Tattoos are the windows to the soul and you better be very sure about what you are putting on your skin permanently. It’s one commitment in life that you can never back off from. So, isn’t it a better idea to get it done from the most coveted tattoo artist in town?
Meet Niloy Das, the tattoo artist from Kolkata who changed the landscape of the tattooing culture in this city. With his new generation intricate and naturalistic tattoos, he took the local tattoo industry standard to a very high level.
The tattoos that come out of Lizard’s Skin Fashion Studio speak for themselves and can be easily distinguished when you put them beside other tattoos. Following is a personal selection we have from Niloy which displays his art work on the canvas made of skin.
Before you finalize on the artist who is going to permanently decorate your body, wouldn’t it be wise to know a little more about them? We thought so and we brought you a conversation that takes Niloy to a trip down the memory lane. We also discuss some aspects of tattooing that you most probably didn’t know about.
Without further ado, here is Niloy…
BongRong: So, how did you find your art?
Niloy: I was into art from my childhood. My dad used to pressurize me to go to art classes and all…
BongRong: Was he an artist himself?
Niloy: Yeah, he is a self-trained artist. Like, he never got any lessons, or was never in a proper art school or art classes. He did it himself out of passion. So, he always had a dream that I would do something, which he actually dreamt of doing.
But, with time my interest started growing more towards music than art. So, in the year 2000 I completely stopped drawing and, slowly, I picked up music around 2003-04 and Evil Conscience happened in 2008. You know, if you don’t do commercial music; it’s very hard to survive. So, I wanted to do something to support my music. As I was into art, I thought let’s do something out of it. Back in 2010 it started out as a part time thing…
BongRong: What took you into music?
Niloy: Bangla band Bhoomi has been my biggest inspiration…
BongRong: That’s a folk band! And you played in a metal band?
Niloy: I started as a folk musician. I used to play Bongo and Congas and Thumbas and that kind of thing. 2006 onward I started playing drums. Later, in 2008 I completely shifted to hardcore metal. Before Evil Conscience it was Kripa. It was a 3 piece band with me, Ronny and Saurav. We did a combination of Folk and melodious heavy metal.
BongRong: But you are tattooing full time now. What happened to the music?
Niloy: I continued both till 2012. But, you know, it’s a hardcore life. At the end of the day, I found that whatever I was earning by tattooing, I was spending on music. Later I realized that yes, it’s time to choose now.
I was getting loads of calls for tattooing. So, I thought, let’s see if I can do tattooing for a few years and maybe,afterwards,I will get back to music. I don’t know about the future and I don’t know whether I can get back to music or not. I hope to…
BongRong: We sure hope you do. So, we hear a lot of argument between Old School Tattoo and New Generation Tattoo styles. What’s the difference here?
Niloy: In the 60’s, 70’s there were only Old School Tattoo styles with bold lines and filling colors; less number of variations in tattooing. But, practically, those tattoos were the best tattoos; they stay almost the same even after 50 years. New Generation realistic ones or more detailed pieces, but for the long run, they might be a problem…
BongRong: What’s the catch here? How long does a new generation tattoo last?
Niloy: It will depend on how it was done. But a detailed realistic tattoo can last for about 7-8 years…
BongRong:What happens after that?
Niloy: It smudges. Because it’s your skin which keeps on changing texture or contour over time and your tattoo gets smudged…
BongRong: Is there a solution?
Niloy: The solution is doing touch ups but that also… It’s not always a good thing. It cannot be a perfect touch up all the time.
BongRong: Your advice would be to go for a new generation tattoo or old school tattoo?
Niloy: The kind of style I am trying to follow nowadays… I was very much into detailed realistic pieces a few months back. But, slowly I realized that….for the long run, it’s not going to work. So, I started putting more of lines into realistic pieces. Though that piece might not look that realistic when it’s done but in the long run…
BongRong: Is this in trend or are you developing the style by yourself?
Niloy: There is nothing called ‘in trend’ because there are millions and trillions of styles you can see in tattooing. This is what I am feeling right now, so I can express it now. Maybe after a while I might not feel the same…I might change my style. I really can’t assure you that I will be doing these kinds of tattoos throughout my life.
BongRong: As a tattoo artist, when you go down to decorate a human body permanently, what goes through you mind?
Niloy: Yes, it’s a big responsibility. Yes. It requires a lot of time…for me, I learn from my mistakes. With each and every day, with each and every piece, I am learning. When a person trusts you to decorate that person’s skin…obviously you need to be confident. You shouldn’t do something that person might regret.
So, every time I do a tattoo…personally, I am not satisfied. Like, ‘This could have been much better’- that is how an artist actually feels. But that person should think that the tattoo is just perfect.
BongRong: When we scroll through the Facebook page of other tattoo studios in Kolkata, we see that Lizard’s Skin Tattoo is showing us tattoos that we have never seen before…
Niloy: There are loads of senior artists in Kolkata and I respect them a lot and I followed them when I started out. But a time came when I thought about doing something new and may be, pulling up the art form into the next level. So, I started doing some conceptual pieces or realistic pieces which people in Kolkata have not seen before from a local artist.
If you see it that way, you can say Lizard’s Skin has changed a lot of orthodox minds who thought these types of tattoos are only done abroad, not in India. Now, they are realizing that the artists in Kolkata have the skills.
BongRong: Is there any problem you face while tattooing in Kolkata?
Niloy: One of the biggest problems we face here is the skin complexion. For the Indian skin tone, we have a limitation. We don’t have the freedom of doing whatever we would like to do. Fighting with the skin tone and doing what we try to do – it’s going good nowadays. We are trying to experiment each and every day and trying to widen our capacity.
BongRong: Apart from the skin tone, are there any challenges?
Niloy: Apart from the skin tone, I don’t think there is any blockage for us. People come here with very dark tones and ask for color tattoos. It’s very hard to make people understand that color tattoos are for only the fairest of skins. Because, if there is no contrast, the color will not show. Sometimes it’s hard to make people understand this logic.
BongRong: What would be your suggestions for a person who is looking forward to getting a tattoo done?
Niloy: A person should always look into an artist’s portfolio. If he or she is satisfied with the artist’s work, then they should approach the artist. You need to do a little bit of homework before contacting the artist…
BongRong: What’s the homework here?
Niloy: What kind of tattoo do you want? What do you like? What will you love forever? This is something a person should know before coming to a tattoo shop and asking for a tattoo. You have to decide on the theme and ask the artist to customize.
At Lizard’s Skin, all the artists love to give customized pieces instead of copying from something….
Niloy: Yeah! We believe a tattoo should be unique and a person should carry only that art form and someone else should carry some other art form.
But, sometimes, it’s hard to make people understand that flying birds and Om can be done in different styles… but people come with references and say, “No. I only want this.” Every day we do one piece which has 3 or 4 birds flying. You need to understand that this is something millions are carrying. You need to have an individual thought process.
We try to manipulate them to go for a unique tattoo and we love to give custom works.
BongRong: I know nothing about how to get a tattoo done, but I am interested. What should I look for in a tattoo studio? Are there any, you know, ‘good practices’?
Niloy: If you are planning for a tattoo, first of all, you need to go through the artist’s work. Make sure it’s genuinely done by the artist and not downloaded from Google.
Secondly, the studio should be hygienic. The needles should be new and the drips/grips should be sterilized. These are the things a person should look for before deciding on a tattoo studio.
BongRong: Thank you very much for sharing you experiences Niloy, and we look forward to seeing you at Kolkata Deathfest II. The support extended by your brand Lizard’s Skin Fashion Studio to the event and consequently the metal scene of Kolkata in general, is highly appreciated.