Robert Borbas is a Hungarian tattoo artist, illustrator, animator, and metalhead based in Budapest. He owns a shop, Rooklet Ink, along with Fvneral Apparel clothing, which you can find online. Robert, who is also known as Grindesign, has put his illustrative skills to use in collaboration with a number of metal bands, his designs and style defined by the genre. His black and grey tattoo work is colossal, a graphic and incredible representation of guts and glory.
Q 1 ||What would you say was the most surprising part of becoming a shop owner? Were there any unprecedented obstacles or things of that nature?
Well, opening a shop is nothing but a great and unpredictable journey for sure. Beside the fact that we had some difficulties with some of the construction and decoration part ( elements did not fit etc haha) it was super cool to see how the whole thing comes together. I have to say the Rooklet crew is nothing but joy.We operate the whole thing together with my fiancé , Judit who is a graphic designer herself as well. Tom used to work at a shop called, Black Moon Tattoo and I know Mark personally for ages. We used to study at the same university. He is now my apprentice and I have to say he is progressing super fast and already showcasing some unique work. Sometimes is hard to be in charge, but after almost half a year I would say it’s nothing but fun!
Q 2 ||Being from Hungary, how did the environment you grew up in affect you as an artist?
I think tattooers, artist from middle -eastern Europe in general have a different attitude to the craft. Not just the imagery, but the work hard attitude is stronger. Just look at the polish tattoo scene,which i respect a lot. They have better and better artists in every city, even in small ones.
Same goes to Hungary. Probably the level of living, economical problems and the historical background affected the art scene here. Lately in the past 20-30 years the western culture, pop culture made a huge influence as well and with this fusion it pushed artists to a next level.
Personally I got my inspiration from allover the world, from different cultures as well, but time to time it’s good to look back and search in my roots, hungarian culture or slavic folklore, because it has it’s bittersweet, yet grim vibe.
Q 3 || Regarding your history as an animator, did you ever incorporate the dark, graphic themes you work with now into your animation?
My first animated short ever was a morph based around the topic, life and death. It may sounds cliche, but it was the representation of my fears and phobias as well. Not so long ago I found the keyframe drawings for that short, and I realized that I already used some of the imagery what I incorporate now into my illustrations or tattoos. I was always attracted to the dark, gloomy things, although I never been a depressed, anti-social person. Since my father showed me the cover of Iron Maiden’s Number of The Beast record I knew this is something I want to incorporate into my work in every aspect, haha.
Q 4 || Now that you have Rooklet Ink, are you still on the road a lot?
I travel less. Especially the beginning of this year was super calm. I will visit some european cities and shops I have already been to, but other than that I try to stay at the shop as much as possible. Next year I will try to spend at least 5-7 days a month only with illustration and the rest with tattooing. I have a longer US trip in mind next year, from the east to the west coast, visiting as many shops and cons as possible.
Q 5 ||Is there any medium you haven’t tried that you’d like to experiment with in the near future?
Sculpting. I never ever had the chance to try it, beside some drunken attempts back in time at Dark Art Tattoo where I used to work, haha.Now I try to achieve the tattoo and illustration thing together. I think there are still a lot of possibility and interesting part of these two genres mixed together.
At the moment I cannot really imagine switching to another medium or something. Honestly I do not really like to only try things if I cannot go in deeper in the topic and do it with full force.
Q 6 ||How would you describe tattoo culture in Central and Eastern Europe, compared to that of the U.S.? What has the evolution of tattoo art been like there, in recent years?
I have only been once to the States but somehow I feel like traditional is still stronger and much more popular there than in Europe.
Especially in central eastern Europe the academical art was always closer to the realism, that affected the tattoo world as well. That’s why for example traditional tattoos are still a quarter as popular here as in the States. The younger generation is getting more interested about it, but still has a way to go.
What is super strong at the moment here is the artists coming from the illustration, fine art world. This makes I think a little bit outstanding the Central European tattoo scene.
Q 7 ||On average, how often do you draw just for yourself, without the intent of sharing the finished product or turning it into something bigger?
Unfortunately in the past couple years I literally had no time to draw or paint just for my own entertainment. I doodle sometimes in my sketchbook, but in most of the cases it equals with something tattoo related or super early stages sketch for an illustration haha.
Q 8 ||To finish up, do you have any projects or appearances coming up that you’re especially excited about?
I have a couple conventions I’m really excited about, like The London Tattoo Convention or Tattoo Fest in Krakow. Also in the beginning of this year I finally had the chance to work seriously on my very first book, which gonna be pretty much a collection of some of my older works, tee illustrations and some new never revealed projects, including the raw scan which I always prefer and some reference photos of textures, ornaments, structures I love to incorporate anatomy work. I would like to make an eye candy, yet useful release. It take time tho, but hopefully it’s worth it and people gonna like it and use it in the future.