Interview with Eli Rutten a Belgian Artist
A little while ago I interviewed my friend Eli Rutten. He is a Belgian artist and tattoo artist. His work is amazing and should be discovered worldwide. I have genuine admiration for his boundless amount of talent. I hope that you will discover his work and how he started it all in this interview. If you are interested in discovering more, his social media is added. Honestly? You DO want to discover more!
My name is Eli Rutten, 29 years old, hailing from Antwerp and currently living in Zoersel.
Since 2002 I have been studying and improving my creative skills. After school I worked in a department store, pet store and a LEGO store before I found my way back to a more creative job.
And now I have been tattooing for almost a year.
How did you start with painting? And tattooing?
I started painting in high school, at first I used oil paints, but later on found out acrylics was more my kind of medium. I could get the desired effect of realism by building up layers and with acrylics this was easier because it dries much quicker than oil paint. And as for starting tattooing, well that’s an unusual story. Most tattoo artists, almost all of them, know they want to become one really fast and set their mind to it. In my case I was asked if I would be interested. I never thought about it before they asked me. And then you have to make a decision if you want to actually do something you’ve never done before and hope you’re good at it and you like it. Well, it was not an easy choice to make because it threw my life around. But to this day I enjoy every moment of it.
Who or what inspires you in your work?
I follow a lot of great tattoo artists, mostly which specialize in portraits, that’s something I have tried to master myself when I painted. Nikko Hurtado and Steve Butcher are two of the most well known portrait artists in the tattoo world. But there are a lot more. Also in our shop I get inspired by all of the artists there, in our breaks we always take a look at what the other ones are working on and every time I learn a bit more.
What is your ultimate dream to achieve with your art? To work for Disney, Marvel, DC,… Concept art for movies? Comics?
I kind of made a small dream come true when I worked on licensed trading cards from Star Wars, Marvel, the Walking Dead, etc… Those one of a kind cards are spread across the globe with collectors. I had fun painting them although they are super small, about 2,5 times 3,5 inch, so the portraits on those are tiny. But an ultimate dream, I like it when I can show my art to the world, so to tattoo a world famous star would be an awesome thing to achieve. That way a lot of people will see your art, and that is for me a dream come true. Also non related I would like to one day win an Academy Award, but that’s a few steps above ultimate dream.
What is the main difference between painting and tattooing in the final execution of the work?
The way I paint is kinda similar to tattooing, and the overall way I apply shadow and color is the same. But the technique is very different. In painting you can easily apply a lighter tone on a dark tone, but in tattooing, when something is dark you can’t make it light again. Also when I sketch I hold my pencil very lightly and apply the pencil strokes very fast. A tattoo machine is a lot heavier than a pencil and if you draw a line too fast it will not stay, so it was a real change to slowly draw my lines when tattooing. And as for the final look, a tattoo needs healing to see the final result, so you have to know how colors, shadow and lines will heal when you’re applying them. That takes time and experience. A painting is done the moment the paint dries, in a matter of minutes.
Can people buy your art? If so where?
Currently I don’t have anything for sale anymore, my last painting I had was one of avatar and in storage something fell on it and put a large tear in the canvas, so that was a bummer, would have very much liked to see it displayed in someone’s living room. Another painting of Star Wars I donated to the Rancho Obi-Wan in California, it houses the biggest Star Wars collection in the world. And with my busy schedule I can’t find the time to paint anything new, nowadays I paint on skin.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to be a tattoo artist?
I would say that you have to work really hard, it’s a fulfilling job, but it requires a whole lot of effort. Keep drawing and keep trying, you will probably hit a lot of walls, but if you work hard you will achieve your goal.
Do you have plans on teaching others?
No, my girlfriend has said several times I should teach, but I feel I have not yet mastered any skill yet to the extent of teaching. Every day I learn more myself and eventually I might choose to teach and impart my wisdom. I do give advice once in a while when I’m asked.
What is the most exciting thing about your work and what is the hardest?
The most exciting thing about tattooing is also the hardest, that is putting permanent art on people. The more time that passes, the more confident I get. You’re working on live skin and you have to treat it and the client with the utmost respect. Always stay on your feet because every single piece has to be perfect. What’s also fun is to meet new people all the time, most of which I would never have known if I hadn’t chosen the tattoo world.
What are your next projects?
I don’t really have any next projects in painting, but everyday I’m working on next projects in tattooing. I try to draw a couple of weeks in advance, a couple of cool ones I’m working on are a Harry Potter themed sleeve, a Yoda portrait and a very cool extinct animals sleeve in black and grey.
Is your work exhibited anywhere?
Almost all of my paintings are located around the world, most in the States, Europe, Australia, the UK. But not at galleries or anything, I like that my work is appreciated by fans who display it in their homes. I did have an exhibition once in Boston, but that turned out to be a scam, the gallery owners sold all of the paintings, which I donated two of them for a good cause, and kept the money and disappeared never to be heard from. That was a bummer, so if anyone spots a Darth Vader or Yoda on the black market with my name on it, let me know. And as for tattooing, our shop is also a gallery where the shop owner’s wife displays her art, and as for us we display our art on people walking around Belgium and maybe a little further.
People can follow my latest tattoos on the facebook page of our shop T-ink & L-art in Mol
And occasionally I post something on my instagram and facebook page but again, keeping up social media is hard and a lot of work. Find T-Ink here T-Ink