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Tattoo Artist: Csaba Sipos
He has the same routine pretty much everyday when walking into the shop. In walks the man with the averaged sized, bald headed, sunglasses-wearing, and rockstar-like light denim wash ripped-up jeans who proceeds to greet everyone with a barrage of fists bumps to open up the day at Chronic Ink Tattoos –an Authentic Asian Tattoo shop located in a small town in Markham, Ontario. Although it’s known for its Authentic Asian art work, the Hungarian native still feels right at home when he enters the small, pint-sized room located in unit E72 of Pacific Mall, one of two Chronic Ink locations.
On this sunny August afternoon, Csaba Sipos decides to come in and open up the shop early, easily avoiding the rush of tattoo-hungry Chronic Ink-ers, who in large part are responsible for Csaba’s several-month waiting list, which runs a good several months all the way into early January. After taking off the shades and putting away his black and silver box carrying all his machines, Sipos takes a seat and we casually chat about his first ever interview. “I’ve never done one before,” said Sipos, looking somewhat nervous as he sits on a loose, grey rollie chair with one leg crossed over the other. “Are these questions going to be hard?”
Having done several interviews with artists myself, it’s safe to say I’m dealing with a rookie interviewee, but also a tattoo veteran of over a decade. We started off easy, talking about the basics and how he got started. “I started when I was 15. The first couple tattoos I did weren’t really good, and then I tried a couple lines which were bad because I was just starting out. I knew it wasn’t going to work so I just stopped,” said Sipos. “When I turned 18, I started taking tattooing seriously. I bought a tattoo machine and bought supplies and made my own shit from there.”
Like many artists lost in a sacred and closed world at that point in time, Sipos did things the rugged way just like any other beginner would do, tattoo his friends at home. Sipos however, would like to not remember those moments where he showcased signs of horrible artwork. “I wouldn’t want to say that I did it,” saying it with a smirk on his face, looking half amused at old memories while half embarrassed probably thinking, “Shit, what the hell was I doing?”
What the self-taught artist did before picking up a machine was the conventional way, which was drawing as well as some work on the canvas, with a little help from dad. “In school, I would always be drawing. My father was a painter so he showed me how to paint. At first I was painting then I got into tattoos.” When asked if his dad was into Sipos’ newfound hobby of inking, Sipos quickly gave me that look that you give when you know you upset the folks and replied, “No, he didn’t like them. He hated it.”
Sipos didn’t hate tattoos at first, but it wasn’t like he was in love either, saying he never actually decided on being a tattoo artist. “I never thought about me doing tattoos my whole life, but I kept on getting better. I started working at a tattoo shop and after that, I opened up my own store [in Hungary] and kept going and going.”
Before he made the move to Canada only a few short years ago, Sipos actually had some luck on his side living in a country where tattoos were popular at the time he started –something that wasn’t all so relatable for the rest of the world back in the previous decades. He added, “It was really popular. It’s not as popular here. People here are more crazy with it.”
That part is true. Nowadays, Sipos works out of Chronic Ink Tattoos, a shop known for producing some of the city’s best Asian tattoos, while holding its end of the deal to their loaded consumers and giving them some of the finest dragons, Koi fishes, Hanya Masks, Foo Dogs, and Phoenixes that the city has seen. The shop features 12 artists, most of whom are booked up until the Spring time of 2013 because of their hard work and dedication to the craft while putting out back piece after back piece and sleeve after sleeve on their clients.
Working at an Authentic Asian tattoo shop doesn’t necessarily make Sipos an “Asian tattooer,” per say. His style is more all-round –someone who can pull of pretty much any style on any client, whether it’s a Koi fish or a Virgin Mary. Sipos later admitted in our chat that he didn’t know what it was about tattooing that intrigued him. “I can’t really explain it. The first time I went into a tattoo store and heard the sound of the needles, it was magic.”
That magic seemed to follow him around, especially when it comes to fixing other artist’s amateur work. Sipos is known around Chronic Ink and most of the city as the “cover-up guy,” a reputation that he’s earned through getting rid of some of the worst art work seen on a human canvas and turning them into a quality piece of art. What’s more amazing is that it’s all done mentally –just the thought of knowing he can work up some magic. “I don’t know. I never learned. I just always try to fix them. People always look at certain tattoos and say you can’t cover them up, but I just try to find ways around it. I tell myself I will cover it up,” said Sipos, who said his craziest cover up job has been on a half-sleeve…on several occasions throughout his stay at Chronic Ink.
And during that stay, he’s built strong relationships with anyone who walks through the door, with his warm personality and easy-going personality that’s made him a fan-favorite with the clientele. As the interview comes to an end, Sipos (the shop calls him Joe), says he needs a break before his first client comes in, so he casually gets up, gives me a fist bump, and walks out for a smoke. It’s just another day at Chronic Ink.
See more of Csaba's work here
Written by: Michael Nguyen