Mixing art with commerce is usually a compromise. Last year, Australian tattooer Chris Rigoni had a decision to make. He could either keep trying to make everyone happy, burning himself out on 20 hour days, or he could start saying "no" to focus on himself. He chose the latter.
It’s risky to turn down work. Many artists don’t have that luxury, especially with so much competition flooding the streets. But the gamble can pay off, and it already has in a big way for Rigoni.
By narrowing in on a signature style, he's seen a huge boom in press and social media attention. He tells Konbini:
"Pretty much all of the tattoos I get the most recognition for, or interest in, are where the client has … just let me come up with something. I'm amazed at the trust people put in me. It means a lot."
Rigoni’s new direction is a mix of realism and neotraditional art, with Japanese and Southeast Asian influences. He loves combining abstract shapes and dramatic colours with realistic illustrations, for contrast and a bit of surprise.
He also likes tossing in elements of nature and the cosmos. They're themes his clients don’t even know they want, until they see them.
"I nerd out pretty hard on space, the universe, quantum physics, astrophysics… If I could have become anything, I would’ve become an astronaut.
"These new elements in my work are just about me putting more and more of myself into the tattoos, rather than sticking too close to the reference or initial ideas the client may have had."
Crediting his clients is key. They do have to wear his experiments every day, and Rigoni respects that. He also profusely thanks Holdfast Tattoo, who entrust him with trying new things.
More than anything else, Rigoni's success shows how the tattoo market rewards risk, humility, and tireless hard work.
See more of Chris Rigoni's modern tattoo art below: