Dani Luzardo – InkedMag


In the world of black-and-grey realism, one of the toughest tasks a tattooer faces is turning an iconic image into a unique piece of art—only a few have truly mastered the skill. Dani Luzardo is a stand-out among exclusive company. In his mugshot series, where he tattoos some of the most infamous photos of popular celebrities like Frank Sinatra, you’ll immediately recognize the image. That’s the easy part. But looking deeper, you’ll see it’s not a straightforward replication, the kind of tattoo that could be described as a photocopy. Instead, it has been altered just enough to showcase Luzardo’s artistic side as well as his technical skill. We sat down with Luzardo to discuss how he got into tattooing, his love for realism and much more. 

When did you first develop an interest in art?

I started painting in kindergarten and I have had a special talent since then.

How did you become a tattoo artist? Did you have an apprenticeship?

I didn’t have the chance to work in a shop when I was learning, so I started tattooing at home. I was well known in my town for doing portrait drawings—I used to sell them to earn extra money. When the time of tattooing arrived, I learned a lot of the basics on YouTube: how to calibrate the machine, which needles to use, etc. But the best practice for me was tattooing my friends.

What led you to black-and-grey realism? Did you work in other styles first?

At the beginning, I was interested in neo traditional, but it did not fulfill my soul. Then, I decided I wanted to recreate the portraits I used to draw but now on the skin, so I jumped to realism. I also contemplated how it is a style people always look for.

What are the most important elements in creating a portrait tattoo?

The most important thing for me is to choose the right picture for the tattoo. I always look for great contrast between lights and shadows or I edit the picture to get more of this. When tattooing, I pay special attention to the eyes. I try to recreate the sensation of the picture in the tattoo. My goal is to make all portraits look alive, independent of the canvas I am using.

Working in photorealism, especially with celebrity portraits, it must be difficult to find references that aren’t exactly the same as every other reference. What do you do to make sure your take on a portrait is different from that of other artists?

All tattoo artists look to create unique pieces when tattooing. I personally play with the elements of the face, sometimes I modify or mix portraits to have variances. I always play with the hair to bring the character to life. The search for material is nonstop. I like to save references, photographers, accounts and models to have a good bank of galleries when needed.

What’s something you haven’t tattooed a lot of that you’d like to do more?

I just started with color tattoos and I would like to do it more.

What are some of your favorite subject matters to work with?

I always end up doing compositions with beautiful faces and nature. I love to blend these elements perfectly and create tattoos that look beautiful.

You do use color sparingly in some black-and-grey pieces, often in the eyes. Can you tell us how and why you do so?

Some clients have this special request. Most of the time my clients highlight that they want the eyes “as real as possible.” Colors, well applied, can create a pop-out sensation, which is great for something as important as the eyes. When I do it, I tend to leave the eyes for the end. I do the base with my regular black-and-grey technique and fill the final spaces with colors.  

Who are some of your biggest artistic influences?

Coming from the tattoo world, my main inspirations have always been Yomico Moreno and Thomas Carlier. Outside the industry, I get inspired from other forms of art. I love electronic music and it inspires me a lot; I love photography as well, it is a hobby I have developed that makes me have a different creative vision.

After tattooing for so long, do you still find elements of your job to be surprising?

For sure! I am always impressed by the evolution the industry is having, there are always new trends, techniques, artists, products. In my case, the colors are that current surprise factor.

If you weren’t tattooing, what would you like to do for a career?

I would love to be a DJ.

Where do you see your art going in the future?

I picture myself doing a bunch of interesting and artistic collaborations with all kinds of industries. I envision the tattoo as a formal college career and I would love to form part of that. Finally, I want to see my tattoos in the best art exhibitions around the world… dreaming big!

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