There’s so much more to art than colours, designs, and popular appeal. Just ask Dillon Forte, a well-known, highly respected tattoo artist who has certainly carved out his own unique niche/style. He has dedicated his craft to the use of a modern style of Sacred Geometry (check his work on Instagram) which he has committed to tattooing. He believes that through the use of geometry, human beings can improve their awareness of the true meaning of life. Sacred Geometry appeals to Forte because it ascribes symbolic and sacred meanings to geometric shapes and proportions. In Forte’s view, there are mathematical relationships that underlie the fundamental structure of our universe, and we can learn so much from them.
Taking this approach and directing it towards tattooing, Forte views the body as a whole, one that can also be used as a canvas to create coordinated designs that work in harmony with the skin. Not just a tattoo buff, Forte has also worked in fine art photography, painting, fashion, and technological design. He has been featured in several magazines, books, and art exhibitions across the globe, plus he’s highly sought after and inked the likes of Chris Hemsworth and Usher.
For our latest Tattoo Talk interview, we speak with Forte about his focus on Sacred Geometry, relocating to Austin, Texas from Los Angeles, his recent NFT project, and life as a talented tattoo artist.
You’re known for your contemporary style of sacred geometry. How did you end up focusing on this style?
Dillon Forte: “I’ve been into Sacred Geometry ever since I was a teenager. I grew up surrounded by books and artwork with that theme. The connotation ‘sacred’ is used due to the specific mathematical ratios used in the construction of religious architecture globally, along with the mathematics found within nature.”
Did you dabble with or learn any other styles before honing in on Sacred Geometry?
“Yeah, I did all styles really, when I started in a shop that was about 16 to 17 years ago and you just did what people came in and wanted; there really weren’t styles on purpose. It took me a few years of people asking specifically for this style of work for me to cater exclusively to it.”
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On your website, you state, “It is my belief that through geometry we can gain a greater awareness of the true meaning of life. From the microcosm to the macrocosm, there are mathematical relationships that underlie the fundamental structure of our universe.” Can you elaborate on this concept and, per above, how did you come to take this philosophical concept and adapt it for tattooing?
“The simplicity of this concept can be found in the human hand; the geometry there is a pentagon or pentagonal (you probably held your hand up and looked at it) and it’s based on phi i.e. the golden ratio. This is a repeating fractal known as a transcendental number and can be found in most if not all biological forms. I incorporate things such as a mandala which literally translates to ‘circle’ and represents the totality of the universe as spherical existence, amongst other ancient symbols.”
So, you’ve tattooed Chris Hemsworth, Usher, Kat Von D, the dude from Imagine Dragons and more. How did all this hype happen? Could you have imagined it?
“I don’t know, I think it’s generally word of mouth and doing what you’re passionate about. Thankfully, a lot of really cool people are picking up what I’m putting down.”
You’re now in Texas, relocated from L.A. What prompted the move, why Austin, Texas, and how is it?
“Honestly, we just feel like it’s a much better place to raise our kid and we live in the countryside and have fallen in love with the country life.”
You opened your Austin-based studio, FORTE Tattoo ATX in March of this year. How long did it take to set up the new shop, and how are things going thus far?
“I think we landed in November but it’s been in the works since mid-last year. Things are great so far, no complaints, it’s an intimate space in a really convenient location with easy access to the airport for traveling clients.”
We hear Joe Rogan is a fan of your work and that you two are in touch. How did you meet and have you done anything for Rogan as yet?
“I haven’t met him yet actually, seems like a cool guy from what I can tell on the interwebs. ‘Great minds think alike’ (laughs), feel similar about the California exodus so probably have plenty in common.”
What’s the most elaborate piece you’ve completed to date? What was it, for whom, and how long did it take? Share the deetz.
“It is tough to say, probably this current bodysuit I’m working on, I have no idea how long it’s been, I don’t really keep count. He started February 2020 and we’ve done a few days a month ever since.”
We’re crypto geeks. Tell us about the NFT project you dropped. Have plans to do a bigger batch?
“Yeah, I’d like to do another collection. The NFT space is crazy. I’d like to release a larger collection and also focus on one of one releases and possibly some different philanthropic avenues for NFTs.”
When, where and what was the first tattoo you gave and got?
“I got a tattoo at I think 15 or 16 in a garage, a little star on my hand in Tampa, Florida. The first one I ever did was on my ankle and it was a candle to carry the torch, so to speak, I guess.”
What’s the single hardest thing about being a Tattoo Artist?
“Well you sell time for a living and it’s a finite resource so there’s zero scalability.”
If someone is thinking about a career as a tattoo artist, what’s the most important advice you could give them?
“Honestly, with tattooing as a career, there’s no retirement, no benefits, no paid time off and you have to realize you are freelance and will have to work every single day like on your days ‘off’ answering interview questions (laughs).”
Gun, ink, etc.: What’s your gear of choice?
“‘Machine’ is the industry-wide accepted term and I’m using a machine from my friend Carson at Neuma Tattoo Machines at the moment! I’ll probably be releasing a limited edition of some machines soon too so keep an eye out.”
In your opinion, what’s the worst tattoo you’ve ever been asked to give?
“That’s a hard one, they are all so bad… Ok, just kidding. Um, damn, let me think, there was a pink squiggly line this guy asked to have done up his whole arm and just ‘whatever’ that always comes to mind. I remember this was probably 2006, some kind of trash polka style, I don’t know.”