Frederico Rabelo is a Young Brazilian tattoo artist who creates incredibly detailed ink work. Rabelo caught the attention of Maxime and so guested with us at Sang Bleu this weekend. We had an informal conversation with him about tattoos and his inspirations. Fred owns his own shop ‘Covil’ in a small town in his native Brazil, at the age of just 24.
What is Brazilian tattoo culture?
Nowadays in Brazil there are a lot of tattooists doing really well, however many of them come from traditional schools like oriental, tribal or American traditional. The biggest Scene is in Sao Paulo, but as Brazil is a really big country you can find interesting things now and again but overall there isn’t an original movement specific to Brazil. I can feel the scene in Brazil growing fast though and the artists with innovation will succeed in a country where the scene hasn’t been saturated that much yet at all.
How do you like working in London and other parts of Europe?
Working here is awesome, to my mind London has the best tattoo scene in the world at the moment, here in London you can find many really good studios and tattoo artists who do such genius work. Professionals form everywhere come here all the time because you feel part of something special when you do and in doing so it makes the scene grow. The London artists have clearly put in a tremendous amount of dedication to get the scene here to this level of professionalism and when I come here and other countries other than mine I aim to help build something good for our generation. I really love to go to New york, I just really love to guest, its a great part of the job, throughout my career I will always guest and travel the world. I love it.
Who and what are your direct inspirations for your tattoo style?
I was a painter before I started tattooing, so from the beginning of my tattoo career I have tried to use the same methods and ambitions that I use when I paint into my tattoos. My references are mainly from art history, especially old paintings. Not just the aesthetics of the paintings but also how paintings are a platform that build knowledge and produce something intelligent. When you paint you have a meaning and a purpose for the piece, I need a reason to tattoo whatever it is I’m tattooing, I want to communicate just how painters do. A contemporary painter who intends to remain contemporary (relevant) knows that they have to add something into the world, to carry on creating culture without forgetting everything before and this is what I try and do with my tattoos.
What two working European Artists, Tattooist or not, inspire you the most?
Tattoo artists that inspire me the most are Alexander Grim from Russia and Maxime Buchi, I really like the way these guys create a whole concept behind what they do, not just tattoo but they tell a story and the culture they have created. I am also really inspired by mostly european painters, directly in my work I am inspired by Francis Bacon and Giacometti, not visually but how these guys think about the work, the way they create culture – their paintings communicate their ideas about society and culture and the way they think.
Was there a specific moment when you realised you wanted to be a tattooist?
When I was graduating from school people were asking me what I was going to do and everyone was saying I should tattoo because of the way I was already drawing and asking me to tattoo them and so I tried it. I had a lot of tattoo artists as friends already and they showed me all of the equipment and so I bought a tattoo machine and thats how I started to do my drawings but now onto skin. If you say you will tattoo people for free, you can get lots of people to practice on! It has been so fast, it has only been three years from then until now, I worked really hard everyday to get to where I am now. In my small town there is no culture for apprentices so I have taught myself completely from scratch.
How much has tattooing influenced or changed the way you draw?
Oh Definitely, when you begin to tattoo you realise you have to think about the form of the body, contours of the body, you have to stretch the skin, these things I never had to consider before when I was painting and drawing. In terms of style specifically though , not really as I said before It was really my drawings that at university that
Is there anything you wouldn’t tattoo?
Sometimes customers come and propose an idea I don’t really want to do, If I don’t want to do it, I can’t put 100% spirit and soul into it, I tell them to find someone else, another tattoo artist to do it, who will do it better. I also can’t waste time on something that I don’t believe in, my style and the tattoos that I do are all part of a vision I have, an ongoing portfolio so to say. Right now I have a list of what I want to tattoo and where on the body I want to tattoo them, so when customers who come to me because they already know and like my style, then I can collaborate with them and come up with a piece together and then I am happy to give them a piece of my art.