Marin Urbanc - Gandalf Tattoo
I’ve started tattooing at a considerably young age, when I was 15. At 1986 we were kids from the neighbourhood of Dubrava, Zagreb, who were carried away by punk and metal, and identified themselves with characters from at that time playing bands, who were because of their tattoos, an integral part of their image, marked as outcasts.
It was very important to have a tattoo. Since I had drawing skills, I enlisted for the job. Although, honestly, drawing skill was not of crucial importance to understand a good tattoo. “Slayer” or “Exploited” on someone’s skin could have been done by anyone, just as an “A” inside a circle. Tattoos at that time were very simple, and a reflection of rebellion against the society, not a mere decoration of skin. The tattooing technique we used was far below the level of tattooing in a military service or in a jail. With a needle wrapped with sewing thread, and black ink bought in a nearby bookstore was implemented under the skin; the whole procedure lasted a very long time and was extremely painful, and the results were- from an aesthetical point of view - just OK, at best.. But those were the beginnings of the beginnings, nothing comparable with the tattooing produced in, for our conditions, very advanced Germany, or even America.
In the beggining of 1992. the first legal Croatian tattoo studio has been opened in Zagreb - Roby’s tattoo shop. I thought that in those circumstances I have nothing more to look for in the tattoo world, and I almost gave up the whole idea. But, Roby accidentally saw some of my “works”, and decided to offer me a job. It was the best thing that happened to me until then, and I felt as a kid who has been dreaming about being a pilot, and then, suddenly, the Air Force decides to recruit him. It was the beginning of my professional career.
I worked at Roby’s for a few years. When I quit, I applied for and add I found in a Tattoo paper. A tattooist from Frankfurt- Alf Diamond- was looking for a tattooist. I sent him my work in a letter, and he was very pleased with them. I remember that he told me that I have great potential to become a good tattoo artist, but that my tattooing demands training.
I went to Frankfurt in 1996. and I started my apprenticeship at FTA ALF DIAMOND’S TATTOO STUDIOS. Only then I understood what tattooing actually is, and by seeing what goes into it and how it is done, I realized that the stories about “self-taught” craftsmen doesn’t stand on solid ground. I realised that the truth was brutally simple - the one that doesn’t know anything, can’t be self-thought. After just a couple of months in Frankfurt I gained so much knowledge and skills, I couldn’t gain in Zagreb within a lifetime.
Two years later, in 1998. at Ribnjak in Zagreb, Croatia I opened my own Tattoo Studio Gandalf, and started to work on my own. Two years later, I hired Stela, and I taught her the job that we’re doing together to this day. I want to thank all of my friends, tattooists, illustrators, bands and others who inspired me during the years, and still inspire me to become a better tattoo artist. My special thanks goes to Miroslav Tomas (Tomas Tattoo, Erlangen) for his unconditional help and boundless support during all those years, the man who had the biggest influence on everything I do.