My name is Cristian Gherman, I was born during a cold winter of Transylvania, Romania in 1975. The year all vampires decided to quit sucking mortals' blood and become communists. I was born during a communist regime under which the sun shined only when Ceausescu decided so... He never did though. Winter was cold and long, spring rainy and wet, summer hot and dry and fall was boring... Food was rationed and exchanged for small tickets that looked like LSD strips with numbers on them, and the amount granted was solely for survival purposes, nothing in abundance. There wasn’t much to choose from, electricity was always sold to other countries so we lived in the dark most of the time, our faces shining under the candle flickering flames and no, I didn’t have an iPhone or any of those alien devices to discover the world outside our walls… That’s the happy cocoon I was born in. I hated TV, it was only black and white and most time it was off, it was just an expensive ornament, the static from it made a constant buzzing noise and when that noise did faint, it was only for a short time to allow a vision of Ceausescu praising on how great of a country Romania was and how proud we should be. Quite easy to say when the nation is dominated by fear and hunger. That was the wonderful place I was born in. No more vampires, only brave and hungry communist souls, invaded by fear. What a great way to start life...
But yes, in 1989 the Romanian people gathered, by that I mean the mortals, and under big lies and fake agendas they went on the streets demanding freedom, and we got it, they captured him and as a favor they killed him, Ceausescu and his queen. This happened on Christmas day on live TV, obviously so Ceausescu could tell the truth about the killers and their real intentions. This part isn’t too relevant to my bio but it is important to me, why? Because that was the moment I knew I’d be leaving Romania and would become a tattoo artist. Ahaha that’s a lie… I definitely didn’t know that neither what I wanted. Back in the day, tattoos were associated to prisoners and people to whom you wouldn’t want to talk to, or even idiots that got drunk in the army and had the names of their loved ones marked on their skin with a hidden desire of rebellion and no knowledge of art. That reminds me of my father and his tattoos, a lady looking creature but with a crooked face and missing parts of the body, it still had the boobs though :), the ink was pushed in with a sewing needle, made of a mixture of urine and burned shoes parts. It was quite professional and the art work would have been quite outstanding if the initial design was meant to be Arnold Schwarzenegger beat up by Rocky in a B class movie, but no, it didn’t look like my mother. That was my first real recollection of tattoos and no, I never thought I’d become a tattoo artist.
But that was all before 89, later on, my wish and thoughts were focused on escaping that place and be free and as you may have guessed, freedom was just a myth. At age 16 I was working in Bucharest, and driven by a crazy impulse and with US$ 20 worth of money in my pocket, I started the adventure of my life. I took the train, a friend and left. It took 2 weeks to reach Hungary to meet a friend and get a job. 2 weeks instead of a day, though that was due to a lack of money and my non existing wish to buy any train ticket because we couldn’t afford it and the money we had was destined for bread and water. We made it after 2 weeks, we were hungry, dirty and free. How sweet does that sound, right?! We got to a place where people spoke other languages, and in order to eat you need to speak, I learned that fast… not the language, the motto!
There I got jobs in construction, sold stuff in Chinese Markets, worked in clubs, cleaned toilets, building other people’s dreams and hung out with people that later defined my path.
One day, still in Hungary my biker friend came to me and asked if I would join him and hang out while we would get tattooed by his friend, I said yes and that biker guy had a kitchen set up, yes, he was a doctor in the kitchen and as it turned out, I became one too… and not because I wanted to be in the kitchen but back then, being an apprentice came with humiliation and if they wanted to help, it usually would turn out to be the opposite.
-“I want to be a tattoo artist” I once asked at a studio back in Romania after I started tattooing at home. The guy said if I find out that you tattoo I’ll break your legs, now that was the tattoo artist mentality then and helping was a big no-no and sharing experience was like sharing your last day on Earth. It wasn’t easy to become a tattoo artist back in the time, but luckily this guy, and because I was with my good friend, was just like a tattooed angel that was happy to share his experience, a beer and he let me ask questions. I was amazed, I was drunk and I asked if he would let me touch his tattoo machines and also, if I could tattoo for a second. He said “I take a smoke break and if your friend doesn’t mind, go ahead and hurt him” An I did, I was sweating heavily as I started to push the ink though the skin, I started shaking as the noise of the machine hit my ear drums and I went for it... 2 or 3 minutes, working hard to hurt the bastard. When I wiped all the blood and ink, all I had done was gone, I hadn’t done anything, the artist asked me: “So, it all looks easy when you drink beer and sit on the couch looking at how I do it, but it’s all in the details, it’s all technique, before the ink hits the skin…” He explained everything about needles, skin stretching, design types, colors and more stuff but I got too drunk to remember the rest. One thing I was sure of, I wanted to be a tattoo artist and I went for it.
The next day, I was hungover as fuck, I went out and spent all the money I had on tattoo equipment, the best equipment available. At the time in Budapest, the Art tattoo store was selling professional equipment, I got it all and I said “Adios” to the money I had saved to buy an apartment (at the time in Romania you could buy a 1 bedroom apartment with such money), that was the plan but that day and those beers shifted my goal 180 degrees… So that’s how it all begun.
Shortly after I moved back to Romania and I remember the first tattoo was on my brother, next one was on me and after this I did messed up more people. It’s funny to see that without knowledge or any idea of what I was doing, and with the equipment I had, the tattoos came out good and they were better than the tattoos I had seen done in tattoo studios… After that I moved to Spain and there too I was doing a few tattoos but nothing major. By that time I had learned the language, more construction skills and cleaned more kitchens and ended up in Dublin, in the year 2000. That’s where I really started.
I remember after ending my fisherman career and swearing I’d never do another construction or kitchen jobs, I ended up in a studio owned by my next business partner Eoin Orian and asked for a tattoo job or an apprentice position, he told me he’d give me a chance: “Let’s see what you got” he said. After 3 months working with him we decided to open our own shop together, and we did, and another one because we had to close the first one down because of an issue with a lawyer whose office was too close to our shop. I remember the newspaper mentioned that our studio brought in thugs and criminals in the area and generated a price fall and we had to go. That was in 2000 and that was the tattooing reputation in Dublin and Ireland. We were the 6th shop to open in Dublin and the demand for tattoos were shamrocks, the Irish flag, Irish fighters, mom and dad tattoos. I remember one day I did 2 Irish flags on this lady’s forearm and she asked me if it looked too manly, I had to lie and said no, but I learned a lesson there, don’t lie to your customers and don’t do stuff that you don’t really want to do, and never do 2 Irish flags on a lady’s forearm, ever. Eoin, my business partner enrolled me in an art school. I did 2 years as a full time student in classic animation in Dublin. I learned how to draw, to paint and discovered that I hate drawing! Ahaha, I had a pen in my hand every day for 10 hours straight. That was between 2003 and 2005, quite hard times. I was a full time student, a full time husband, a full time father to 2 young amazingly beautiful and annoying kids and worked full time after school in my studio to support my family so they never get hungry, not like I experienced, back in the day.
In 2007 I decided to become a musician, I studied sound engineering for a year and realized after I had spent plenty of money and time away from my kids that I was horrible at music, and came to the conclusion that the music industry will regret that I ever participated in it… Boohooooo!!! Ahaha…
I remember there were times I wouldn’t make enough money to cover rent, everybody was working hard to make a living and they weren’t getting tattoos during the week so I had side jobs. I was a bouncer at some shady club, I went back to construction and did plenty of other insignificant day to day jobs.
In 2008 I decided to try solo, I opened my own studio in an area of Dublin I was advised against, due to the violence and so-called bad area of Dublin, Finglas was the place. But hey, I do things my way and opened it and started a new chapter that brought me where I am today. I started tattooing things I could learn from so I changed my client skills tactics.
- “I want a shamrock”, “I want an Irish flag”.
-“What do you really like?” I’d say.
-“Well, I want a joker and this and that but don’t have the money, there is no tattoo artist that can do this style" etc…
-“Well, I’ll do it for 250, you have all day and you let me do my vision of your idea, and larger in size”
I gradually started charging by the hour as my tattoos got some recognition and a defined style and became known in Dublin for my tattoos.
In 2010 I was invited to join this new trendy “wanna-be” tattoo studio that would have a TV show and they pretended they’d make me famous yadee-yadeeya… I did it and closed my shop down, started filming with them but I realized that it was all for them to make money and grow, so never signed the TV rights and quit. I had enough of all the hipster tattoo vibe, I wanted to be me again, working in a shop where the boss feed you 5 small mom and script tattoos a day, only to make a profit and all the good work was put aside. I realized then how much I loved doing what I did and that included not having a boss. I quit and started on my own again, with a different approach: guest spots from all over Europe in my own private studio, in a penthouse. I loved it and my customers too. I slowly became known in Europe and got invited to conventions and shops parts of the world I wanted to visit, I used to travel to 3 countries a month, I’d have 4 to 6 guest-spots a month and had my Dublin studio and customers, I was happy doing a convention or 2 a month. It was hard work but I was riding the wave of learning and it payed off, I received awards at conventions for best large color piece, best chest piece in the UK at the Great Britain tattoo show, best sleeve at the Dublin convention, 3rd place at Arhus for realism, and a few magazine coverage. That was the first 2 years of my adventure.
When I planned on moving to Spain after 13 years of living in Ireland, I got the opportunity to come to the USA and work at Last Rites, one of the most reputable shops in the world owned by Paul Booth, so I did it. I came and hung out a bit but I think the freedom and the life I had before made me decide to leave and start all over again. I was now in the States and started doing guest-spots and ended up opening a private studio. Not in a penthouse but in an amazing location in Manhattan, under the same roof as world-known artists. Since then I got more tattoo magazine features, more tattoo awards, I quit some tattoo sponsors that I want to give a big thank to, for the trust and honor they gave me to be part of their team. Then I got asked to participate in a TV show and my condition was for me to wear my own clothing brand and they agreed. I have a growing clothing line named “Art Is Pain” as seen on that show, make sure get yourself one while the batch lasts as some are small editions.
The show is Ink Master and I was on season 7 while I lasted… I had to leave though due to fake bullshit drama that doesn’t really apply to my life story :)
In June 2016 I opened an art gallery in Lower Manhattan called Art Is Pain Gallery and my tattoo studio. So far I'm alive, happy and ready for more adventures in life. Maybe one day our paths will cross and I’ll have the pleasure to hurt you guys or sell you some art…
Here are some of my life stories and decisions I made that brought me here.
I lived in 7 countries, speak 5 languages, had over 100 jobs, was married twice, have 2 amazing kids and one life to live…
“Today Is A Warm Up for Tomorrow” is my motto
“Art Is Pain” is my slogan and part of my life
Check out Cris's tattoo gallery for a sampling of his work. Ready for the pain, contact him direct and book your consultation.