Florian The Bavarian

Published: 28 May, 2012 - Featured in Skin Deep 212, May, 2012

Hiding out in a tiny village in the mountains of Bavaria, south Germany, Florian Karg has been quietly banging out tattoos that have been impressing collectors the world over. We managed to infiltrate this, normally private tattooist’s lair, getting him to wax lyrical about his amazing work.

So, first off, how did your love of all things ink come about?

"I have been tattooing since I was about 18 years old… so about six years now. For a couple of years before that, when I was still in school, I started to study and learn more about tattooing; the whole tattoo scene and the craft. Art class was always my favourite in school, so I started to draw and create tattoo designs from an early age. But I grew up in the country where tattoos were rare, not holding any respect."

With your home town frowning on tattoo culture, how did you go about getting yourself trained up?

"I started out by tattooing myself, I never did an apprenticeship. I tried to figure it all out by myself. I watched other artists at conventions to learn how to tattoo. But I definitely wanted to become a tattooist, so I just did it and eventually opened up my own shop. It was a really hard time at the beginning; I held two jobs for almost two years so that I was able to pay my rent."

Tell us a little more about the studio and its location.

"Our studio is in a little village near a cow barn in Weiler, Bavaria, in southern Germany. As I mentioned before, it is in a very countrified region near the Alps, not far away from Austria. It is a very quiet and nice place, without stress and perfect for being on vacation. So we’re not a typical walk-in shop in the middle of a town. There are two artists in the shop, myself and a buddy of mine, Robert. I met Robert a year after I opened the studio. He came in and asked me if it was possible to work with me and I thought, ‘why not?’ He was able to draw very well and he was a nice guy. He has worked in the shop for almost five years and we have become really good friends. I think a big part of it is because we’ve built up this shop from nothing and we did it all by ourselves."

Your studio sounds like it is in a really remote and small area, how does this work out with not having the regular pool of walk-in clients available?

"Most of our clients come from far away and combine a holiday in the area with getting their tattoo. That works really well as the clients are really relaxed when they get here. I had never thought about opening a shop. I tattooed at home, but as I got more and more customers, it became necessary to open up the shop."

Have you ever thought about moving to a more 'accessible' studio in a city?

"I love to be outside, to take a walk and to enjoy our countryside and nature. I like that I can walk about in nature after a days work. It relaxes me and brings me back down to earth. I like to be with friends and have a good time, but mostly I’m working to improve myself. So I guess, the answer is no. I like it where I am.

"Paul and I visit Austria and Switzerland, but most of the time for conventions. We love to visit conventions in general. It’s always a great chance to talk to other tattooers and have a look at their work, and it’s perfect to get inspiration and show your work to potential customers as well."

I’ve seen some of your artwork – I assume this is a big part of your life, alongside tattooing?

"I am an artist as well as a tattoo artist. I spend most of my time working in the shop. I love to draw and to paint. A lot of different art and mediums appeal to me; I love to paint with oil or acrylic on various backgrounds, such as canvas or paper and even skateboards. I really enjoy doing graffiti on canvas or walls. Sometimes on whatever I can find. I have painted on human bones and animal skulls before. I find the difference between painting and tattooing is not so big as far as the design is concerned, but the process is quite different. Also, when working on skin for tattooing, everything is smaller whereas with paintings, your scope is thrown wide open. For example, on a wall you can do a face maybe three metres big!"

Your realistic and black & grey work is amazing, is this a style you’ve been most comfortable with from the off?

"From the very beginning I was fascinated by faces, whether they were real or fantasy, demons or women. But they’ve always had some kind of realism about them. It’s always a challenge to do a realistic tattoos. I like to ‘fight’ with all those details and to see how the tattoo slowly builds up and gets more and more real. I love to do both black & grey and colour tattoos, but black & grey is what I started with and what I like the most. Those tattoos have a really special, unique mood. They are always kind of majestic to me, it’s hard to explain. Colour tattoos are my second favourite because you can create one and the same picture in different ways just by changing the colours. You can create different moods and interesting backgrounds, but black & grey portraits will always be my favourite."

Any other styles that appeal to you?

"I do lot of crazy tattoos. There are tattoos that look funny, extremely realistic or whatever, but nowadays there is no real ‘crazy’. You can do a fat red cross over a realistic skull, or a mad comic mosquito with eyes bigger than its whole body… you can even tattoo a slaughter scene from a horror movie and it’s acceptable. There is no real ‘crazy’ anymore."

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

"There are a lot of artists that I admire who are idols, whether they are tattooers, illustrators, painters, or musicians. I get my inspiration from all of them. I don’t really want to state a preference of one over the other, they have all helped… and if I have to write them down it would fill a book, and I’m definitely better doing tattoos than writing books. Tattooing and drawing are the most important things, there’s nothing more besides that. This is what makes me happy and satisfied. I love to go on conventions, to make tattoos and to get tattoos."

Any last words to leave the readers with?

"The tattoos I do are not mine they belong to the customers. I try to do what they would like to have while putting in as much creativity as possible. My goals are to do constantly good work, give the best that I can, and get better and better. My whole focus is on the work and the studio – and probably a house, a wife and kids in a few years."

Florian Karg

Vicious Circle Tattoo
88171 Weiler I. Allgau Germany



Text: Trent Aitken-Smith; Photography: Florian Karg