Tattooing is one of the oldest cultural practices that has remained relevant and thrived as we go deeper into the digital age. The mix of old and new is all over tattooing — from the revival of ancient, deeply cultural techniques to the many social media pages celebrating the art and the people who wear it. And even as the mores changed and tattooing fell in and out of fashion, we’ve ended up at the time when it’s mainstream.
Mainstream doesn’t mean tattoos have become dull or lost their artistic edge. With his work exploring the micro-realism style of tattoos, Fernando Unda is one of the artists bridging the gap between the old and the new, setting the wearable art form on an upward trajectory in the 21st century.
His journey into tattooing started in Mexico eight years ago. “Initially, I practiced on my friends and gradually honed my skills in black and gray tattoos,” he recalls. “This allowed me to master the manipulation of larger groupings. I was captivated by micro-realism’s intricate details and delicate nature, which led me to pursue this style.”
The style that gained popularity through the works of Oscar Akermo piqued his interest, leading Fernando to pursue the high level of precision and skill required for high-quality micro-realistic tattoos. Fernando wasn’t one to create larger pieces, finding the challenge in the minuscule.
“People sometimes think the bigger the piece, the harder it will be, right? But it’s the opposite. The smaller the piece, the harder it is if performed correctly,” he explains. “So I started working on smaller pieces and focused more on perfecting my geometric composition.”
Although belonging to a style, Fernando wants his work to feel distinctly his own. He has a self-professed love of circles, which he tries to incorporate into his work. He likes the contrast between hard and thin lines. He uses a single font in his lettering. He even goes so far as to mix his ink, creating grays that heal better, letting his customers see how they’ll look only a day after the session.
“Contrary to common belief, I don’t just use single needles for my style. I use a combination of traditional and single needles,” says Fernando. “Bigger needles are challenging to work with for tiny pieces, but they result in better healing. Tattoos created this way rarely need touch-ups and don’t fade if done properly.”
Looking at his place in the broader body art community, Fernando Unda is on his way to creating a legacy. His life before tattooing is a part of his unique story — he worked in finance before leaving it to focus on becoming a tattoo artist. His brush with medical issues that threatened to leave him paralyzed eventually gave him the will and the clarity to devote his work to acquiring skills and creating beauty.
His meticulous work ethic is another thing that makes Fernando one of the top artists working at the moment, and he makes sure to be where the action is happening. “I have my booth in the shop called Ganga Tattoo. It’s a huge name and a huge shop. The owner, Gang, is also Post Malone’s and LeBron James’s artist. He tattoos all the big names,” he says. It’s only a matter of time before Fernando goes the same way.