INTERVIEW WITH AN ARTIST: Rick Monteleone On Dark Tattoo Designs, Digital Art, and Becoming a Minister

Exploring the depths of his own creativity in his own time and taking human flesh as his canvas by day, Rick Monteleone devotes a lot of his time to art. His Instagram page is bursting with the evidence of his practice, spanning sketches, digital images and a wealth of unique tattoos. His work is well known for its skulls, zombies and ghouls in whorls of smoky shadow, exploring death in all the forms humanity has granted it.

We spoke to Rick to find out more about his fascination with darkness, his tattooing career and the ideas that fuel his art.

Kirstie: How did you get into art? 

Rick: My father was an artist, when I was a really small child I would admire his work often, plus, like most children I would fantasise a lot which gave plenty of opportunities to draw something new.

K: Who were your earliest influences? 

R: Primarily anyone from the Renaissance era, Van Gogh, Frank Frazetta, Simon Bisley and an uncountable amount of comic book illustrators.

K: Who are your predominant influences now? 

R: I still try to keep up with as many comic artist as possible, but really focused on a lot of the darker styled tattoo artists like Paul Booth, Jesse Levitt, Mrdist, Toxic Xlr, Bob Tyrrell, etc…

K: What is your favourite material to work with? 

R: Traditional drawing honestly, from pencils to markers but I have been working in the digital medium a lot lately.

K: If you could design the poster for any movie, what would it be? What would your design be like? 

R: Anything “Grindhouse” style!  I would love to go as overboard as possible with it, the kind of poster that couldn’t be displayed at any commercial establishment.

K: What is the first piece of work you were really proud of? 

R: I’m a harsh critic of my work so it’s hard to answer, but I won first place in an elementary art show, that was pretty sweet.

K: How have you changed as an artist since then? 

R: So many ways! Inspirations always varied by the months or the years, trying something different as much as I possibly can.

K: How does designing a piece of art for a human body differ from a piece made for other platforms? 

R: Give me a flat canvas to work with and no real ‘’rules’’ need to apply, but the human form…? Every single approach matters and needs to be specifically placed.

K: How does the body type of the person you’re designing art for affect the piece? 

R: Size and form matter, what may fit on one individuals arm may not work on the other. Sometimes a design may have to be customised to do so.

K: How did your tattoo designing career begin? 

R: I’ve had an interest in the industry since I was a child, so when I moved from home I ended up in a small city with more tattoo shops than I had expected and started my apprenticeship there.

K: What is your favourite body part to design art for? 

R: As long as it’s anything with a dark or demonic concept then anywhere is fine by me.

K: How does your illustration work differ from your tattoo designs? 

R: There isn’t much of a demand for character modelling in the tattoo industry. Sadly, because of this, I find myself abandoning it. Also I don’t mind how sloppy an illustration looks, whereas a tattoo design I believe should be rather ‘’polished’’.

K: What inspires the dark themes you explore in your illustrations? 

R: Most if not all of my illustrations are based on a personal level, unless someone can figure it out I’ll just leave it to their interpretation. Otherwise it’s a general interest in anything macabre or bloody.

K: What draws you to skeletons and zombies and ghouls? 

R: Pretty much a generally negative view towards both life and the world.

K: How do you come up with new ways to make your creatures and characters creepy?

R: Horror movies whenever I allow myself to sit down and do so. Or anything disturbing that has been captured by the media. Or I simply just play around with different ideas.

K: Why did you decide to become a Certified Universal Minister? 

R: It was a favour for some friends of mine who were about to get married. Honestly I don’t really know what qualities I possess that would have someone request that of me, but I was truly honoured and now I just keep up with it.

K: What kind of ceremonies do you oversee as a minister?

R: I’ll perform wedding ceremonies for people I know on a truly personal level. I’m yet to do a burial but I’m open to it.

K: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists? 

R: Although I’m still on the aspiring level, I guess my advice would be to never stop learning! Confidence is good but arrogance is a stalemate.

A huge thanks to Rick Monteleone for taking the time to talk to us! If you’d like to keep up with his latest work, you can follow him on Instagram and check out his tattoo studio’s website.

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