Japanese tattoo artists Nissaco and Gakkin ink their presence in Singapore

Reta Lee
Editor-in-Chief, Lifestyle
Gakkin (left) and Nissaco (right) at Culture Cartel 2018. (Photo: Reta Lee/Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)

It takes two great Japanese artists to leave their pride at the door and to collaborate together in creating new, beautiful artwork on skin. We met with Nissaco and Gakkin at Culture Cartel 2018, a street culture convention that covers art, toys, tattoo, and fashion in a consumer trade show, held at Singapore’s F1 Pit Building recently.

Nissaco, who hails from Osaka, combines traditional elements with big geometric shapes in his designs, giving it an uniquely experimental feel.

Nissaco, a tattoo artist is not a conventional job. Can you tell us how did you learn the art of tattooing?

I had my own mentor before I started drawing. I had to learn everything, from serving customers to the job of hospitality before I was taught to draw. This was when I was 20.

Do you remember your first tattoo job – were you proud of your work?

I was not proud of it at all and I was not confident as I was nervous. I actually didn’t want to meet the customer after that appointment (smiles).

Nissaco. (Photo: Reta Lee/Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)

Why did you choose the style of geometric patterns and elegant large black patterns as your art?

I was actually initially inspired by the old traditional Japanese patterns like water, waves and clouds. For me, I feel there are no rules when it comes to drawing, and I just think if the pattern is cool or not. There was a trend in time when a lot of overseas media was writing about geometric patterns. The reports inspired a lot of foreign customers to patron my studio to do the geometric patterns, and that made a lot of people think it was my own style, so I got inspired to draw it.

What are your clientele like? Do you get more Westerners or Asians gravitating towards your art?

About 90% are Westerners, from Europe and US but currently I am getting customers from Singapore and Hong Kong.

Tattooing is seen as illegal in Japan’s laws, unless you have a doctor’s license. How do you ensure your work continues, while not breaking the law?

I’m not impacted by this, so nothing has changed for me. As for other studios, they are trying to rebel against the government’s ruling by fighting it in court.

You’ve recently collaborated with Gakkin on some body sleeves – what is like, working with him?

I really had fun doing this; normally I operate alone and just concentrate on my own work but for this project we had to discuss a lot of ideas together and I was amazed by how much ideas and skills-wise I could learn from him. I’ve known him for a long time and there’s no pressure; when one of us share a disagreement, we just accept it and move on.

When you’re not working, where can we find you during your spare time?

After work, I go straight home as I like to spend time with my family. I’m a new dad to a four-month-old baby and I’ve been away for two months overseas because of work, so I’ve not really been a better father yet.

Would you encourage your child to enter the creative industry, much like yourself in the tattooing business?

Since she’s still very little I wouldn’t be able to tell but I would like her to be an actress.

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Gakkin. (Photo: Reta Lee/Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)

Freehand tattoo artist Gakkin who is based in Amsterdam, is inspired by Japanese painters and traditional elements. His unconventional method has earn him praises and mixed clientele who flock to him for a dose of his ink.

Hi Gakkin! You dropped out of fashion design school to concentrate on tattooing. Do you draw any influences from fashion into the world of tattooing? Is there a co-relation?

I get this question sometimes, but it’s completely different as I’ve dropped out of school and didn’t learn everything about fashion.

Your style is freehand, while keeping Japanese style and culture. How do you work with clients to realise their designs, while following your improvisational method?

It’s been nearly ten years since I started using this freehand technique, and I’m really lucky as my customers trust me on the designs as they wouldn’t know what designs they are until I start on them. I’d still want to continue this style as it really challenges me.

Do you read any books or pick up this skill from a mentor to learn?

Actually, I’ve never done any of that before and I think I should read (laughs).

Can you share with us, any difficult artwork you had to work on, and what did you learn from this challenge?

I’ve been getting a lot of projects recently, from full body to sleeves, and after finishing these projects, I feel like I’ve learned something new because I have to make something look cool from a 360 degrees view.

You’re now based in Amsterdam, but still continue to travel back to Asia for conventions. What experiences/knowledge you’re hoping to bring back to Amsterdam?

I would like to bring back new skills to Amsterdam, as I’m looking for the latest techniques for my customers.

You’ve recently collaborated with Nissaco on some body sleeves – what is like, working with him?

It felt like I’m growing just by collaborating with him and I really would like to continue this project and surprise more people.

When you’re not working, where can we find you during your spare time?

I will always try to take some time off during my daughter’s summer or winter holidays so we could travel around the world; we’ve already seen Europe and some Southeast Asia countries.

To follow Gakkin and Nissaco’s art, check out their Instagram accounts: @gakkinx; @nissaco