Mark Wosgerau is a world famous, highly respected, and highly coveted black and grey tattooer working out of Denmark. I got the chance to meet him at the Evergreen Tattoo Invitational a couple of times and just really enjoyed his presence, energy and mindset, aside from the fact that he is a top tier tattooer in this genre. I am humbled and blessed to be able to have done this intricate interview with him below, and am confident that you all will enjoy the read.
You seem to be a true master at putting together breath-taking compositions (and are amazing at capturing it to create/display content as well)… is composition something that came pretty natural to you or is it something that you’ve worked especially hard on?
I really don’t think I have mastered anything yet, but I have started to feel comfortable in the routines and design vs body breakdowns that I do. I do feel like I have a 5th sense in many situations, where composition could be one of them. Somehow it feels like I have laser eyes – able to read the muscle anatomy under the skin allowing me to follow flows of the body, which I do see a lot of artists struggling with. I think it came from my mindset – I do try to push myself to a better piece every single day no matter what the subject may be.
Biggest inspirations as you came into this industry?
I think the eldest inspiration I can remember was Joshua Carlton. Something mysterious was happening with him – there really weren’t a lot of photos of him, only these gory realistic color tattoos, and perfectly balanced out artworks. Joshua has a great eye for what is needed in a piece, and which details arent. I am happy that today many years later, I can call him my friend.
How long would you say you’ve been in the tattoo game for? What have been some of the main shifts from the time you first entered up until right now?
I came into the game in 2010, but on very bad terms. I did it all the wrong way, with no art background making spirit breaking tattoos on the couch, and opening up my own studio Sinners Inc six months later. I didn’t know anything about creating art – I do not come from an art background, and I had no one to teach me – i am 100% self-taught.
So I would say I got my head in the game around 2013, where i started to understand that art has some limitations, some few basic rules that you can’t take short cuts around, and that if you implement you will quickly see results. Seeing these results, gave me an adrenaline rush like nothing ever gave me in my life before, and tattooing/creating culture around tattooing became my drug. I became addicted with information, and started fighting my way to where i am today, which is a place where i feel really happy, but dont get me wrong I work hard still today, and I do not feel anywhere near a level I wanna get to, I have so much to learn still.
Biggest inspirations in the industry?
Tough question for a man that breaks down everything, but let’s take the tour. I would l talk about what currently inspires me inside the industry, but most of my inspiration I get from outside the industry nowadays.
Bangbang inspires me to keep creating a better Sinners Inc – a studio that helps break down the negative culture about tattooing, and helps us get accepted into the world of out, which we cannot state we are yet, and I feel they’re great at trying to lead that movement here. As for work-wise, Oscar Akermo used to be a huge influence on me before he changed his style – not that I dont like his work now, it’s elegant and flawless, but it’s not comparable to my style anymore which was influenced a lot by his earlier work.
Carlos Torres has been a long term influence on me – he is a man who broke down the barriers of black and Grey realism, and cleared the path for me to become what I am today – he should be very honored about his influence on this industry. Daniel Rocha inspired me on the level of tones and details in his work, I do believe he is one of the few artists able to catch all tones in this industry. I do work more simple though, and I try to break my work down to only 5 tones. The level of detail, and the balance Sergio Sanchez creates amazes me, and his visual aestethics are beautiful. To me, Sergio Sanchez is the best black and grey artists of the year.
As for my inspiration outside of the industry, probably where I gather most my inspiration nowadays, I do believe to take our industry to the next level, we need to search outside of the box called tattooing, to reach the next level. I am dipping in the jars or fashion, artchitecture, experiences, gourmet, and we are combining it all into the new Sinners Inc.
I used to really be fueld by the inspiration from the tattoo Industry, but I believe with where I am today I just need to follow my inner calling. Things are starting to become a natural process, and I do my best work when I follow my instinct instead of following others. This is a revelation that I had not too long ago, trying too hard to be the “next” level of Mark Wosgerau, that lead me places that I shouldn’t go. I do only recommend following your instincts, when you become truely one with your design language. For the first 8 years of my career, I searched out all information, on all the great artists in this industry, trying to “steal” their strengths. (Steal like an artist, is a must read for anyone in any line of work).
As things are now, I do get the best inspiration from ambitions, so my biggest inspirations come from the world of chefs, and the fashion world. I do think Chefs Table, from Netflix is one of the most inspiring shows every created. Virgil Abloh, the art director of Louis Vuitton, and owner of off White, is a great inspiration to me as well. He broke down the rules of fashion as we know it, and changed everything from formal fashion to streetwear, which now dominates the world of fashion now.
Kanye West is a great inspiration to me – I believe he breaks down invisible barriers of this world, that no longer should exist, and he has exquisite taste on whatever it is clothing, artworks, music or architecture. Studying him helped me understand myself alot better. At last my biggest of them all is my family, I wanna be the best husband i can be, and a role model for my kids, which fuels me so much motivation to be the best Mark Wosgerau I can be.
If you were to swap tattoo for tattoo with any artist on the planet who would it be?
Sergio Sanchez would be my main man as it comes to level, I think he is the best there is right now, and I would really enjoy seeing/feeling how he executes his work.
Any chance you’d ever relocate to a United States tattoo shop such as Bang Bang NYC which you seem to enjoy guest spotting at?
I have thought about this for a lot of years, and I really enjoyed every second I spend in United States. I wanna come back a lot more. But where I live now is my home, this is the best place for me to be. I am a highly sensitive person, which to me means that I feel like a sponge – I suck in every impression, word, sound, smell or atmospheric feeling that I experience, which makes New York my favorite place in the world, but also a place that over stimulates me way way too much, and doesn’t provide the best me over longer periods of time. I really love Aarhus – it is the perfect the size, for me. I do love the culture in New York more though, and I feel that I somehow do belong to that city more than do I here. I think I would somehow “feel more normal” in New York, but then again who wanna be normal? Not me.
I know talented tattooers like yourself are making a killing right now already as tattooing is more lucrative than ever with how mainstream it’s becoming, but if you had the power to charge maybe $25,000 USD or so per full day session, how many pieces would you do a month and why?
I would work exactly like I do now. I try to schedule myself to tattoo 3-4 days a week, leaving the rest of the week to run the role as the art director of my studio Sinners Inc. I do love what I do, and money wouldn’t make me work less. I am so excited with everything I do, and right now we are rebuilding Sinners Inc as people know it – fully redesigning everything, and creating a studio that I honestly can say no one has done. We will give a visual artistic experience, combined with a luxury art experience that no one has ever provided before, and I can’t wait to show everyone.
At last I just love the experience between clients and myself. I love talking to them, and I have so many inspiring people in my chair nowadays – 95% of my clients travel in, which I really see as strong ambition as well.
What is usually going on in your mind as you are creating a tattoo?
What’s not on my mind? Haha. I am at a place as an owner of a big studio, where I care about every single detail, and my brain has become able to think about 10 things at a time, and constantly challenge my mind and thoughts. I can build up full identities in my head, and right now my process goes to the new Sinners Inc, how we will look, and work physical and visually I go into every single detail in my head, creating every single experience, as well as the appearance. I can easily spend months breaking down such a big subject, thinking of what coffee beans to use, to which gather information of what machine to extract it best. How we can affect and stimulate a room with the use of light, how we can give experiences that blows people’s minds and make their days. At the end of the day, I just really wanna give the people that enter a great experience – I do really care about putting that ignition in every single one of them.
It’s so honorable that people come to you, and let you mark them permanently forever, so we should try our very very best to show that honor.
What three things or concepts have been most beneficial to your development and growth as a tattooer?
The first thing that comes to my mind would always be the mindset, without that you won’t go anywhere. I do try to be my best everyday – I set the bar to be a minimum of 1% better at my creative processes each day, and do believe it’s so important to see that the details do matter. In studies, they had archers become better archers, due to them making paintings, but people don’t grasp that. No matter what we spend our time on becoming good at, it effects our other skills aswell, which is why I care so much about the detail and find love in it. I love to dig into all processes, and break them down.
Second would be the concept of critique, via losing your ego. Understanding that all of us tattoo artists are nothing like the old great Masters, which are levels away in the skills of art.
So the first thing to do is to be humble against your work, and work hard everyday to actually come close to the level of those who were there before us.
Maybe it’s just my opinion but I can’t brag if I can’t beat a man who walked this Earth 500 years ago, and we now rule the year of 2019. I often use the phrase “The more I know, the more I realize the less I know.” Everyday it feels like I know less, like there are so many ways to take this, and still endless information to gather. I am not the best artist in the world, but damn it I will be. So it’s important to look at your work with flaws every single day, and break your tattoos down in categories. Contrast ( Black vs White) Overall balance ( Balance the contrast out evenly in the tattoos). Flow (Follow the anatomy, and sometimes enchance with negative flow). Details (where are my level of details are too much or too little?). Overall technique (Smooth vs rough). Out of focus / in focus effects (leaving interesting places in higher contrast/details, or less interesting places in less contrast/details). Design (Did I find the right expression of this piece of art, and was it a high enough quality photo?).
The third concept would probaly be to lead. I do think that leading (really leading, not pretending) puts you on the “target list”, and somehow makes you very vulnerable, it makes me try my very harder to inspire the room, and show that there is a way to become the best. It’s a role that I enjoy a lot, but I do believe it is a heavy burden too. I guess every successful man in an industry wears that burden hopefully with honor though.
You seem like a very ambitious soul from what I can tell judging by the quality of work you produce and the effort you’ve been putting in for many years. Are there any specific goals or milestones you’re hoping to reach both in your personal or career life?
My life long goal has always been to be the best, such a manly desire haha. It does keep me on my toes. Another one is definitely to work at an art museum (which is in the works), and will be so amazing/challenging.
I also wanna add on to our lifestyle brand Sinners Inc, making it the biggest brand of our branch, touching culture all around the world, breaking down the bad energies towards visible ink, and creating more stronger bonds for us as humans. In the studio, I wanna be able to give an experience that competes with art museums, and disintegrate art into a new experience. What my overall goal is, is to love what I do always, and I love to create (we were created to create).
What do you predict will be the biggest differences we will see ten years from now with tattooing?
I predict that if you don’t start working your very hardest and lose that ego, you won’t be here to see the industry in 10 years. This industry is breaking into the realm of professionalism, from the shadows of a very unprofessional industry, and if you’re not able to make that switch, you will be gone. The clients are getting a lot more aware of quality, so if you’re not trying your very best at what you do, you will be gone. This industry will be facing a major change over the next 10 years, so artists better be ready – I am. This will even more so change into a high end art, just like a canvas we barely scratched the surface.
There are probably tens of thousands of tattooers who dream of being in the position you’re at right now, making a very comfortable living, creating top notch tattoos, and having made a respected name for yourself in the industry. Any key pieces of advice for those people to keep in mind as they keep pushing in the right direction?
My biggest advice is to be who you are, even if people don’t like you for it. We were not meant to like everyone we meet, so don’t try to be liked by everyone – only the ones that matter to you. I do what I do because I am me, even though it’s been extremely frowned upon, and I do hear people talk shit about me – even world famous tattoo artists, like they have nothing better to do. Do foams shows if you like to, go show yourself to the world if you like to, do whatever you like, and let nobody change that. I do believe we live in a culture of humans trying to take down, and hold down other humans, and this is just the wrong way. If we all combined our strength towards our next of kin, and tried to help instead of to take each other down, where could we be today? Would 2020 really have been 2050?
Thanks for your time Mark! Your work is outstanding and your answers to the interview questions really let us get to know you as a human. Follow Mark to see more of his incredible work- @markwosgerau