Interview | The Tattoos and Illustrations of Sinpiggyhead
Bones and Prints
Another passion of mine, apart from anything pop culture related, is tattooing. I draw like a fish, but I also enjoy admiring the work of tattoo artists with their own style, and collecting tattoos on my skin. So when I come across an artist as talented as Sinpiggyhead who combines pop culture and tattooing with virtuosity, I fall in love. We had the chance to chat with him and here is a dive into the inspirations, working methods and many other secrets of this artist we love.
Hey Nicolas, could you introduce yourself to our readers?
Hello, my name is Nicolas, 34 years old, illustrator and tattoo artist working in Paris under the nickname Sinpiggyhead.
How did you choose art as a career?
I’ve been drawing since I was a kid, learning from my two older brothers, my mother and my grandmother. And more globally by copying the characters of Dragon Ball every day. It became pretty obvious that I couldn’t do much else with my life. Nevertheless, no art school wanted me (because of my poor academic record) so after a BAC L (a good 11), a DUT in graphic design and then a design school, I ended up in the advertising business. From graphic designer trainee to DA I decided to leave the business after 10 years to devote myself 100% to drawing and tattooing.
How would you describe yourself as an artist? What is your philosophy on art?
So I write “artist” in my site’s bio, but I’ve always found that pompous and not necessarily true aha. Especially when you consider the work of others. Honestly, I prefer to think of myself as a craftsman since I’m selling a service (whether it’s tattooing or illustration). I have my own little know-how and I make things that please me and so much the better if others like it. It’s always an endless debate: Artist or not artist? To have ankles that swell or not? Everyone has their own opinion.
In fact, from my point of view, I try not to ask myself too many questions about my work. I’m the guy who will have fun with his monsters, his influences, do something fun that he likes and that’s it. However, I just try to do it right, the best I can.
So I know it’s not necessarily a good thing, but I have the annoying habit of comparing myself to others, of finding that everything else is much better than my work. This is even more true with the omnipresence of social networks. It’s not competition, but at least it keeps me grounded and keeps me working and trying to do better every time.
Like kame sennin says “there will always be someone stronger than you” or something like that.
As for my philosophy on art, we could talk about it for hours with red wine while sitting at a bar… But I would say that art must (or should) inspire. When I see a painting, a monument or when I listen to a song, if it inspires me on a work or on a way of doing such or such thing, it’s ok.
What are your main sources of inspiration ? We can feel the inspiration of the 90’s and comics in your work and we like that!
In fact, when you set Arnold Schwarzenegger up as an absolute hero, you can say that the 1990s are the cradle of my influences. In fact, the cinema of those years (as well as the end of the 1980s) have certainly shaped my personality in a certain way. So it shows in my work in a logical way. Having two older brothers probably accelerated my immersion in that culture. Normally you don’t see Evil Dead by yourself at 5 years old for example…
Apart from the cinema culture, I was lucky enough to have a teacher mother who took me to all the exhibitions and museums possible when I was a kid. Even if I slowed down most of the time, the fact is that you have to be on your ass when you find yourself face to face with the raft of the jellyfish at 5 or 6 years old. The natural history museums have been a good sounding board for me. The one in Paris is my second home. A kink exacerbated thanks (or because) of a certain Jurassic Park.
My father was a doctor and between two Pink Floyd records, he would give me engraving plates and anatomical encyclopedias so that I could understand how a human body is articulated. My passion for skinned bodies, cabinets of curiosity and other skeletons probably comes from there. And finally my brothers made me fall in comics like Spawn, Batman and mangas of course with Dragon Ball and Akira (and many others).
You put all this in a blender, a little self-training and you get a nice base to work with. From there, it’s the sum of all the encounters I make that shapes, sculpts and refines my inspirations. I have a lot of friends and close friends that I put on a pedestal because their work makes me feel down and inspired. But I don’t tell them that haha.
You are an artist who mixes projects and media, between classic illustration and tattooing. Can you tell us more about your creative process ? Do you work in a different way when you prepare a paper creation or when you plan a tattoo ?
My process is relatively simple and common when it comes to illustration orders. In principle I have a brief (or a post it in the worst case), framed which prevents me from scattering. I make one or more roughs on computer quickly, I send to the client. We exchange as many times as it takes, then once everything is set I go back to paper and do everything by hand. This is the longest part in principle (aha). Once the traditional drawing is done, I go back to the computer to clean the scan, design the layout etc. That’s basically my classic way of working.
(Then a detail: although I use references on computer or other, I do everything by hand on paper, armed with my rotrings. As well in tattoo as in illustration. I can’t go 100% digital for various reasons).
For the tattoo, it’s different on several levels while remaining the same (aha).
Concretely, with the client, once the drawing is validated, I don’t go further than the lining. I fill in the shadows directly on the client without having prepared them on paper. It avoids me to overload the tattoo and to make it too dark. A tattoo must be readable and age as well as possible, but if you darken it too much, if you make it more complex than necessary, it can give a hazardous result years later. So I tend to work on my tattoos in a “brighter” way, with more breathing and a little less detail than my usual work on paper (which I didn’t do at all at the beginning). The skin is not a fixed support, you learn it quickly and you adapt your drawings accordingly.
Finally, designing a tattoo composition is different from a paper drawing. Working on a body is not really the same delirium. You have to adapt to the morphology, establish a harmonious composition that can be read from far away, from different angles, etc. It’s very difficult. It’s very difficult. Concretely, what works on paper will not necessarily work on tattoo. Now I’m learning, adapting and I feel that even my pure illustration compositions are slowly improving through my tattoo learning. The two fields feed and complement each other. So I’m like the daron who explains life to you while a few months ago I didn’t know how to hold a needle…
As far as my personal work is concerned, it’s not the same lemonade. The blank page syndrome, no brief, vertigo, hell. It usually ends up with an abandonment via acute procrastination and it ends up with a game of PS4. But when I get there it’s cool. And when I do, it’s usually thanks to some research on the net, in my books or elsewhere. I get an idea, an inspiration and then I try to twist it with other things from my universe. I really admire people who draw every day, who doodle all the time, who are turbo disciplined by filling pages of notebooks with studies of this or that part. I don’t do that (although I should) because it’s too much work and I don’t have the level or the patience. I prefer to work/draw on a case by case basis. I have an idea, I go for it without doing anything else and then I move on to another theme when it’s finished.
You were also able to create the two covers of the book Berserk, a l’encre des ténèbres by Alt 236 for Third Editions. How was the creation of this cover for a monument of the pop culture like Berserk?
It’s a bro’ story the cover of Berserk <3
I was on my way to a Metal Gear Solid philharmonic concert with my unofficial backer, Mr. Sullivan Rouaud (editor at HiComics and now at Mangetsu). Between two musical, he introduced me to the Third Editions team, notably Mehdi El Kanafi. I left him my business card like a feisty Patrick Bateman and the next day Mehdi wrote me to offer me the job. I was stunned, I didn’t know how to handle it, especially when I knew which guy was going to write the book.
I was already a good connoisseur of the work, but I didn’t want to fall into silly fan art. I preferred to do something that would make reference and sense while staying in my universe and my style. To want to do Miura is to shoot yourself in the foot. So I followed my work process without asking myself too many questions: make something that I like, that speaks to me and if it works so much the better. Well it worked apparently 🙂
Normally I was supposed to work only on the First print. But the guys at Third liked this first cover so much that they entrusted me with the regular version as well (to be honest I think I begged for it too…)
What is your favorite work in your portfolio and why does it resonate so much with you?
I don’t usually have preferences in my work. No offence intended. That said, there are some works I prefer over others for what they represent in my background. For example, I have an old, awkward drawing from 2014, in A3 that is framed above my desk. It’s frankly not great, but it reminds me of the day I picked up pencils again after dropping them for years. I also frame some of my prints at the tattoo shop where I work to have a showcase for the clients who come by and because my silkscreen partner is doing a great job.
But if I have to play the game and give you ONE job, I would probably say the one for Berserk. Because it represents the moment when I switched to something more serious and professional. This project was a turbo gas pedal in my work, it brought me 80% of my tattoo clients when I started two years ago. That’s huge! And beyond that, this book made me meet some great people: with this good Alt236 and the Third team. I owe them a lot!
What are your typical days in the studio? Do you have any habits or quirks that you can’t get rid of?
I usually start my day at 10:30 am. I take care of my emails, order management, I prepare my drawing of the day and I attack my client at 1pm. After my tattoo session, I don’t do anything else because I’m usually exhausted. Except when I have to return an illustration 🙂
When I don’t have a client, I still come to the shop to work on my drawings.
What is your relationship to pop culture, between yesterday and today?
Ouch, this is the question where I’m going to be an old fart who says that it was better before?
As far as blockbuster movies are concerned, for example, I find that nowadays productions tend to focus more on the form, to make something impactful enough to catch the attention quickly, to the detriment of a real writing. The big productions look more like long YouTube trailers so that everyone can put their cool gif on twitter and say “wow XD Kong he put a fairground potato in Godzilla, so good”.
Above all, there is a permanent insipid recycling that makes these films look like happy meals. The movie majors are taking less and less risks by releasing insipid mush seen and seen again. And the worst thing is that when I observe the reactions on social networks or by talking with people, you have the famous “ohhh it’s ok, it’s not worse than X or Y” there is a crazy leveling down, it’s terrible. After I include myself in it too, I also feed this system by going to see some cinematographic crap (probably an unhealthy pleasure) and even sometimes to defend some of them (Like Jurassic World for example… I’m quite alone in these discussions by the way).
Of course there are exceptions and fortunately there are Fury Road, Parasite and many others. But I would like to see more original things that are different from the 30 years old licenses. I don’t want to see an Alien or a Predator in 2021 for example. Let our licenses die, there’s no point in reviving them every time for mediocre results. The original movies will always be there, perfect as they are and that’s fine.
What are your current projects… And future projects?
Currently I have just finished a job for the launch of the game Nier Replicant with SquareEnix France through the French Paper Art Club gallery.
I’m also trying to establish a schedule with a new print every 3/4 months. Which I produce in silkscreen with my buddy Christin (the silkscreen artist mentioned above). We have a list of movies to work on… After Jurassic Park, TMNT and Alien, we should start working on Akira in June/July. However I would like not to lock myself in fan art only, it’s a bit of a trap. So I’m thinking of doing some original and personal stuff during the year, if I have the time.
And in parallel I continue to tattoo and learn 🙂
As a future project I’d like to work again for big music bands, in general it’s really cool and you can have fun with originality. And I would love to work for the Resident Evil license by proposing an official illustration (olalala) a bit like Nier.
Finally, would you have any advice to give to the future generation who would like to work in graphic design or entertainment?
Given the plethora of references, tutorials, and tips available in two clicks I don’t think I have any technical advice to give. However, I could say this to a kid who wants to try it: please yourself and don’t look for the approval of others and chase fake likes on social networks.
HARD! But if I had to choose only one, I would say Jurassic Park. There are better, surely, and objectively it’s not the best movie of my tops, but for what it represents in my life, and in term of influence, yeah it’s really my favorite movie.
Shame, I must admit that I don’t read many novels, short stories or anything else. I don’t want to play around with a pompous title to make you look good. That said, when I was a teenager I read a lot of Stephen King, I have good memories of IT, Rage, etc. But I play the game and I go out and read the books. But I’m playing the game and I’m pulling out the “biography” card by voting for THE DIRT, the Motley Crue biography. An emotional roller coaster in which you are often angry and/or hilarious. It’s a true testament to a surreal and bygone era.
Favorite comic-book/manga/European comics?
Comics I would say Batman Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli. Because besides being one of the best Batman stories, it’s the first comic book I ever read in my life (without really understanding the subtleties) thanks to one of my older brothers.
In European comics, inevitably Gaston (or even Tintin I can never decide)
And in manga, still and always Dragon Ball <3
Damn… your question is worse than for the movies!
Come on. If in fact it’s easy: Resident Evil Rebirth, the remake of the first Resident Evil for the PS1, on the GameCube. An absolutely perfect game from start to finish. And even now, thanks to the various HD ports on the next gen consoles, the game is blowing away a lot of the competition. I ordered the GameCube for Christmas just for this game. And we were going on vacation the next day for a week. It was a pain to have to wait after unwrapping it under the tree. So much for the little story of a spoiled pre-teen.
Again, a huge thank you to Nicolas for giving us time for all our questions! There is only one thing left to do now, dive into his different social networks to discover his talent!