Opportunity of a Lifetime – Tattoo Ideas, Artists and Designs
Growing up in Mexico, Armando Munoz didn’t want to become a tattoo artist. But that all changed when the opportunity literally knocked on his door when a friend of his brought a tattoo machine asking artist Munoz to fix the shitty tattoo he just got To do. More than a decade later, Munoz is making a name for himself with beautiful color realism bordering on the surreal. We spoke with the artist known in the industry as Armandean about his inspirations, design process and more.
When did you first discover the love of art?
When I was a child, I discovered that I learned best by drawing in class. Obviously it was something almost illegal for teachers [laughs] but i was always the kid they chose to draw [for] school events. Some time later, my mother gave me a set of oil paints and I fell in love.
How did you start your tattoo career? Did you do an apprenticeship or did you learn on your own?
I never had friends who tattooed or talked about the subject, it didn’t exist in my circle of friends, yet everyone knew that I drew. A friend came to my house one day with a Vans shoebox and inside he had a tattoo machine with a tube and needle filled with dry ink, a pair of gloves, and some rustic supplies. He asked me to fix a tattoo he had gotten a few hours earlier. It was my first contact with tattooing. I never apprenticed in a tattoo parlour, I learned by tattooing my friends, neighbors and family. Don’t worry, all of these tattoos have already been fixed.
How did you find your way to color realism? I had the opportunity to paint in various applications such as oil and acrylic before tattooing. It wasn’t easy but at least I had some idea of color theories, tonal values, etc. However, I continue to learn and every day I discover new things.
How does color realism continue to inspire you? What do you find most challenging about styling? I always try to make realism the focal point of the piece, although I like to incorporate elements that can work as balance and flow aesthetically with the body. I like to mix realism with lyrical abstraction. I like the idea of leaving a unique piece and not only [creating] a faithful copy of an existing image.
Do you ever work in black and gray? Yes, I honestly consider myself very versatile, I tattoo almost everything from infinity symbols to very intricate pieces. Black and gray is a trend that people ask for a lot and I do a lot, but personally I feel more comfortable and happy doing color.
How would you describe your signature style? My friends in Mexico named it “Armanshit” [laughs]. Honestly, I don’t know how to define it or how to catalog it. In fact, in conventions, it is difficult to [place] my work. But I like to imagine it’s a mixture of realism, abstract art and expressionism.
You do a lot of surreal portraits. Do you create your own references? How do you do it? Surreal portraits are my favorite. Before tattooing I was very involved in collage, I cut out magazines and two different faces [create] one, matching proportions and perspectives. Currently that’s what I’m doing but digitally, I’m taking references from magazines, blogs and photo stocks to make compositions and create a new character.
What are some of your favorite subjects to tattoo? I really like making faces combined with dark elements. I love the duality you can see in a tattoo about good and evil, not exactly demons, but monsters with many textures and beautiful faces combined with free strokes that can give balance to the body.
Which artists, tattoo artists or others, inspire you? They are numerous, but to name a few, Wassily Kandinsky, Arturo Rivera, Jackson Pollock, Guillermo Lorca, Gustav Klimt and Jean-Michel Basquiat for painting. Rember, Sean Foy, Timur Lysenko, AD Pancho and Lukas SMYKU for the tattoo artists. I surely have many more.