TATTOO-MAP: I must admit that when I first started to talk about tattoo, you were one of the first artists I heard about. It was about 8 years ago, and although it would seem to be a long time (in those years, the Polish tattoo scene has grown tremendously and hundreds of new tattoo artists have appeared), you’ve been tattooing for a long time now, right? How many years have you been tattooing?

TOMASZ TOFI TORFIŃSKI: As for the hundreds, it is hard to say, however, I can successfully say that after me appeared several new generations of tatami and my generation actively participating in it with me were few who are still taking part in the scene. In principle, over-generational artists (if so can be defined) active in the Polish and international scene are few and rarely come to the new, who are interested in something more than being one or several seasonal phenomena. Going back to the question, I’ve been tattooing for 17 years, so it’s been a long time, and for the time being I’ve still got 13 years (according to my assumptions) of active tattooing until the so-called retirement.

TATTOO-MAP: You are now one of the most recognized tattooists in Poland and in the world, for many you are a great authority, but you also had to have your origins. How did they shape, what actually made you here today, where you are and can we talk? How did your work go?

TOMASZ TOFI TORFIŃSKI: The place where I am nowadays is not accidental, as much as that I started doing it at all, I’m already explaining what it is … Well, when I started I did not have much ambition, I just wanted to tattoo because I caught the ‘bug’ and It is quite a coincidence and without any background called a gift from God or supernatural abilities. As soon as I started going out, the appetite grew as much as food and I did not mean the money, but that I assumed I was going to be the person who would spend 3 pennies on the history of global tattoos, which is already a result of assumptions and plans. formed in the past. Later it was only enough to work on myself and it turned out to be my goal on the road to a career. Generally speaking, the impact on where I am now is mainly my school and ambition: the school because it taught me that life is a constant acquisition of new tools needed for self-expression and ambition, as they have brought me new tools – and the wheel closes.

TATTOO-MAP: If you’re already going to assign tattoos to the categories you want, you’d better qualify for the surrealist trend and probably you’re just going to define them. What do you think, in the first place, speaks in favor of similar stylistics, what are the most valuable possibilities? Freedom, lack of frames and boundaries, realization of everything that is happening in your head?

TOMASZ TOFI TORFIŃSKI: You basically answered this question, but I will answer your point of view on your answer …

So the surrealist trend is rooted in realism, and in my case, back in the past, when I finished art school with my friends of the year we lived in the belief that the school had taught us everything we would use in the future. At one of the last classes, the professor of painting wished us a great success at the beginning of our new path, and we indignantly asked, “How is it at the beginning?” When we finished school, it was over, and he said that since we learned to PLAY with everything we wanted, it was time for us to CREATE everything we want. Suddenly I realized that actually, the reproduction of reality is just the beginning (a bit of a reversal than in the tattoo industry), and to sum up my accomplishments, I had nothing to boast about, except for very accurate realistic projects, both on paper and on the skin. So I thought surrealism was the most obvious solution for me because it would allow me to tell different stories using realistic elements, and that’s how it happened … But I had a real problem to solve because my realistic work was always better in my head, Which is obvious, because they are more glamorous and do not require thinking and interpretation.

Being in this situation, I had to lay down a plan in my head – I would be only preparing a sketch that depicts my idea, and elements of the tattoo will give me photographs, which in turn will visualize my imaginary subject. The problem was when Google references did not match or simply could not find the photos needed to tell my story. Here I had to learn to be creative, not only in inventing themes, but also in finding references that were often my own photographs, the most common photo-montages. Surrealism gives endless possibilities for the most elaborate subjects, so we only have imagination, so apparently I found my way of speaking, which gave me a lot of possibilities, while limiting me very much, but later on ….

Not looking at what was at that moment (that is about 2008) was in the fashion industry, I decided that as far as the customer would allow me, so I will prepare my own surrealistic works. I did not think that 10 years later this kind of pattern preparation would be on the agenda.

TATTOO-MAP: You usually create monumental works, but these are not compositions overloaded with a thousand elements , but the motifs are – if I were to shoot, what works you like most, I would say any variations on the human silhouette, body condition, human its deconstruction on the physical, mental level, etc. (just as surrealist painters did decades ago), am I wrong ? Maybe this is just my over-interpretation…

TOMASZ TOFI TORFIŃSKI: As for the form of my work, yes, their result is also the ability to get out of school, that is composition, one of the most important aspects in plastic that determines the quality of the final product is a tattoo. Another important element for me is the contrast and balance between stain and detail, dark and bright, warm and cold. The definition you used to describe my favorite performance is a hit, and I would add to my favorite direction, ie, the interpretation of items such as objects and artistic tools or musical instruments with the face and the human body.

TATTOO-MAP: The end result of your work is amazing, but in your case the process of creation seems equally fascinating, admirable, and time consuming. I mean, of course, your projects in 3D, which before the transfer to the skin are impressive! This is still not a popular practice of creating projects for the tattoo artist, am I wrong? Were you one of the first tattoo artists who decided to use 3D graphics in this way?

TOMASZ TOFI TORFIŃSKI: And here comes my favorite question from the list you sent me …. ? The final effect of my work, tattoo, is one of the least important elements of my work (except for the tattoo, of course, as a service and product for which the customer pays)

The process of creating for me is the essence of my work and the result of everything I have managed to create and learn so far, the results of decisions taken so far, problems solved, failures along the way and successes achieved on a professional background. As to whether it is time consuming, it is certainly, but it is a time that allows me to stay in my own world for a long time without interacting with third parties and celebrating this time as much as I can because it is a kind of meditation and problem-solving. and your weaknesses. I try to create my next steps on the themes, colors, sizes of my future tattoos, and more and more often, even though I have not had to do it a long time ago, and I could have successfully cut off coupons from my accomplishments. However, this care provides me with satisfaction and a goal for which I am tattooing. My close friends and family and some customers know about it.

Speaking of 3D graphics, the first time I personally encountered this in 2007, thanks to Zappa, who was still living in Berlin, and I thought that if I could create my own virtual space project with the possibility of arbitrary rotation and lighting, then it would be endless. And thus I would be the first person in the industry to do so. Of course I did not create the tool as such, but I decided to use it to design the tattoo. In 2010 I made the first project based on 100% on my 3D model, I do not know if anyone did it in front of me in our industry, but the belief that I would first give me a terrible kick and motivation, This will allow me to enter the story of our industry. At the moment I am definitely the owner of the largest number of tattoos based on my own concepts and 3D graphics in our industry.

This is not an easy practice and easy tool to use, but by the potential it gives you the chance that in a few years it will be as common a tool as Photoshop, especially for computer graphics, who are now educated and tattooed in the future.

The fact that 3D graphics are already a project is one thing, while transferring them to the skin as a tattoo pattern is the other – it creates many problems, so it takes a lot of work to extract the essence of every subject, size, you also have to put the subject in the right perspective by appropriate lighting so that in a certain place on the body behaved appropriately.

In a word, my design method is the key to my job and it makes sense to me, because I know that I live and I have the only opportunity to “shout” in the positive sense. If I had not been able to do so, if I were only a tattoo service provider, I would have long since tattooed. I totally dislike the trends that come out like mushrooms after the rain, I do not like to watch as my colleagues want to survive, they have to learn from year to year tattoos clocks, words and wolves moaning to the moon just because it is written in the canons being a tattoo artist .

TATTOO-MAP: Beyond all the greatness of the creative process, the satisfaction that comes with it, the performance that 3D models give you, how much of that design translates into quality work?

TOMASZ TOFI TORFIŃSKI: 3D models give you unlimited possibilities, as you can see in today’s world of computer games and animated films where both of these areas strive for ultra realistic performances imitating reality. In my projects they give you the right depth, perspective and suggestive lighting. In a word, I can create an imaginary reality in a virtual world, which in itself is already surreal, so as you can see, everything makes up a great whole.

This obviously translates into a tattoo effect, because as a realistic tattooist I simply transfer what I see to the skin, so the methodology is the same as the portraiture, and the tattoo value more personal. So, all the creativity and all its aspects stay at home, while in the studio, just the same work as in the last several years, nothing changes here except the quality of the equipment now available to us, giving us more than half the quality of each tattooing, the rest is just a skill, quite the contrary in the past, when the technician and the plastics made a very good tattoo. Today’s young tattooists are getting a lot of quality gifts just by using the tools they use. The same applies to social media, which greatly accelerates the process of becoming popular…Of course, I do not say it with the contempt that comes from the fact that I was different when I started – I just use all those facilities rather than just like most of my older colleagues. professional – I complain that young people have easier. Everyday I use these facilities to work with my classmates, making it especially easy for this youngest start-up and career as it is also in my interest.

TATTOO-MAP: Well, you have been the owner of the INK-OGNITO TATTOO studios for many years, winning many prizes in those organized in Poland and abroad and conducting seminars. You have developed a great authority and respect. I think you have exercised and exercised a considerable influence on today’s tattoo thinking. That is why you seem to me to be a good addressee of today’s condition of what is called a “scene.” How is the tattoo scene in Poland today?

TOMASZ TOFI TORFIŃSKI: The first thing that comes to my mind is that the scene was split again, which took place many years ago, then it was a bit better, and for a few years we have the mainstream and underground again – it’s sad, because all of us love each other. to the tattoo.However, beliefs and politics do their job and I certainly will not do anything to change it because I have more important things to do. Our scene is very specific because it is very high. On the other hand, we are far to the rest of Eastern Europe where, in my opinion, artistic skills outweigh ours, because the Polish tattoo scene is trying to be very western – and here reminds me of my conversation with Roman Abrego about 8 years ago…He asked me how it is that the Americans had first access to the best quality equipment, and yet they are not getting enough of the tattoo artistry. I told him that in my opinion, the reason is artistic education, which is very classically trained in Europe, and therefore – many people with rich educational background use it in the tattoo. At this moment there is immediate availability of equipment and hence very high level further to the east. Poland has saturated the last years of the West, not only in the tattoo, which was evident on the example of the formation of, among others.fast food and shopping centers. The commercialization of tattoos also had to come to us, so many young people want to become a tattoo star, but this is the next part of the interview.

What is noticeable for the Polish scene on the example of the last few years is that it brings up single-season artists who are creative and studious only for the first interview in the magazine or the first prize. But when they reach the status of the stars often their ambition instead of growing – they are decreasing. Tattoo studios employ more and more people and create places exactly like those in the west. Old tattooists, instead of continuing to co-create the scene using their potential and skills, move away in the background as their existence is already ensured by a thriving business. Personally, I would have seen more of my older colleagues actively participating with me in today’s stage, because we have the opportunity to build around tattoo events, the type of exhibition, something like my experiment last year at the Warsaw Tattoo Convention or a published calendar. Every year, for a long time, by Junior – by the way, he is the best example of how to use his brand and accomplishments to co-create a scene when he can sit in a cool chair for years in a shadow. He is a great inspiration to me, and thanks to our friendship I realized that tattoos are something we spend all our lives on. Despite the fact that they are young and more of a hit, tattoo icons are still needed to fuel the next generation and to bring out more of them than one-off success and one-off action.

TATTOO-MAP: I’m so glad you mentioned the significant difference between the next generations. It is hard to ask this question not to offend anyone – I mean young students of this art. I mentioned earlier about seminars, and you have made easy access to equipment, information, etc. These transformations, from a sociological point of view, are really interesting phenomenon. Tattoo obviously involves some fashion and it always was. Is not it fashionable to have tattoos for years, but now it is also a fashion to be a tattoo artist? Is the popularity of this occupation useful to the industry?

TOMASZ TOFI TORFIŃSKI: Seminars are another fashion that has come from the West, and which I have given myself, but because of the fact that I am a teacher of education, so it is very easy for me to pass on the knowledge and experience gained and not just at the basic level. and advanced tattooing, but also when it comes to making a career – it’s also a methodical process.

It is funny that, while preparing my seminar program, I have never participated in any of them before, which would certainly make it easier for me to do so, so I thought at least. In contrast, in reality, I have developed a program that allows me to pass on every aspect of my workshop in a natural and understandable way to me, both technically and theoretically motivated. From the beginning I assumed that I would not lead them in Poland, because in the west it is easier for listeners because of the popularity of investing in themselves and gaining knowledge and experience.After more than a dozen seminars organized over the past few years, I come to the conclusion that they are not able to teach someone in a matter of hours, but are able to motivate and find their own way and motivation longer than For a few days, it is already a successful participation in the seminar. Personally, for a few hundred people attending my seminars I only have contact with a few who for more than a few days understand how important it is to acquire new tools and implement them into a tattoo. The rest goes back to its safe space, where you do not have to work too much as a tattoo artist these days – into space where you just need to find a face or skull on Google and connect it in Photoshop to prepare your tattoo design or as a neo-traditional artist to outline a realistic illustration. thick line and pretend to have designed a tattoo.

Last year, together with Marcin Paczesny, we organized our first seminar in Poland during the Katowice Tattoo of the Convention and I have to say that I was very surprised by the high turnout. I also had the opportunity to present it to my older colleagues in the industry: Junior, Slawek Fraczek and Tom Strzalkowski, who is a professional 3D graphic designer and computer game creator, which allowed me to confront their point of view later with me in order to improve the seminar.

The last part of the question is most important … The current desire to be a tattoo artist is nothing to do with what was in the past. Now young people see the splendor and glory that accompanies our profession and our position on television and in other media want to achieve the same thing at all costs, usually at the lowest line of resistance. They do not assume from the beginning that they will build strong foundations for a career by gaining the right tools and using them to express their own personality, just look at somebody’s success, break it down into factors that first copy the styling, start living in the world of tattoos being just a shadow of that idol and somebody Who sets the trends instead of creating them themselves? Of course it’s nothing new and illegal because you know that there are many imitators of Robert Hernandez in our country and in Europe, and everyone pretends that nothing happens when they use his stylistics to make a living, in interviews and talks they underline that he is he is their great inspiration, and they do not think that he’s been developing a style for a long time that was not tattooed before and had the balls to risk it in the industry.

It is remarkable that at the moment when I personally recognize the present and older icons of the world tattoo, they are joined by one common denominator: the total dedication of work and the determination to create a strong foundation for future career, putting everything on one card and providing the right conditions for development. . You can not see it every day, watching the artist’s work from time to time. You can see only the end result of long-term work on yourself and the product that creates many times overcoming your weaknesses, without going easy, putting yourself up the higher bar, working accordingly, proportionately to the goal, abandoning easy life, not often from family, friends and pleasure. That is why their product is something that tempts and urges them to think about how to bypass the system by young tattooists and get the same as they do, but at the lowest line of resistance. I know one way, it’s hard work and dedication, everything else is fleeting and impermanent.

TATTOO-MAP: I could continue our conversation for a long time, satisfying my curiosity, but with respect for your time, I must restrain myself. So tell me just one thing, what else do you strive for when you have achieved so much?

TOMASZ TOFI TORFIŃSKI: When I was younger, it seemed to me that career was something that is tangible and has a physical reflection. I thought that every one of us would have a moment where we could say “ok, now I’ve made a career and nothing else …”. Now I see that the career is like a child – it is born at the very beginning of our path and accompanies us in our daily lives. There are falls and upsets, failures and successes, and we are brought down the same way every day – to a blank sheet of paper on which to create a tattoo pattern for tomorrow – that is, we reach zero, where rich in skills and experience create graphics. which has to fulfill many functions. First of all, it is supposed to please the customer, because he will be the owner of it for the rest of his life, secondly, in some way, as a tattoo will function in the everyday life of this person and its loved ones; third and most importantly, what we will create with us the feeling of fulfillment, which is the result of the joy of creation, sometimes frustration or dissatisfaction, but ultimately leading to visualization of our vision and making us create a world in which, for a moment, someone will live and live what we ourselves are in it. And the next day we repeat it. Here are my eyes when I see the work of a tattoo artist and, in reference to your question, I strive to make my next day filled with the desire to create, because she is my motive and gives me happiness, and by doing so, being a happy man, I can give it happiness for my family and my loved ones.


All photo content was taken from Tomasz Tofi Torfiński’s Social media:

Tomasz Tofi Torfiński fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/tomasztofi.torfinski?fref=ts

Tomasz Tofi Torfiński Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tofi_tattoo/?hl=pl

INK-OGNOTO TATTOO fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/INK.OGNITO.TA2/?fref=ts

INK-OGNOTO TATTOO Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ink_ognito_tattoo/?hl=pl

About Tim

I'm a UK based staff writer for Tattoo-Map and an avid tattoo enthusiast with a penchant for realism...and skulls, because everyone loves skulls.