Hailing from South Russia, specifically Rostov-on-Don, Denis â€śTidanâ€ť Torikashvili began his tattooing career in 1997. Thatâ€™s 23 years ago when there was barely an industry, acceptance, and fair working conditions.
Tidan has had many setbacks and restarts, from moving and working in Moscow to Londonâ€”the latter getting a big break at NR Studio in 2017. And an even more significant opportunity came to him in 2019. Franco VescoviÂ invited him to be a part of theÂ Bishop Rotary familyÂ and a resident artist at Vatican StudiosÂ in California, United States.
This interview views Tidanâ€™s rise to success, his adaptation to the West Coast, and dealing with COVID-19 lockdowns.
Above: A stunning Joker portrait by Denis â€śTidanâ€ť Torikashvili.
The eccentric Salvador Dali inked in black and grey.
How did the invitation come about to be part of Franco Vescoviâ€™s Vatican Studios?
Before coming to America, I lived and worked in London for two years, where I formed an amazing client base. I received many invitations to work as a guest artist and participate in US events, but I had to get a work VISA first. It took me six months, and without Franco Vescovi, I probably wouldn’t have made it here.
While working in London, I met James, who is Francoâ€™s most trusted business person. And also, my friend Dmitry Troshin had been working with Franco for three years; so I knew where I was destined to go. Franco invited me to join Vatican Studios, and I gladly accepted.
Tidanâ€™s custom tattoo machineâ€”the Bishop Wand.
It seems like the Bishop family is treating you well. What is it like working with a custom Bishop Wand?
I am highly satisfied with the tattoo machine; it runs smoothly, quiet, no vibration, and all my clients love the work done with it. I use a wireless battery that frees me from power-supply cords.
I was at the factory and saw firsthand how Franco does his businessâ€”all staff members keep the highest standards of honesty and professionalism, and I want to be associated with this and do my best not to fail the team.
A tribute to Sam Cooke (American singer, songwriter, civil-rights activist, and entrepreneur).
Before becoming known for your black-and-grey realism tattoos, you enjoyed making color tattoos of cartoons and video game characters.
I wasnâ€™t entirely happy with my color tattoos because they looked good at first, but some didnâ€™t look so good over time, such as light-colored pigments on dark skin. Iâ€™m my harshest critic, and I donâ€™t want to trick my customers, so I focused on black-and-grey inks that provide better results. I already got my inspiration from old B&W movies and photography. I especially like vintage (the 70s) photos of women and want to do something similar to that soon.
I made Bobblehead-character tattoos that were featured in magazines and social media, they went viral and helped my career. They were a success among viewers and media, but not commercially (I tattooed them on my friends for free). Even though it didnâ€™t bring me money, it was an excellent opportunity to show my work. I still travel with a handmade Sackboy figure that is my good luck talisman.
The Joker (Joaquim Phoenix) by Denis â€śTidanâ€ť Torikashvili.
These are some of the best Joker portraits I have seen.
Both Joker tattoos took full-day sessions. The one surrounded by guns, I did in 8 hours; the other in 6 hours.
â€śI love you buddy,â€ť a pet memorial tattoo for the customer.
Due to COVID-19, Vatican Studios has been closed for some time. What have you been doing all these months?
Before closing, I bought a car and paid my taxes, which resulted in not having savings to help me through this difficult time. But I didnâ€™t let it get me down. I borrowed some money from a friend, bought some canvases, and have experimented with painting. I started with abstract art and then switched to photo-realistic watercolor works. There have been people interested in buying them, but I havenâ€™t sold them. I gave one as a present to a friend, and the rest I used to hang on my home walls. Besides this, I have learned how to bake bread and make authentic Italian pizza! I have had time to walk around the neighborhood, get to see beautiful and exciting places around me. I am fortunate to live in such a fantastic location [Lake Forest, California].
One part of Tidanâ€™s watercolor series.
Tell me about the painting titled â€śRita.â€ť
It is part of the watercolor series made during the quarantine. Rita is my wife.
Tattooist Denis â€śTidanâ€ť Torikashvili in studio.
Has your family been integrating well in California?
Since we are a â€śtattoo family,â€ť we moved a lot. Happily, we are used to this. The first time was the hardest. Thanks to the outstanding support of my friend Dmitry, we are adjusting to Californiaâ€™s life. He filled me in with everything and helped me with accommodations. Generally, I love that feeling of getting a fresh start; there are always some bright challenges and new adventures. The only thing I truly miss is my old friends. Todayâ€™s technology allows us to communicate despite the distance in real-time, but nothing can replace real conversations over a glass of wine.
Photos Â© Denis "Tidan" Torikashvili