MICHELE PREZIOSO FINE ART TATTOO ARTISTJune 24, 2020
From Italy to Ibiza to Dublin, Michele has lived it up & tattooed his way across Europe, we got to grab a few words down with one of the finest artists in the country …
the first place I went was Ibiza, you know, party time, and I stayed there a couple of months…loved the music
Mike Mannix: So we are here in the Art Room Tattoo a new venue in Dublin, with the owner and founder Michele. So you are from Italy, what is your background, your inspirations? How did you start?
Michele Preziosoart: I had an interesting life concerning art. From a very young age I was drawn to drawings and art. And the funny thing is that my uncle was an artist and an art teacher. He had this studio where he did sculptures and different artworks, and I was always helping around so that was my first influence in the world of art. I was around 10 or even younger, but I remember that period so much because it was my first steps into this world. And then growing up, partying and all, I got pulled away from it but somehow along the way I always had a channel that drew me back to it.
I can’t properly explain it, maybe it was just my purpose in life. Funny enough I didn’t do an art school because my parent wanted me to do accountancy as I was good in math. But when I was 17/18 years old. after school, I worked with an association that put me in charge of this paper where I was making all the drawings. And there I developed an interest towards that kind of activity. Then for a while I was on and off because back then in the 1990’s you had to get a steady job and conform to what society expect from you. But around 18/19 my friends started tattooing and at the time we had no tattoo magazine, no tattoo machine, no reference you could look up to, it was really hard to start.
So one of my friend got a machine from Germany as a birthday present, and they started tattooing. When I saw that I loved it, so he brought me in the first tattoo venue in Napoli, and I was blown away. I thought straight away ‘I want to do that’. Around 1995/1996 I really wanted this machine, so I saved money and ask some to my grandparents and I got my first kit of tattooing. But as I told you, we had no one to teach us so I started by myself tattooing my friends and family. The only few tattoo artists that were in the country were really private and wouldn’t give away their knowledge.
Many gifted people are not successful. If you think about it I had the courage in my life to do what I love because I had a purpose, this is my passion and I had to work for but it never felt like I ever worked a day in my life
MM: Did you have a natural ability to draw?
M: I think so, but I wouldn’t say a gift because I think that drawing is a craft, where you can practice, improve yourself and get better at. But I had kind of a vision of myself doing that and it is what drove me to do what I do today. Drawing is not a gift but a passion you know. So I started tattooing and made a name for myself into this world, but at the time it was too slow in Italy from my point of view.
Tattoo were correlated to gangs and prisoners, so we didn’t have much freedom. So when I got my first tattoo, that was pretty big, people stared to ask me why I did that to myself but I was happy. However, I wanted to see more of it, I decided to leave Italy and start travelling. Of course, the first place I went was Ibiza, you know party time, and I stayed there a couple of months. Loved the music. Slowly I was getting better at tattoos, tattooing more friends. I wasn’t a professional, it was more a passion I never let go even if I wasn’t that good at the time. Every time I had the chance to tattoo someone I would do it. After Ibiza, I went back to Italy but I couldn’t stay there, so I moved to London for a year trying to learn English and to gain experience. There I met a girl (the mother of my daughters now) that came from Ireland that told me I should go to Ireland, with the expansion of the Celtic Tiger, so I came and loved it and decided to move in here in 1998.
Things were going well, I did a couple of courses, and after a year I opened my first shop in Rathmines around 1999/2000. People were requesting me for tattoos so I saw an opportunity thinking Dublin was perfect for that. As soon as I opened, it got very busy I improved myself quicker, so I decided to become a proper professional, and I worked very hard and achieved a lot of things. After a couple of years, I had the opportunity to open another tattoo shop in Temple Bar. But somehow after 10 years of being in Temple Bar, I had a little breakdown so I decided to sell my shop and to go study art in Florence and I found this amazing school and went there. I just felt I was missing something and I thought at the time that it was the basics of art I never had the chance to study.
I thought that if this is what I’m meant to be I need to try and see if I was good enough to do this kind of style. So I went there in 2012 and started this 3 years’ program. When I saw all this students doing those amazing things I thought they were gifted and I felt like I would fail because I didn’t know the process of painting. You know the basis on how to break it down, how to draw etc. But no matter what, I wanted to do it, I left my job, my studio, my family for my dream. After finishing in 2 years instead of 3, they actually hired me as a teacher, but because of being far from my daughters that were in Dublin, I taught just for 9 months, it was a great experience and learned so much out of it, and loved it.
MM: I am looking at your paintings they are unbelievable. How valuable was your uncle when you think about it?
M: I think he was a big influence in my life. And before he died, we were in a very good relationship, he was more like a friend and the father I never had. So when he saw my artworks he told me I got better than him and that was the greatest compliment I could receive. I loved him so much. He died pretty young at 58, from a liver failure from. He got hepatitis in the military and never treated it. He was an amazing person full of love.
We have an amazing power as humans & that is imagination
MM: So he would totally approve what you became?
M: You know I grew up with all this people that I kept in touch with throughout the years so when they see my art they often say “Oh my god, Tomaso, would be very proud of you” and I say “I know” because I was there when he died and we were very close. He totally put me in this path.
MM: Very inspiring story! Obviously hard work, finding a niche etc is important but as you were saying earlier the key thing is how you visualize yourself in the future.
M: Yes I think so, it is not so much about the gift even though some people can be gifted naturally but I think that the most successful people are the one that have a clear idea of what they want and go get it. Many gifted people are not successful. If you think about it I had the courage in my life to do what I love because I had a purpose, this is my passion and I had to work for but it never felt like I ever worked a day in my life. And this is what I say to my daughters that took on acting and singing classes “I’ll be there to support you all the way and make your passion your work and you will never work one day in your life”.
MM: Great, so you became a teacher, how did that make you feel to be in such a prestigious environment?
M: When I applied for the job there I didn’t think it would happen because they are very selective. You know we were a middle class family I didn’t have 20.000€ to go to school, it is why I made this sacrifice at 40 when I had more money. I was so surprised that they chose me, because let’s be honest academically the other knew more than me. I thought why did they choose me over the others? And it is because I have the ability to do it and the right thinking to do it, which most people don’t have. And thinking this way got me to think more about myself, study myself more. Once I came across this myth taking place in India because at some point I was reading a lot about self-motivation and successful people.
So this is how it goes: humanity had the power at the time but somehow humans made a bad use out of it, so the gods had to take it back, pulling us away from them. However, they had to find a place on where to hide this power. One said that they should hide it on the highest mountain in the word, the other one said on the deepest ocean. But they knew someday humans would get there, so they decided to hide it where we would never look for it: inside ourselves. And that struck me because in my life I was always looking for something missing outside myself and I realised that what was actually missing was inside of me. We have an amazing power as humans that is imagination.
When you imagine something and you close your eyes you can feel it and smell it. It is the key to everything. You know when you make a painting you look at it for weeks. It is like you lose yourself in it. Sometime I don’t realise it is 5am and I am painting for 9 hours, it is like the subject takes life in front of you and you interact with it because you develop a connection with it . It is why when people say that artist are alone I tell them they are. You know the purpose of art is to feel something, feel emotions, because painting at the end of the day is an illusion of reality. So it is not important how similar your work is to the subject but what you make people feel when they look at it, interact with it.
MM: And it is the same for tattoos right?
M: Same for tattoos. With the experience I have tattooing for 20 years now, I see that even though you have amazing tattoo artists today, with all the access they have to different information, no one really knows how to draw anymore. It is like the new generation just copy and assemble what is already there, so the originality of the piece they do is lost. I prefer to do ‘free hands’ tattoos because for each morphology, body I have to adapt myself to it. Everyone have different legs, arms etc and I try to adapt it as much as possible, not draw it and stick in on. That means that when the tattoo is finished it is like it was always there. And I think it is what people don’t understand that much. But you know I think it applies to all sorts of art like music, sculpture, tattoo paintings. Everything comes to the same point it is what they are going to make you feel. But it comes with time and practice because I think that it is a realisation of knowing yourself.