Hey Hoko, hope you’re doing well. Thank you for lending me some of your time again!
No problem, thank you for having me!
Could you tell me a little bit about how you got started in tattooing?
I had expressed a lot of interest in getting tattooed from my early/mid teens, but I didn’t get tattooed until I was 17. This is where my infatuation with tattooing truly began, and within a week I had booked my second tattoo, and had started drawing terrible tattoo designs. I eventually caught the eye of a husband and wife scratcher duo, and when I was 18, they offered me an apprenticeship. Unfortunately, they where absolutely clueless as to what they were doing, and were more interested in keeping up appearances than progression, resulting in my departure after two years. Due to the fact I couldn’t afford any tattoo equipment, I did nothing tattoo related for a year after that; in February 2012, I landed a spot at a studio, and that’s where my journey into tattooing truly kicked off.
Have you always had an artistic background?
I’ve been drawing since as long as I can remember. My mother is very artistic, and since we never owned a television, she kept my sisters and I occupied by providing us with art supplies and books. I’ve always had a deep love for video games, and since I could rarely access them (for the first half of my life), video game characters were some of my favourite subject matter.
What hobbies do you have outside of work?
Aside from the aforementioned drawing, reading, and video games, I love everything about motorcycles; I can probably attribute this to my father, but there’s nothing quite like the feeling of counter-steering a V-Twin through the winding roads of the New Zealand country side. I also played guitar for many years, and have played in a few metal bands, but more (very) recently I’ve taken up the piano. I’m also fond of befriending neighbourhood cats, and telling random children that Santa isn’t real. (This last part may or may not be true.)
What is the tattoo culture like in New Zealand these days?
It has exploded. The talent coming from NZ is now astronomical, and I truly believe NZ is home to some of the world’s best tattooers. I’m very proud to see my friends, mentors, and colleagues thrive so.
New Zealand and Tattooing have a rich history, especially in regards to the indigenous people of New Zealand, Maori. I believe that you happen to have strong Maori blood line, do you happen to know a lot in regards to Tā moko and such?
My father is Maori, hence how I came to receive this name. Being that my father’s side is Maori, I was fortunate enough to grow up around true Maori culture, which was, for the most part, aggressively eradicated during New Zealand’s colonization. In the early 1860’s, Maori language was banned from British/European schools. Children who spoke their native (or only) tongue were met with corporal punishment, so Taa Moko didn’t stand a chance, especially considering the fact that most Maori of the time were doing their best to appear as pakeha (non-Maori) as possible in a changing society. However, Maori culture, especially language and Taa Moko, have seen a revival since the 1980’s, and as such, huge numbers of the New Zealand population as a whole support this ancient art, including my father and other family members. I am yet to receive this tattoo, I might never get it, and that’s ok.
I know that you create many of your own references, could you walk me through your process?
It really depends on what piece I’m doing, but I will draw, photobash, and 3D model, sometimes using a combination of the three. I will often start with extremely rough scribbles, just to seed the idea, but as with any creative pursuit, conceiving an idea is often the most difficult aspect of an entire project. I’ve been known to just grab a pen and practise automatic writing to find an idea; that’s how I came up with the initial outline for my lovely client Marie’s five day backpiece. From there, I will often take the project into Zbrush and a few other 3D modelling programs, and create a digital sculpture, which I then light and render, before finally tattooing.
It would be fair to say that you’re very talented in graphical design haha, how did you become so proficient at it?
I’ve always tinkered with computers; again, this stems from my life-long love of video games. When I was in my early teens, people started donating me old computer components, which I would then assemble in my effort to run said games. I taught myself how to build levels for Unreal Tournament and the Half-Life series, among others, so that 3D modelling foundation was there when I decided to learn Zbrush in late 2015. It took a lot of late nights and countless hours of tutorials, but I’m happy with my progress. I still have a lot to learn.
Do you have any favourite Tattoo Artists?
This is a hard one, there are too many to name. Aside from the ones I am close to, because that list would be endless, from the age of 17 I have always been blown away by Guy Aitchison, Nick Baxter, Paul Booth, Boris, Victor Portugal, and Robert Hernandez. In more recent years, the works of Tofi, Mr Dist, Carlos Torres, and David Jorquera have caught my eye. As soon as this interview goes live I’ll probably lament the names that slipped my mind.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
Inside of the tattoo industry, my biggest inspirations are undoubtedly Hades McCullough, and Matt Jordan. Aside from being an incredible and inspiring artist, meeting Hades was what spurred me to pursue tattooing again after my apprenticeship, and I’ve always been able to count on him for his no nonsense, unapologetic advice and scathing wit. Like I did with Hades, I idolized Matt, and when I was fortunate (and surprised) enough to be offered a spot at his studio, he took my infantile tattooing and guided me to where I am today. While Matt’s incredible prowess as an artist goes without saying, he’s also a truly great teacher, and it’s obvious with his approach to this that he legitimately wants others to succeed. I can’t thank either of these two enough, and I definitely wouldn’t be where I am without them.
Outside of the tattoo industry, my biggest influences are Hideo Kojima, H.P Lovecraft, Masahiro Ito, Akira Yamaoka, Zdzislaw Beksinski, H.R Giger, David Lynch, Gojira, Mayhem, Opeth, and Steven Wilson.
What has been the hardest moment in your career thus far, and what has been your favourite?
The hardest and the best moments so far have been one and the same; being asked by both Hades and Matt Jordan to join their studios, and having to choose. Other highlights have been picking up a sponsorship from Inkjecta; I have been using their machines since 2012, and was extremely humbled with Chris Cashmore approached me. My other favourite times are travelling to tattoo, and meeting/meeting up with friends in those locations. Every moment spent with the London crew is a joy.
I’ve been following your work for a few years now and on a slightly offtopic note, I remember last year that you had the horrible ordeal of losing someone close to you. You had made a post in which locked yourself away to paint your sisters coffin – which looked absolutely beautiful, while everyone was helping throw “the meanest party”. Me and yourself hadn’t even spoken at this point yet I had so much respect for you. If you can, is it possible for you to explain how hard it was at that time?
It was definitely a trying time, but not for me, for her. While that tragedy will be forever felt by we who remain, it will never compare to the pain she experienced. Painting that coffin was a blessing; it gave me an outlet with which I could channel myself, as I’m not used to having idle hands, and I could barely spend time with her during the day due to the constant sea of people filling that little room. So, I would paint by day, and colour her dreams by reading Harry Potter to her during the evening. An added bonus of painting the coffin was that (older) Maori are terrified of anything death related, and would open the door to the caravan where I worked, before gasping mid-sentence and disembarking, affording me some cheeky peace. I never took a photo of the finished painting, and lowering it into the earth before crumbling a fistful of dirt over its surface was one the most cathartic experiences of my life.
Do you like to have as much creative freedom as possible when designing a tattoo?
Creative freedom is always preferred, but this can offer problems in itself. It’s hard to give someone a tailor-made life-long mark when you’ve spoken all of five sentences with them, and as such, there a few tattoos in my mind that I’ve been rather proud of, but I know that they unfortunately did not suit the clients tastes or personalities. As such, unless I know the client well enough, I like to have a very rough idea agreed upon, after that, I like to be left to my own devices.
Do you have any plans in the coming months?
Yes I do, I will returning to tattoo at the London Tattoo Convention in September, and most likely to Kamil Tattoos to guest spot at this time. I hope to also guest somewhere else in Europe, but this is to be decided. I’ll also be attended the New Plymouth Tattoo Convention in NZ come November.
Finally, How would someone go about trying to get a tattoo from yourself?
Well, you’ll need to play through Silent Hill 2, watch Eraserhead, cover your walls with Beksinski prints, and read The Haunter Of The Dark, before sending me a message via snowy barn owl. Alternatively, you can find me on Instagram (@inglourious_hoko), Facebook (Hokowhitu Sciascia – Artist), and I handle all of my enquiries via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Thank you again for your time brother! All the best 🙂