I’ve been a big fan of Zac Scheinbaum, an artist who works out of Kings Avenue Tattoo since his days over at Saved. I was excited to have the chance to not only feature his work but to shoot a timelapse video of him doing what he does best.
The Kings Avenue crew is just world class and I had a blast working on this little project. While I was editing the footage, our writer Anita came up with some great interview questions for Zac, and his answers are really inspiring. I want to thank Zac of course, and Dylan for setting this up as well as everyone at Kings Avenue. A very special thanks to the trooper Luiz Bacchi for letting me sit in on his session!
Q 1 || How would you describe the impact a fine arts education has had on you as a tattoo artist? Can you talk about the most important takeaways you got from your time as a student, as well as any limitations you might’ve experienced?
Having done some training in the fine arts has helped in a lot of ways. What I personally find to be the most influential thing I took away from it, is a mental thought process rather than taking specific techniques or whatnot. In college for the times that I went (I dropped out a few times and am still a semester or two away from a BFA), I tried a lot of different things- print making, painting, photo etc. I was just trying to use the facilities that were available to me to try and learn or try out as many different kinds of process that I could. All that being said I always knew tattooing was what I wanted to do, so maybe subconsciously that was always in the back of my mind somewhere. So over the time I was there and now what’s even more apparent is that I tend to approach my tattoos as fine art, or original works commissioned by someone. I try to think how I would approach this to give it a specific look. It sort of naturally happens when it comes through your hand, but it’s a thought at pretty much all times.
Q 2 || A lot of your imagery could be described as macabre- what, in your opinion, draws people to expressing these themes of life and death in tattoo form, and how do you personally approach those themes as an artist?
A lot of clients come in and say, “Man I really like that heavy black, that super dark work you do.” In all truth, I just posted a picture of a huge dark snake I did on a close friend. We had to make the snake so dark in order to cover up some script that went across his chest. I had done that script also years before so it was in a way sort of a favor. When he came in, I was at SAVED at the time, and Anderson Luna, was like “You should do a massive black snake over that.” That’s what surprises me about the internet, you show a piece of art, or tattoo, and sometimes it just sort of explodes. So by doing that and other predominantly black and grey work, I think it lends itself well to that imagery.
I’ve always been more interested in works of art, especially religious or some older European paintings because they weren’t afraid to depict brutality or violence or swords etc.. And as a kid being dragged to museums, I found those incredibly stimulating. Now I’m so thankful for those times! Ha! Then you start seeing as you explore more and more into the art world how other cultures interpret those things, or the stories or myths that go along with them. Japanese culture especially always blew me away with the way the woodblock prints were able to capture these amazing details and still had a line. That’s very different from paintings! So to see these amazing figures and whatnot with outlines filled in, lent itself to comic books in my mind and now I see the undeniable connection to relating those directly on skin. And I don’t really do Japanese tattoos, but I think about them for almost every tattoo that I do.
Q 3 || The originality within your style makes it hard to categorize into just one genre. When you’re coming up with a design, do you consciously incorporate elements from, for example, Japanese or American Traditional? If so, what are some standard techniques from each style that you usually place into your own work?
Well, that makes me happy to hear. I think its really important to make sure that a style is yours. Even if you do take note or give a nod to certain people or styles. It’s important to me to create something new, instead of rehashing the same old imagery we all see everyday from so many different people.
Q 4 || To go along with the previous question, do you use any specific techniques that stray from the norm; anything one wouldn’t see every tattoo artist doing?
I’m not sure? I think that reference is important- things to look at that hopefully everyone hasn’t seen before. So I try to draw inspiration from other sources rather than the internet, or a Dover book haha. I look at a lot of older stuff, and comics, and things like that. I think a lot of us work in mostly the same ways. Start with a sketch then a drawing, then a drawing, then a drawing until it’s right.
Q 5 || With the entrance of tattoo art into the modern mainstream, what would you say is the best way to preserve the intimacy and culture around it?
I’d say just be careful about what you choose to share. You want to be proud of the work you do!
Q 6 || You’ve mentioned that you prefer working in black and grey; as the designer, illustrator, and tattooist, what are the major differences or challenges you notice between that and working in color?
Black and white, or grey, has always been easier for me. I do work in color, it’s just much more rare. It’s easier for my mind do decide where values lay using greyscale. Visually I find it very pleasing.
Q 7 || You relocated to New York a few years ago, working first at Saved and now at Kings Avenue- is there anything in particular about the city and the creative scene here that inspires you, both as an artist and an individual?
When I got to New York I couldn’t get a job anywhere. I ended up working on St. Marks first, then made another jump or two before ending up and SAVED and now at KINGS. I always had goals when I came to New York, sort of these pipe dreams that I wasn’t sure how to ever make a reality. I think the city inspired hard work for me, and being around all of these amazing artists just made me want to get better and better. It’s a lot of visual stimulation being here, and working with all these wonderful people, but at the same time it’s a lot of pressure which I found refreshing. I’m a pretty harsh critic on myself, so being forced to work harder and harder was a really good thing for me. The city definitely has that eat or be eaten vibe…
Q 8 || And finally, do you have any projects or events coming up that you’re especially looking forward to?
Well, I have been working on an art show with some amazing friends and co-workers, and the main thing I have been doing with my free time is starting a publishing company and working hard on our first book. Definitely looking to change the modern tattoo world and show them something new and inspiring again. With modern day mainstream culture as you have said, it’s hard to keep things interesting, especially when most things have been done. So we hope to reinvigorate and inspire again, sort of with a clean slate.