VoxTalks With Savio D’silva : Of Creating Elegant Artistry And Illustrations On The Canvas Of Skin

Savio D’silva –  An Introduction To The World Of Artistry 

Savio D’silva is a fine artist, illustrator, animator, muralist, sculptor and last but not the least a tattoo artist and Vogue India had featured him as one of the leading tattoo artists in India. He graduated from JJ School of Arts, one of the most prestigious and exclusive art school in India. Born and brought up in India, he wants to change the way people look at tattoos. He firmly believes in not using any references for his designs. He chooses to draw them purely from memory and to add to that, computers are banned in his studio. Staying true to his principles, D’silva spends hours, sometimes even days, sketching a design for his clients. While the customer talks, D’silva is busy working on a design that suits their personality and their ideas. With decades of experience in the field, D’silva’s Fine Art Studio is a one-man team that chooses to look at tattoos as an art form rather than apparel. While he does not like to talk about his extensive celebrity clientele as he believes that the work should speak for itself. Form our research we found out his client list includes names like Arjun Kapoor, Uday Chopra, Isha Gupta, etc.

So, we were obviously curious about his work, so we contacted him to have a brief conversation. Here are some excerpts from that call.

We heard a lot about your art work. So, we wanted to know more about your journey that got you here.

I studied in JJ school of fine arts. It is the most reputed art college in the country, it is also the toughest college to get into. About 4000 to 5000 people apply for 80 seats. I had topped the merit list and I specialized in sculpture form there. I have been an animator, I have illustrated for Disney, Pixar. I have spent almost 25 years professionally as an illustrator. I started my career as a freelance artist around 1993 as an illustrator. I was tattooing parallelly, doing murals, I was also sculpting. One of my juniors actually got me interested in tattooing in college. He was actually responsible for teaching a lot of the people in the industry right now. We are like only 5-6 artist from JJ in the whole world today who are actually in the tattoo industry. My tattoo journey also started of back then.

At that time, no one was actually designing tattoos.

We also used to design tattoos for other artists at the time. They would take xerox copies of the designs and tattoo them on their clients. Since there was no scope for a career at the time in tattoos, our main focus was towards advertising.

So, we heard that you have a very particular style of designing your tattoos. Can you elaborate on that?

The tattoos we do are pure memory drawings, which no other studio in India Does. Computers are banned in my studio. That in itself makes working in my studio very difficult, because when a client comes to you, you have no reference. Imagine if he wants a tiger, we have to draw purely from memory and freehand with no reference point.

Whatever work you have seen online, like on Instagram, etc. is sketched live in front of the client. Go to any tattoo artist anywhere in India, they will probably tell you to come back after two days for the design or they will ask you to select a design from the internet. You ask for Shiva with a trishool, he is going to go on the internet and look for an image. Or he is going to take an image of a body builder and build hair over him using Photoshop. He is then going to take out a stencil printout of that and tattoo the design that comes out. None of these guys will actually draw in front of you.

In my case, I will draw the bones., then sculpt the picture of the figure, build flesh over it to give the tattoo some expression. This is only possible because of my fine art background and my hold on anatomy. Depending on the conversation we had, I get an idea of the proportions and the look of the piece in my head. This is all done right in front of the client, which amount to a lot of effort. There are times when the design might take me 6-7 hours, while the tattoo is might just take an hour. What a top tattoo studio would take three hours would take like 15 minutes for me to do.

What is an advice you would give to people who want pursue tattoos as a career?

What happens is in the industry, it is very easy for anyone to become a tattoo artist. You take a course and within three months you will be a tattoo artist. What you won’t be able to do is create an original design.

Today the industry is full of people who are doing hyper realistic tattoos. ‘Cos in art college if you try to do hyper realistic tattoos, they will say, ” Oh you are looking at photographs and drawing, that means you can’t actually draw?”. These artist at some point in their career come to me for help. And all I ever tell them is to shut the computer and just draw, you know.

I have also heard that you have a lot of celebrity clients, could you give us a little scoop about that?

I have been coming to Hyderabad very often. I have been tattooing some stars out there, but I am not at the liberty to reveal their names. You might hear my name in Hyderabad soon cos I tattooed few stars out there, it might be revealed soon.

See, I don’t do any publicity, I have loads of celebrity clients coming in, but I don’t mention their names. I want my art to speak for itself. I want people to look at my work, not whom I am tattooing. When people ask me, you have tattooed such and such, I tell them I have tattooed my watchman also. Ask them to draw in front of the clients. then you’ll know. It’s a tough job that I have chosen not to copy.

Hoping to see a lot more great work from you Mr. D’Silva. Cheers.