … I think that conventions are a constant and indispensable element of a tattoo artist’s work. If you love what you do, you identify with it – with people who do what you do with the climate. If you create with your heart, you want to show it to people. Nobody would like to hide pictures in the closet if he would give them his time. As you have noticed, the style and atmosphere of those old conventions disappeared forever, but I am still addicted to them, I still love it and I will take an active part in it until my health allows.

Where did you come up with such an idea for life, the choice of such and not a different career path?

Since I remember, I loved to draw, especially characters, faces, people in motion, scenes from movies. As a 13-year-old, being on the holiday in Italy, I got a catalog somewhere in the kiosk with a review of Italian tattooists and their work. I was very impressed that such images can be made on the skin for so many years. Until the end of the holiday I wrote out of 5 felt-tip pens on the skin of my colleagues, making them “artificial” tattoos. When I returned home, a plan sparkled in my mind: to be able to do it one day, to be able to tattoo. I did not think about it as a job at the time. I just wanted to be able to do it. After many years, because only at the age of 18, I bought the first equipment for all my birthday money. Perhaps it lasted so long due to the lack of sufficient funds, perhaps because these were times when in Poland you could buy the machine in three places, and the needles had to be soldered by yourself. There was no information on the internet about how to tattoo, not to mention no tutorials. And this is how my tattoo adventure began with trial and error.

How do you really remember your beginnings? Currently, the profession of a tattoo artist has become quite a popular profession, many people at an increasingly young age are gripping the machine, certainly because everything is more achievable, even the equipment itself, many studios take apprentices, acquiring knowledge and experience in this area is simpler. I have the impression that the entire process has simplified itself, but formerly there was a need for huge perseverance to be able to perform this craft…

The beginnings, ah the beginnings, they were very difficult, and in my case lasted for a long time. Unfortunately, I never had a teacher, someone who would stand over me when I was making a shovel and explained what was wrong. If something did not work out, I didn’t even know why. I remember my shock when I went to the festival to look at something. What was my surprise seeing the work of excellent tattoo artists live. “CAN YOU PURPORT IT?” Sticking ink, the angle of the machine and the weight of other items that I had no idea about before. I remember this festival well, I wanted someone to tell me anything. And so I went to a tattoo artist, whose work I liked and asked him to look at the photos of my tattoos and advise something – what can I improve, do better. He flicked through 4-5 pages from my binder and closed it… He looked at me and said calmly, “you know what? go to something else. You are not cut out for this!”. As you can probably guess, it was the end of the festival for me. Everything crumbled. My dreams of tattooing and being good in this profession have fallen apart. I came back home, broken … I think it was a crucial moment for me, because I still did not give up. I had my goal and I had to achieve it! Sessions gave me a lot when I was sitting on my first tattoos as a client. It was then that I was able to observe how exactly professionalism looks like, of course I did not spare any questions Fortunately, I came across very positive tattooists, such as Tofi or Panas, who willingly answered technical issues that bothered me. Today I try to help young people who want to start or have already started the adventure with a tattoo and once in a while I organize courses in theory and practice, during which I try to explain everything, suggest, show, so that they can tattoo under my supervision, and they did not have to learn from their mistakes.

For as long as I can remember, you’ve done realistic tattoos and you probably like a sizable composition. You are also known for the incredible pace of your work, it happens that work that someone else could even pick up on a few sessions, you create in a couple of hours … How is this possible? Years of experience? Accurate planning of the entire process? Technical patents?

Regarding my pace of work, I think that in part each of these factors matters. However, I can not answer this question exactly. Once asked about it at festivals, I laughed that I am giving engineers tuning machines for increasing power, he he. Of course, it’s such a joke. I work on standard equipment. However, I think that in part my work has gained momentum after switching from coils to rotating machines. I just can not do it differently. I do not hurry up with tattooing and I can not artificially slow down my pace of work. This is just how I work.

Once, already participating in many conventions, I thought that since it temporarily looks ok, why not make someone a bigger piece? And so I did: I took my colleague, who was very resilient, he even liked the feeling of tattooing, to the convention to in Poznan and there I made my first half-sleeves at once. I think it was another crucial moment, because today many people associate me with large compositions done in one day. Today I can tell you that I love such big works, because I know that I went to the convent and I gave 100% of myself, that I managed this day to the max. I am constantly trying to raise the bar. And so at the Warsaw festival in 2016, together with my model, we took on the challenge that I would make him a half-leg in one day of the convention … After 8.5 hours it was finished. And the comments of people, when the model came to the stage and showed the tattoo, that it was FAKE, a scam and half were certainly made at home, they give me even more energy to continue to this ‘act’.

You do both black and grey and colourful works, which do you prefer to do more? Or do you work with every palette equally?

I do work a lot more work in blacks, This is due to the demand of my clients. Personally, I probably would not decide if I had to choose whether I prefer to work in colors or blacks. Both of these techniques give me great fun. I think that a lot depends on the client’s skin, not every one is suitable for color. If someone is very dark complexion, I often suggest that it will be better to do it in black. Another time someone gives an idea for a project that he wanted to do in blacks, and it turns out that in color he will play a lot better.

And how do you and your clients help mould the idea? Do you prefer to have a nice back-and-forth or having as much freedom as possible?

Very often my projects are created in consultation with the client. Of course, it is much better for me when I get a free hand. When I can rip everything together in a project as I feel it when nothing limits me.

What is the source of your inspirations, what stimulates the whole process?

I think I will not say anything new, but everything around is an inspiration. When someone has an artistic soul, you do not need much. Sometimes I see a photograph and I already know what I would add to it to create an interesting tattoo. Another time, what surrounds me becomes an interesting part of the idea for a tattoo. Also a good movie is a great inspiration, especially for someone who is a film fan. Cinema is a really important factor in my life. And sometimes you can wake up with a new vision for a tattoo. As it is in any artistic field, if you get the word, you could create it without end.

And the motives that you do most often? What topics give you the greatest joy and bring you the greatest satisfaction?

As you probably noticed, the majority of my tattoos are images of women, often as part of something bigger in combination with a motif. I do not close myself to any other topics, of course, but feminine beauty has fascinated me for years and maybe that’s why I feel incredibly happy to express them in my tattoo. I also love the dark theme, which probably goes hand in hand with the vastness of horror movies I’ve seen in my life.

Tell me, having so many years of experience – fruitful years, numerous awards honoring the effort put into it, what is the next step? Is it possible to achieve a feeling of fulfillment or is it constantly trying to improve yourself, your skills? Are there any doubts after so many years?

Once, someone wisely said that without constantly striving to be better, recognizing that you are already good enough, a man begins to retreat. I adhere to exactly the same principle. That’s why I set new goals ahead of me, wanting to improve my skills, to be better … Of course, I appreciate what’s behind me. It gives me incredible energy to keep going forward and believing that if we really want something and we have a strong will to fight it, then we can fulfill every dream!

What are you doing when you do not tattoo? There is something else that absorbs you, or there is no time for anything else?

Ever since I saw Mad Max at the age of 3, I was interested in driving motorcycles and especially custom ones. I have been able to pursue a plan related to these interests for a year and a half. With my dad, we design and change my motorcycles with the style of Cafe Racer, Bobber, etc, it is our common passion and really satisfying is the fact that what was previously in the head takes a real form that you can breathe new life into a machine that was long forgotten. I always try to add a bit of art to them and most of them I paint with an airbrush that I got infected with Cejn. I also treat it as an art form, only in a slightly different edition.

The interview for  TattooFan Magazine was conducted by Maria Śmigiel

The photographs used come from the social profiles of Łukasz Smyk Siemieniewicz

Łukasz Smyku Siemieniewicz fanpage:

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