Interview with Legendary Black and Grey Tattooer Ivano Natale

Ivano Natale is a black and grey specializing tattooer working out of Thy Gallery Studio (his own shop) in the beautiful Naples, Italy.  He is known for being one of the top names in the realism tattooing world, and has a very recognizable style of his own.  I can see photos of his work and easily guess that he did the piece without having to see his name attached to it.  Ivano is someone I definitely want to collect from in the future, and I’m very blessed to have been able to do an interview with him.  I hope you guys enjoy the read.
When did you first start getting into art?
 I was very young when I started drawing.  I remember being in elementary school when I started scribbling on the wall and on paper.

What did the tattoo world look like back when you first entered it (also what year was that?).  What’s most different between back then and right now?

 Tattoos always catch people’s eye and generate an opinion – some love it, some hate it, but nobody is blind to them.

In my case, tattoos have always been fascinating and being a tattoo artist is all that I ever wanted to be.  

Up until 15 years ago, the only way to learn for me was by looking at other artists work in person and figuring out a way to make it happen on my own.  

Apprenticeship wasn’t the way in my hometown.  

Tattoo conventions were a big event for me – they were also the only chance I would get to see my favorite artists in person and enjoy their process and end result of course.  

You couldn’t get fooled by photoshop artists and fake lifestyles back then.  

Fake artists are slowly comtaminating the tattoo world.  I honestly think the best way to preserve some sort of “honesty”is by not advertising these people ( no names or negative publicity) so they’ll slowly disappear.  We need to focus on real artists and real tattoos.  I saw some IG pages pop up lately that somehow expose names and what not but I think they should stop!  

Never focus on hate and give other people an opportunity to hate on our world… Focus on the good part of the industry, and make people love and appreciate real art.

Were you mostly self taught or who helped you take your tattooing to the next level?
 I was mostly self-taught but I got the chance to work with some of my favorite artists which helped me develop “my style”.  I’ve never been afraid to try new ways in my 15 years of tattooing and still reinvent myself to these days.
Your use of flow, negative space, and occasional freehand action is incredible.  It makes your work so unique and recognizable. Have you always done this?
First of all thank you for the compliment.  I think my flow comes from doing so many different styles throughout the years until I decided to focus on Black & Grey only.  I’ve always loved the flow of tribal tattoos and compositions of Japanese tattoos, I have those styles stuck in my head and they represent my guideline to build a piece.
Funniest or craziest experience with any client so far?
One of the funniest things happened in Naples Italy back when I started tattooing (15years ago). This local guy walked in and asked me to tattoo “The American” on him… I had no Idea what the hell he was talking about and him being from my neighborhood (North of Naples – as ghetto as it gets lol) wasn’t really helping lol.   I tried to figure it out along the conversation…  10 minutes into it I still had no idea what or who he wanted tattooed on him and homeboy was getting mad and frustrated … He kept saying “I want THE AMERICAN bro THE AMERICAN!” It took me about 20 min to realize that what he wanted was the Statue of Liberty and to this day I don’t know why lol.


Thoughts on conventions nowadays?
I like tattoo conventions – they are a good way for me to meet my friends from all over the world and I thank those that invite me to their shows.  I think the only problem is that nowadays there are too many shows organized by people that don’t know much about this beautiful art.  
There is always less and less tattoo artists judging competitions, categories are unclear so awards don’t make much sense in the end but the quality you see around is definitely higher than a few years ago and that’s a beautiful thing.  
This industry is evolving so it’s only natural that a lot of outsiders try to feed from it but as i said I support people that I like and I love the fact that nowadays quality has raised the bar.
Biggest inspirations in the industry?
Carlos Torres, Robert Hernandez, Steve Soto, and many others that I work with and have worked with such as Daniel Rocha and Riccardo Cassese… but as I said, there are just too many to mention them all.
Who’s your ideal client?
 Anybody who is willing to let me display my vision of their ideas without interfering too much with the process.  It is important to have a starting point, but it’s also important to eventually leave the process in my hands.

Was there any specific moment during your tattoo career where things seemed to just finally click and all make sense where your work leaped to the next level?

I honestly can’t pin point the moment when other artists and tattoo collectors started recognizing my work or when they begin wanting a piece from me, but I know Steve Soto was there when it all happened!  He has been a great influence in my life as an artist and person and to this day,  I still consider him one of my best friends. 


In what ways have you been pushing your own growth as a tattooist?  Any new techniques you’ve been trying or researching or do you just attack each day differently and push yourself with each project in different ways?

Personally I think that the love I have for this art has always shown through my work from day one! Probably even before that, when I saw my first tattoo at a very young age (9 or 10) and couldn’t stop talking about it lol.  The things that I had to go through in order to become a tattoo artist and learn new techniques pushed me to the next level every single day.  The use of new mediums outside of tattooing helped me combine different approaches and enriched my vision. 

What do know now that you wish you knew from the very beginning so you could have saved yourself time and saved yourself from headaches?
 I don’t think I would’ve gotten anywhere near where I am now if I hadn’t been through most of the things that I have been through, so the answer is:  NO I don’t  think it would have helped.  I paid my dues and gained everything through hard work to build my path and my path isn’t made of short-cuts.  There is no accomplishment without failure and I had to go through both to make it happen.  In the end, it’s all worth it.   I do what I love and love what I do.  I wish all people could feel this way about their lives.

There is no accomplishement without failure and I had to go through both to make it happen. 

Biggest dream as an artist?  Any milestone you strive to reach?
I’m addicted to my family and art ,everything else is a hobby.  Of course I have goals and dreams like everybody else but I prefer showing results than revealing things ahead of time and as I said I’m not afraid of making mistakes, its always been the only way to learn for me.  I travel a lot and I’ll keep it that way , got a good solid team at Thy Gallery studios in Napoli Italia , so no matter where I go or where I end up moving I know my guys are gonna hold it down for me.


Thanks so much for your time Ivano!  Make sure to give him a follow @ivannataletats

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