One day some years ago as I was looking at some large-scale Japanese tattoos, I had an idea. “If this is what a combination of Japan’s folklore, culture and history could produce, what could I come up with by looking into my own roots?”
This led me to thinking about traditional American tattoo iconography, which I specialize in, and which you can use to represent any subject – so long as you understand the rules for this particular style. It also got me thinking about the cultural upbringing I had with my home city, Florence, widely considered to be the birthplace of the Renaissance – and the man without whom this book would not be possible. Dante Alighieri.
As a matter of fact, Dante had been a part of my life long before I knew the role he would play in my later years; his giant statue in Piazza di Santa Croce – my childhood neighborhood – a constant presence in after-school soccer games.
The Divina Commedia is part of Italy’s national school program. But for the people of Florence, Dante is more than someone you learn about in class. He’s family. And you can still visit the house he lived in, now a museum, in an area a short walk from where I grew up.
Having chosen to honor the poet I decided I would illustrate book one of the Divina Commedia – Inferno – using tattoo iconography.
Thus, the 33 artworks before you represent all the cantos in Inferno and took approximately three years to complete. Furthermore, my medium of choice, watercolor, was influenced by a childhood filled with Florentine street artists creating magic on a daily basis; my palette and the ornamental motifs in each illustration a result of all the art I was exposed to in my early years.
But just how did all these factors lead to a book? I have lived a life on the road for a long time, a lifestyle that has allowed me to paint in countless locations. And so, while painting my depictions of the cantos, I would find myself explaining to friends and coworkers all over the world the meanings behind them, such is the complexity of the poem.
Finally, as well as giving people a glimpse of Dante’s genius, this book is a way for me to pay tribute to my roots while giving back to the world of tattooing.
Accompanied by texts in English, Spanish and Italian, ‘Inferno’ delves into the original story’s symbolism and philosophy. A unique visual and cultural resource for tattoo artists and enthusiasts.