Tattoo Artist: interview with Osa Wahn

26 July 2011

Osa Wahn, article and photogallery on Tattoo.1 Tribal #62

How long have you done this work?
I’ve tattooed for a pretty long time. I started when I was twelve years old.

Who taught you?
My father, Waldemar Wahn, showed me how to use the tattoo machines, if that’s what you mean. However, just the technical knowledge is not enough to create artistically valuable works. Since I was a kid I’ve always painted very well, even in primary school my teachers foretold an artistic future for me.

Are there tattoo artists that you consider your teachers or reference points?
The collaboration with my father was the highest contribution to my painting skills. We experimented together with different techniques and exchanged the experience with one another.
There are some tattoo artists I like very much but they haven’t had much influence on my work. More than by tattooists, I’ve been influenced by painters of different art directions like Picasso, Beksinski, Malczewski, and also some impressionists.

What inspires your art?
My greatest inspiration is nature. Climbing mountains, going deep into woods, and watching animals and birds give me great ideas for future pictures.

What relationship is there between your art of painting and tattooing?
It’s easier to answer what’s the difference. The greatest difference is that oil paintings are made on flat canvas and tattoos are made on three-dimensional body forms, which I try to integrate with the form of the tattooed motives. The third dimension is what makes tattoos interesting to me.
I can use the shape of the muscles and the body movement to make the appearance of the tattooed picture much more fascinating than it would be on flat and motionless canvas. That’s also the reason why I always draw the sketch directly on the skin and not on paper. A tattoo traced onto the skin will look like a sticker, no matter how good the work is.

How much does the person who asks for the tattoo influence your creation?
Not at all or very little. Most people just give me a part of their body large enough to do something amazing. Some people tell me a theme of the picture I should create. I decide whether to do this work or not depending on if the theme sounds interesting to me. The last few ideas I considered fascinating were: “Penguin in the Desert,” “Moonlight Sonata,”and “Skull in Picasso’s Blue Period style.” I found these keywords interesting, so I took on these tasks.
I don’t let people influence the conception or colors I use, otherwise it would be propaganda and not fine arts. If someone does not consent with my conditions I simply do not tattoo them. There are so many studios working for customer’s requests and I’m in the fortunate position to decline doing works I’m not interested in.

What was the first tattoo you created?
It was a little and colourful Celtic ornament on my father’s ankle.

And what was the first that you got on your own skin?

My first tattoo was made by my father. It’s my whole left upper arm.

What are you working on now?
I’m always working on many different things. I decline to do little and ordinary ideas that take twenty minutes of work and most of my tattoos are works that take more than one appointment, so there are many unfinished tattoos waiting for me to continue.

Actually the list is very long, so I can’t mention all of them because it would go beyond the framework of this interview. Besides tattooing I’m preparing some new oil paintings for the next exhibition.

What is your philosophy?
The modern times lead us into the golden cage of consumerism. I try to open people’s eyes on individualism and innovation, though I know that it’s as pointless as fighting windmills, because most of them don’t even realize the difference between a little tattooed star or tribal and the most complex surrealistic picture.
They don’t even doubt the correctness of their way of reasoning when I deny to do the requested work. They don’t even ask why I won’t do it. The only thought that society planted into their brains is: “I pay and I demand.” My life task is pouring buckets of cold water over their heads.

- Shocking City, Vienna (Austria)
– Official website:
- Myspace:

Go to Osa Wahn tattoo photo gallery