Global tattoo artists visit Nepal to revive fading indigenous art

Dillon Forte
Dillon Forte

Dillon Forte, a popular American tattoo artist, was scheduled to attend the 10th Nepal Tattoo Convention that concluded on April 9 in Kathmandu. Due to his official duties, Dillon Forte was unable to attend. Forte Tattoo sent some of its other artists.

Onlinekhabar was able to interview him by email, despite his absence from the convention. Dillon Forte discusses the tattoo culture that is growing in Nepal, and how it could be shared with the rest of the world.

What made you want to become a Tattoo Artist?

When I was young, I loved drawing and the elements of design. It became my passion as I grew older. In the downtown area where I grew up, there were both a tattoo and skate shop. I was attracted to both the tattoo artists and skaters who hung out in those areas. I believe that many kids who skate grow up to be creative by default. I took an apprenticeship in the shop because I was curious. The rest is history and I’m thankful for that opportunity.

How many times have visited Nepal? What keeps you coming back every time you visit? 

I’ve been to Nepal three times to date and it is by far one of my favorite places to visit and take in. I find the energy and vibe in this region to be very inspiring, both creatively and spiritually. Every time I go to a city, I like to explore a different area, try new restaurants, and meet new people. Sometimes, I’m tattooing and sometimes just live in the present moment. It is a great place to visit, and the area hosts an annual tattoo convention.

Dillon Forte
Dillon Forte
Dillon Forte was a part of the Nepal International Tattoo Convention for many years and this year, your Forte Tattoo Team also attended the event. What are your feelings about this trip?

Every year, I set up a stand at the convention to let people know about my work and availability. My team is also there to promote its work. Forte Tattoo not only have artists located in Austin (USA), but we also travel abroad and perform work all over the world. I use the Nepal International Tattoo Convention not only to promote my work but also to gain inspiration, as my work is heavily influenced by Eastern culture and heritage. For this year though, I wasn’t there personally, but my team including Jess Steidler was representing Forte Tattoo and setting up appointments for herself and the rest of the crew.

What were some of your favorite experiences from visiting Nepal?

The last time I visited Kathmandu was my favorite. I loved walking around, wearing traditional Nepali attire, and being part of a community. I was brought back to Earth by the food, people, and energy in this area, especially after living an American lifestyle. Sometimes it’s eye-opening to visit an area outside of what you’re used to, to be in the moment and absorb the simple way of experiencing your day. I enjoy getting out of the city and into nature to connect with the spiritual energy in the land. I take my camera and capture pictures and videos that show the things I like most about the place.

Tattoo works of Dillon Forte
Dillon Forte’s tattoos
In Nepal, many tattoo artists want to become professionals. What message do you have for them?

Follow your favorite tattoo artists on their journey and find a mentor. See what you can learn from them so you can avoid any mistakes and find out if it’s the industry for you. I think if the industry is your calling, you’ll go down the rabbit hole and become obsessed with it. Especially if you have a mentor to look up to, you’ll see the potential of where you can go and see that “proof” of success. You can see the creative process in people’s eyes, so get tattoos or hang out with other artists to get a feel for it.

Please tell those who are unfamiliar with sacred geometric tattooing, art, and the connection with Eastern Asian culture.

Sacred geometry is about proportions and shapes in the design. All of them are related to universal laws that govern all creation and our existence. It is possible to go down a rabbit hole here but I would recommend that the readers read The Ancient Secret of the Flower of Life, by Drunvalo. Many blogs and articles on the internet will help you understand sacred geometry’s principles and deeper meanings. While the origins of sacred geometry can be traced back to Greek history and culture, Eastern spirituality and culture have inspired designs like the mandalas and lotuses, as well as the all-seeing eye and yin and the yang. It is a mixture of styles that use sacred geometry, blackwork, and dot work.

As Nepal has such a rich cultural heritage, which part of Nepali culture should a tattoo artist use as inspiration for tattoo designs?

I think of Nepal as a spiritual hub that many people from around the globe can visit, no matter what their background is. There isn’t necessarily a handbook or set of guidelines for tattoo artists to take from Nepal though. By association, you may associate Nepal with the spiritual tattoo designs that are available. Americans also think of Sedona as a place like Nepal. For those that don’t know, Sedona is sort of our spiritual Mecca for various, widely known reasons. Those vortexes get me every time, haha. Sedona and Nepal are both places I adore.

Dillon Forte
Dillon Forte
What other places in the world do you like to tattoo and visit?

I’ve been all around the world, and feel like I’m getting started with all this. I’d love to visit other areas of India, Africa, and Europe to do the tourist/photo thing and also work with some clients that have been waiting for the chance to make an appointment. Many clients come to me but I enjoy traveling to them as well since it’s an opportunity to explore a new place.

You’ve had the opportunity to work with some notable celebrities, including Usher and Chris Hemsworth. How did this come about?

These connections seem to have come out of nowhere. As I work and post on social networks, I meet incredible people. I believe that over time they will spread the news. Usher was hired by a referral from a friend/client. Chris Hemsworth also came through a client/friend referral, but I was in Morocco filming at the same time as he. Kat Von D was also referred to by the network and Kehlani. Finding great work is easy with the help of word of mouth, having a network of clients, and friends, and using social media.

What are your plans for the future? Do you have any advice for tattoo lovers?

I’ve been working on my Tattoo Ranch just outside of Austin, which recently opened, but I’m also expanding with a lot of upgrades and fun ideas. I’ve been brainstorming. At the end of the tattoo, I’ve been booked solid with a lot of great clients and just working in fun vacations in-between my crazy work schedule. As far as advice, I always suggest looking within and following your heart with whatever it is you’d like to do with your life. Time moves quickly, so don’t waste it doing something you don’t love.

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