When attempting to describe John (aka Lupo) Armanini‘s tattoo work, a whole load of contrasting adjectives fly into my mind. Traditional, simple, solid and perfect… yet surreal, deep, experimental and complex.
That’s not to say he’s a ‘jack of all trades’, by any means. This artist has certainly developed a unique method of artistic expression that reminds us of why we love wearing ink on our skin in the first place.
Unlike many other tattooists, his approaches towards creating artwork on and off the skin are completely different. I wondered if these two processes ever influenced each other, and how?
In today’s world, we glance at tattoos for no more than a couple of seconds on a screens as we scroll our infinite Instagram feeds. Lupo’s captivating and beautiful work invites us to look closer. You simply can’t flick quickly through these stunning tattoos.
Thanks to Lupo for letting me quiz him!
Thanks for chatting to Inkluded. Where are you based?
I have been professionally tattooing in San Francisco, USA and Brisbane, Australia, for the past five years.
Your work is so unique – how would you describe it?
Being from San Francisco, I have a strong appreciation for the history of traditional tattooing. Although I would not call myself a traditional tattooist, the heritage of tattooing is deeply embedded in the way I work.
Comics have always had a big influence on me so I would say my style is more illustrated than traditional. I do black-work.
Your tattoos are black, yes, but your other art off-skin much more colourful. Is there a reasoning behind this differentiation in methods?
I feel like I have some weird duality complex in my life. I work in two different shops in SF, live in two countries and create art two different ways.
I am currently focusing on black tattoos because I like simple, legible designs that are created to stand the test of time. I prefer my pieces to have textures that are unique to the medium of tattooing, like dot-work (stippling), whip shading and thick outlines.
I don’t want my tattoos to look like paintings – I want them to look wearable and sacred like tattoos should be. To me, there is no colour more sacred than carbon black. That doesn’t mean I don’t like colour. I am obsessed with colour but I prefer to use it elsewhere.
What kind of work do you create off-skin – what are your other mediums?
I do a lot of surreal acrylic paintings with highly saturated gradients and forms against dark black backgrounds. It’s fun to branch out to different mediums but I don’t look at them as different styles because they are always cross-referencing each other.
My tattoo designs influence my paintings as much as my paintings influence my tattoo designs. It is inevitable that these mediums will keep overlapping until they become one recognisable style. I am excited for that to happen.
I love San Francisco. What’s the tattoo scene like there? Any other cool artists or shops I should check out?
Tattooing is serious business in SF. The tattooers are very aware of where it has been and where it is going. It’s a great town to experiment with style and to really find your identity as an artist. This is probably because there are so many tattooers – we have to get weird to get noticed… and the clients feel the same way.
As for black-workers, there is not a huge community, but there are endless amounts of cutting-edge tattooers taking big chances with the craft.
OK, shout-out time! I am proud to be surrounded by such talented co-workers as: Jason Weisskopf and Matt Shaner at Lucky Drive Tattoo and Joey Cassina, Gus Martinez, Bradley Worthen, Ryan Neri, Chris Wielks, Ben Schwartz and the amazing Arielle Coupe over at Ocean Avenue Tattoo in SF.
All these artists have very different backgrounds, and it shows in their work. I enjoy learning from them (and stealing their ideas when I can!).
Follow Lupo on Instagram @lupoavanti