Moni: Hi Dave. Tell me a little bit about your background.
Dave: My name is David Costa Paulo. I was born on May 13, 1976, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. My parents are Portuguese and they moved to the United States when they were young, so I have dual nationality because I was born and lived in the States for many years. I returned to Portugal when I was eight years old. I pursued my academic path and finished college in 2001, majoring in architecture.
Moni: Being an architect, how did you get involved in the tattoo scene?
Dave: Well, I have always been connected to art since I was young. I used to spend my school breaks in my parent’s basement, drawing, painting, and airbrush painting. I painted helmets, cars, motorcycles, fuel tanks, and acrylic and oil paintings. I loved it. I remember buying tattoo magazines and trying to convince my parents that the “tattoo world” was what I wanted to pursue….
Dave: (continued) But they didn´t agree. They wanted me to get a college degree that would provide for my future. So, within the arts, I chose architecture.
Then I had my first tattoo done when I was 35 years old and while I watched the tattoo artist work, I thought to myself, I can do this. The next week I took a course in hygiene rules and the basics on tattoos. I bought the necessary materials and I started. For almost two years, during my free time, I learned how to tattoo by myself. I would do two or three tattoos a month on friends and acquaintances, but I didn´t evolve that much because of the little free time my job allowed me to have. In June of 2013, I bought my first rotary machine and dedicated myself 100% to tattooing. Since then, it has been going well.
Moni: How were those first months as a professional tattoo artist?
Dave: I am a very focused person when it comes to things that I like doing. From drawing when I was a small kid, to painting with acrylic, oil, and airbrush when I got older; and then eventually to learning architecture and tattooing, I always concentrate 100% to get better and better. With tattooing, I started watching a lot of videos of great artists. I bought a lot of machines and tried different types of needles and inks. I asked a lot of questions and tried a lot of techniques. It’s anever-ending learning process. Of course, the tattoo industry is so evolved and the information is easily within reach, so it was easier for me to achieve better results. If I would have started 10 or 15 years ago, it would be completely different. But for me, “If you know how to draw it or paint it, you will know how to tattoo it.”
Moni: Tell me how you found your style. How was that process? What were your influences?
Dave: I have only been working full time for a year-and-a-half, so my style and technical growth is recent, but the style I identify myself with (and that is present in all my work) is realism. It came to me very naturally. I never thought of doing any other style other than realism. Before tattooing, as an artist, all of my painting focused on the human figure. I was influenced by artists like Caravaggio and his dramatic use of light; as well as all renaissance art, and more modern artists like Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and Paula Rego. I was also fascinated by the dark paintings of H.R. Giger.
Dave: Since the beginning, I knew that if I wanted to be successful, I had to find a personal, individual, and unique style that would distinguish me as a tattoo artist. I wanted to strive for difference, creating a personal mark/trademark. Recently, I have mixed graphic elements with the realistic style. The graphic style has always existed, but not mixed with pure realism, that´s why I decided to bet on the combination of these styles. It just naturally came to me. I don’t know how; probably because of my architecture background and because I did a lot of graphic design work in the past.
Moni: What do you like tattooing more – black and grey tattoos or color tattoos?
Dave: I enjoy working in black and grey, as well as color. But lately, I prefer focusing on more color pieces. I don´t know why, I think it´s because of the difficulty involved. It is always a challenge with color.
Moni: What´s the hardest part of making a good tattoo?