On her website, Mandy Frank proudly invites clients to “make a mess!” That carefree creative instinct and fearless disregard for perfection informs the German artist’s every project. Whether she’s illustrating a children’s book, painting on paper, embellishing a garment or tattooing a client, her designs are a riot of shapes and colours, and the results are always works of art – regardless of the canvas.
A Messy Process
Frank, who began drawing “as soon as I could hold a pencil,” explains why her messy approach yields such spectacular results: “I love to literally play with colours, so it can become a real mess. I like to try out new things like a child – painting canvas, leather, fabric, skin, walls… I like it best when something unexpected and great comes out of the customer’s and my mind together, but that only happens when you let creativity flow freely, without fear of messing up.”
She likes to call her distinctive style “Splashart” to distinguish it from more traditional watercolour, “which is pretty much the opposite of what I do.” Instead, she elaborates, “I let the colour flow, throw it, smudge it, which makes it dynamic. My works often have a plain white background. The expression is pure, nothing distracts from it. It can be put anywhere, the background is interchangeable, not limited by the edge of a canvas.”
From Canvas To Skin
This, of course, is what allows Mandy Frank’s art to move seamlessly from paper to skin, for paintings to become tattoo designs. After a lifetime of doodling and drawing, sketching and painting, studying graphic design and art, as well as training as an event engineer, Frank finally found her calling as a tattoo artist – or, as she puts it, “I am a painter who also tattoos.”
To snag a tattoo appointment, you’ll have to keep an eye on her schedule, as she is currently travelling and working at different studios across Europe.
We spoke to Frank about her unusual career path and nomadic working life, as well as her creative inspiration and the future of tattoo art, between a trip to the Netherlands and her home in Hamburg.
Essentials: What have you learned from working in different studios, cities, countries?
Mandy Frank: There are definitely differences. In Hamburg they love anchors, in Amsterdam tulips. Every time I work with other tattoo artists, I learn something new, more than if I am always in the same place. Time is limited when you travel, so I try to find studios where I can learn more. It can be quite frightening asking someone better to work with you, but it’s good for me.
What inspires you?
Other artists like Agnes Cecile, Schindgemme, Daniel Van Nes. Dreamy stuff like Alice in Wonderland. Music that sounds like it ascends directly from the soul (“The Fire Inside” by Bon Jovi, Muse, “Fjara” by Sólstafir, some black metal bands). Fairy tales. My inner child. Conversations with other artists, for example at Comic Cons or in other studios.
You have said that some of your artwork is too personal to sell. Can you explain why?
On my homepage there’s one called “Colour of Rain” that I wouldn’t sell. It’s often the darker ones. I paint them like a maniac, listening to one song on repeat, and I don’t stop until it’s done. I take everything I need to paint, even if I destroy my furniture in the process. It’s like the pure, unfiltered emotions come flowing through my veins and into the picture. Therefore it’s often not the best technique, but to me it’s like a rough diamond, a piece of my heart.
What advice do you give people getting a tattoo for the first time?
Get something individual! No infinity symbols, no black birds. An artist can do their best when you let them do what they love. Even if it’s a small starter piece.
…and in terms of the actual process?
Always imagine the worst pain ever! Then you’ll be positively surprised…
Is tattooing addictive?
Sure! You are so happy when you’ve made it through – that’s addictive!
Have you ever refused to tattoo a design? Or changed someone’s mind about a motif?
Yes, nobody is happy when I am not good at something but still do it. And I avoid extreme political designs. I have changed people’s minds, away from standard designs, into something individual. Hopefully into something better.
Would you be willing to tattoo in a completely different style that isn’t typical for you?
If it is a challenge that catches my interest, yes. Art is life and life evolves, so it can be a gate into a whole new world to explore. I learned hand poking, so I can tattoo on LARPs (live action roleplay, my nerdy passion), which is a very different style (known as Dotwork).
What is the future of tattoo art? Will it continue to become more popular?
Absolutely. When I started, there where a few styles that were done. Now artists experiment more, develop new techniques and dare to use a body as a canvas. It has evolved from a craft into an art form! People trust tattoo artists more now. I have some customers who just say, “Here is my arm, now do something!” I love that!
As a tattoo artist, are you also a skin care expert? Any tips?
Phew, hard to say. It’s worth staying informed since there are always new products. I’m a fan of natural solutions myself, and I think coconut oil is timeless…
How do you feel about “your” tattoos once they leave the studio on someone’s skin?
Good, but really great when people share their emotions with me afterwards. When a person is crying with happiness and wants to hug you, you know you made a positive change.
If you would like to own an original Mandy Frank, but aren’t quite ready to take the plunge and have it inked permanently, you can order some of her existing designs on paper, canvas, T-shirts or as stickers. She also collaborates with clients to create custom tattoo designs or artwork.