Outside the framework – An Interview with tattoo artist Mikhail Nechaev

He is definitely a citizen of the world. That is what we can say about the hero of this article. By his thirties, Mikhail Nechaev had been all around Europe. It’s not just the passion of travel that affects him. The profession is demanding. Nechaev is a tattoo artist who has been welcomed as an old friend in many European studios for a long time.

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Misha guests with different studios — big and small ones, and also regularly attends tattoo conventions, has been to Milan and London. But like any other industry, there is a need for a constant exchange of experience with the colleagues. You have to observe and absorb everything. As for Nechaev, this is his way of interaction with the outside world. Even as a child, he began to be interested in art, classical and modern. Then he asked his mother to take him to the art school. However, he couldn’t stay too long there — it was too hard for him to cope with the lack of creative freedom and the limits he was kept in by the teachers.

I can’t say that I was inspired by any specific art movement. It feels more like I was interested in absolutely everything. I wanted to soak it all up. And since it didn’t work out with the art school, I signed up for graphic design courses a few years later. I learned how to work with Photoshop and CorelDRAW there. It really hooked me. At the same time, with the help of my friends I got a job in a printing house where I studied all the steps of layout and printing. We produced everything, from business cards to books. At first I was an assistant, then I started creating mock-ups of my own, which were eventually used. In fact, it was my first part-time job, I spent several years working there. At that time I didn’t fully understand what I wanted to do with my life. And my parents insisted on becoming an engineer, recalls Misha.

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Nechaev has indeed become an engineer. Now he’s laughing as saying that his red diploma was a gift for his mother. And he moved on, trying to figure out what he really wanted to do. Misha’s meeting with the founder of a tattoo studio on social media, which happened by coincidence, did its magic. At first, he took a position as administrator. It helped him to see the inside of the profession, to understand the way tattooers work and communicate with their clients, and what kind of equipment they use. After a while, the founder of the tattoo studio said that it was time for Misha to try to tattoo a client.

To be honest, I was afraid to make a mistake, to do something wrong. Moreover, I was all at sea. And then one day, I was sitting with my friend in the kitchen and she suddenly said to me: “I want a tattoo!”. We spent half the night drawing the sketch and agreed that if something doesn’t work out, we’ll just cover the mistake up with a square. But the most interesting thing happened when I got the tattoo machine in my hand: I wasn’t nervous at all. I just started using the machine as if it was a pencil. My friend liked the result, and I realized that I needed to keep tattooing. I made the decision on the style a long time ago — it’s graphics, linework and dotwork. I liked geometric images. However, these styles were still unknown in Sochi at that time, clients wanted something in black&gray or color realism. And I’ve always wanted to do something one of a kind, says Misha.

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Then Misha met a girl. She’s been to many European countries. And she also told him about her work in Italy and Germany.

I got really inspired. And when she suddenly offered me to work and travel together I agreed. Yes, I wasn’t sure that my art would interest someone abroad, but everything went well. I guested several times in some of the studios. I was always greeted as a good old friend there. Every studio is like a small family. Everyone is so open, friendly, and supportive.

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The pandemic that began two years ago, of course, had a negative impact on the tattoo industry as well. Due to restrictions, many studios were forced to close, and the tattooers were left with no work. Misha recalls that then, against the background of global prevalence of stress, he accepted the situation and realized that everything that was happening wouldn’t last forever.

It was a time for me to catch my breath. For several years I had been traveling around Europe, working non-stop seven days a week. And in the midst of the pandemic I could finally put myself into self-improvement. First of all, professional development. I continued to hone my skills in sketching, examined new equipment, and was so absorbed in psychology because I wanted to understand my clients better. For me, a tattoo artist is not just a person who applies a picture. In a way, you are also a psychologist when it comes to starting a dialogue with a client. And when he or she shares their problems with me, it is important to support or even give a piece of advise. You can find Michaels’ work on Instagram at @mitatink.