Tattooing is his life

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Friday, March 14, 2014


TATTOO has been an underappreciated art form as it is commonly associated with criminals or the bad guys. But as the adage goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, thus, Renato Togonon Jr., a tattoo artist based in Davao City, continues to master his craft and invite more people to appreciate the art.

Togonon, a Bachelor of Science in Customs Administration graduate at the Holy Cross of Davao College, has been practicing his craft since 2008, yet for just a short amount of time, he already won various local tattoo competitions in the city. He has embarked on this as a career, putting up the Atto Tattoo Shop in Ecoland Subd.

But Togonon said, "Wala man ko nagtattoo para lang magkakwarta ug makadaug ug premyo. Nagatattoo ko kay malingaw ko and siyempre, para maka-express ko (I do not tattoo just to earn money or win prizes. I do this because I enjoy it and of course so that I could express)."

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He said he could not just bank on tattooing as his main source of income, since there are weeks when he has no clients. But just to get by, he said: "I call friends who are willing to endure the pain for a free tattoo. If possible I could do this every day since of course, I want to improve my skill in handling the machine. It would just be a bonus if there are friends who are willing to pay."

It wasn't a very pleasant beginning for him since he started off with cheap equipment.

He said that when he started, he was using an unstable power supply, which would often short circuit. The machines he utilized were unreliable as well, as it was just a do-it-yourself (DIY) machine made up of a dynamo and scrap metal while the ink was merely pen ink.

"I just had to rely on what is available since at that time, I had no budget to procure good equipment. But that didn't stop me from practicing the art. In fact, I believe that if you have practiced on the DIY equipment you could become better when you shift to the new machines although there is a little adjustment you should make," Togonon said.

Eventually, he had enough funds to procure state-of-the-art equipment and high quality inks he ordered outside the country. He also attended numerous seminars before getting an accreditation from the Department of Health as a legitimate tattoo artist who follows the health and sanitation guidelines.

Before, he was fond of depicting horror through biomechanical designs, but later, he focused his work on portraits, Oriental design, landscapes and religious themes. But as much as possible, he said he goes out of his comfort zone by trying other designs. He is often faced by the challenge when it is the client who conceptualizes the design and he puts it into reality.

"It's think before you ink. Of course, it is not just me who wants to express because as the canvass, those who are getting a tattoo are also expressing themselves. They should understand that since the ink is permanent, the design should also have a lasting impression for those who will see it," Togonon said.

When asked of his advice to the aspiring tattoo artists, he said, "Be patient. Tattoo is not something that you learn overnight because just like education it is an unending process."

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 15, 2014.

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