Oly Anger - Montreal

Published: 05 January, 2012 - Featured in Skin Deep 207, January, 2012

Oly Anger has very quickly made a name for himself as one of Canada’s go-to guys for stunning black and grey work. After reading this, you won’t be in any doubt as to why that is.

"I started tattooing by myself, about five years ago in a small town in the east of France. After a few months, I understood I would have to leave that place to evolve. I knew I would learn a lot through travelling and meeting new people, as it’s easier to share with people who have the same passion for tattooing.

“I started, as many other artists, in street shops, tattooing all kinds of tattoos to get solid grounds. I asserted myself only later on, when I had the opportunity of working with Jack (Ribeiro) for almost two years. Then I moved to Canada, planning on setting up my own shop, creating tattoos in my own style and working hard of course, but in my own universe. It became a need, in order to be able to focus enough on my projects.”

The dark/black and grey style seems to be something you enjoy eversince your first tattoos – do you think your background with metal bands directly linked to your style?

“Since my childhood, I’ve always listened to metal music. I played in bands for several years, mostly in death metal bands, with, of course, very refined album covers.

"So of course it had an influence on me and I naturally turned to the visual aspect of this universe. I think that metal music and dark/black and grey style always meet at one point. It is the perfect music to listen to, even though others can be good too, when looking at dark works, at least for the mood it puts someone in.

“One can’t wake up one day and decide to follow a trend; it has to come naturally and must be authentic. I could almost say that one does not choose a style, but a style chooses someone!

“Music has a deep impact on my work, when I draw or tattoo, it helps me to put me in my bubble. A lot of my customers in Montreal are musicians and like metal music too, the scene is incredible here!

“In the end, we have a lot to share, apart from tattoos. But I listen to very different styles of music, not only metal music, it just depends on my mood.”

Tell us a little about your time with Jack Ribeiro?

“As I said before, I learnt by myself and I can’t really say I had ‘training’ with him, but I can say he changed my vision of tattoos, for sure! Apart from the talent he has and that everybody is aware of, he has real human qualities. I can say that the time I spent with Jack has been beneficial to me and Jack became my mentor.

“It’s important for an artist to have a passion for other artists work; it is a way to step back from our own work. The influence of things on our work is directly linked to the capacity of gathering the visual information that has an impact on us throughout our life. Added to a lot of work and personal research, it helps someone get a graphical style.

“As far as tattoo is concerned, it is a way of building one’s own background. Everything that makes a piece of work recognisable amongst others. And God knows this research work can take years! I have moved forward a lot since I moved to Quebec, I became able to apply all that I learnt in the past. And I have incredible customers who give me a lot of freedom for their projects.”

How about other people who have had an influence on your work, from a human or technical point of view?

“I think we learn from everybody, from more and less experienced people, from a technical or artistic point of view. Sharing is central in this job, it helps you to move forward quickly. You just have to take a look at how important tattoo artists became and what they brought to the community.

“It was the case and still is; but, from a personal point of view, I can say that meeting Toxyc had a great influence on me. He is different from Jack but incredible too, he never stops tattooing! I learnt a lot from him, in the way that you don’t get anything if you don’t do anything. But he also is a friend, the one I call when I have doubts. He is full of advice and taught me a lot about drawing. I owe him a lot.”

In the end, between Jack and Toxyc, you must feel like a spoiled child – it could have been worse though…

“Of course it could have been worse! But as I said, I think nothing comes without work, even if you are surrounded with the best tattoo artists, it doesn’t mean you will be one too.

“If they got there, it’s thanks to their talent and hard work. It could be discouraging because their standards are high. I find it motivating to see what they do, how they do it, everything comes from there. From the moment you do things naturally and sincerely, that you remain humble to it and do your thing because you love it, then you have pleasure in doing it. If, on top of that, people like what you do and follow you, it’s amazing. It’s this daily motivation that makes one move forward.”

What is your ‘magic bullet’ to create a good tattoo?

“As we all grow up constantly, it’s not easy to say, but I like spontaneity in tattoos.

“It’s really important to me and it’s the way I work, my current ideal. But there must be a reflection on the place to tattoo the drawing.

“Now I’ve grown up, I realise that I like tattooing simple things, adapted to the body shape and that will instantly be enhanced by the place it is tattooed. The bigger the tattoo is, the more details I can add. I think it also ages better this way. Everything works well for me, but this doesn’t mean I don’t want to work differently sometimes and enjoy tattooing smaller things.”

In only a year and a half in Canada, it seems like you’ve come a long way. Tell us a bit about the differences between France and Canada with regards to the tattoo industry and the relationship your customers have with tattoos – I guess there are ‘mentality differences’ between Europe and North America?

“We feel that North American society is young, in their mentality and all the rest, in the good sense! I think it is an important reason why tattoo is so successful here. I feel it everyday, and through my customers too.

“They are not afraid of getting a big tattoo, leaving me almost totally free to draw it.

“As far as the dark style is concerned, we can totally feel the influence of American artists on Canadian tattoo artists. In their artistic approach as well as their techniques.”

You’re so busy, is there ever any downtime – and what do you do with it?

“I try to do a lot of sports when I have some free time. It helps me clear my mind but also keep in shape, physically and mentally, because when you tattoo, you need to!

“I also enjoy cinema a lot, I can watch three movies in a row. I also like video games, maybe less than movies though – they take too much time.

“I would like to start playing music again some day, I am surrounded with great musicians, but, I guess we can’t do everything we want, but some day I will, for sure.”

What does the immediate future hold in store? Come to that, what does the long-term future look like? Are you able to plan that far ahead?

“I see myself working hard to draw and I’m soon going to attend a private art school based on realism – once a week for a few months. It will do me some good and allow me to spend some time with artists who are not from the tattoo industry; it will also help me improve my graphical style.

“Other than that, tattoo conventions of course! I will take part in a few this year; New York, Miami, Las Vegas, Toronto and Montreal. And maybe some more in Europe. I can only project myself one year forward. Nobody knows what the future holds for us, but I try and anticipate a bit.

“There are so many things going on in this industry that it becomes hard to plan something.”

What was your feeling of Montreal’s tattoo convention this year?

“All of us representatives of dark style – we were together at the same place and we spent an amazing weekend there. Art Tattoo Montreal is an incredible convention and it’s getting better as time goes by thanks to the work Pierre, Valérie and Pascal do. The place is really nice and the mood is good; relaxing and very Montreal-like in the end. The level is good and there are a lot of artists, even if old school/new school tend to be the dominant styles. It goes with the general tendency of tattoos in the world, and it doesn’t leave me a lot of room to do some dark projects.”

Any last words?

“I would like to thank my wife, most of all, without whom nothing would be possible. She is the one who takes care of everything in the shop, and she’s doing a wonderful job. God knows it’s a lot of work between public relations, the team, the communication, organisation for conventions… and also my friends Jack, Toxyc and R.T.C, who have always been here for me.

“And if anybody is interested. we are still looking for a fourth artist to work permanently with us!”

(514) 497 0520


Text & Photography: P-Mod; Translation: Fiona Bergson