Philippe Lantoine first earned his stripes as an artist and creative mind by doing tattoos. Under the alias Gummy, he quickly became a respected tattoo artist, especially for his stubborn adherence to the hand-poke method. Later, he took the plunge and started working as an illustrator. In the meantime, he has a series of designs under his belt, which he made for music labels, artists and Yugen. In conversation with this free spirit.
What draws you to the artistic world?
What I love above all is that I can let my creativity run free. I can bring my craziest ideas to life on paper or through tattoos. And when people start to appreciate that, that is the icing on the cake.
You have already made a name for yourself in the tattoo world as Gummy. Your handpoke technique is typical. Why handpoke?
I just think it is a beautiful technique. Handpoke has been in decline among tattooists and the public in recent years. It is seen as an amateurish style, a DIY, something anyone can do at home. That negative connotation is unjustified. Handpoke, where a tattoo is placed dot by dot, is just the most traditional and authentic form of tattooing. In the days before electricity, works of art were immortalised with needle and ink. Of course, a handpoke takes much longer than a machine tattoo, but the technique is much gentler on the skin and it is a unique experience. No two handmade tattoos are the same. And the result is great too: handpokes often look much more organic.
Your works often appear in a musical context. You have worked with bands and labels.
Absolutely. Nowadays, we are overwhelmed by stimuli and activities and we don't know what to do first, partly because of the arrival of the Internet. But I am a child of the 70s. Television and music, that was my entertainment. So I became fascinated with music from a very young age. I didn't have the means to take music lessons, so vinyl was my refuge. That fascination is still there today, which is why I like to seek the connection with music. But in fact, it happens quite spontaneously. Once you have made some designs for musicians that are to their liking, similar questions soon come in. For me, that really feels like a dream, because I am combining the two things that are closest to my heart. Fantastic, isn't it?
What challenges have you encountered as an artist?
One of the most difficult things is the relationship with the client and finding a compromise. I find it very important that I get along well with everyone who wants a tattoo from me. After all, you are putting something permanent on his or her body, which makes you inextricably linked to each other for the rest of your lives. That connection with the client is also important when it comes to deciding on a design. At the beginning of my career, people often came to me with very different requests. It was then essential to have a good conversation if you wanted to obtain a design that satisfied both client and artist. Nowadays more and more people want tattoos in my style, so that's always good. But in any case, a good relationship with your customers is very important: if the atmosphere is not right, getting a tattoo will be a difficult and unpleasant process. The reverse is also true, of course. If there is a good vibe, the tattooing will be much more pleasant and the work logically more satisfying.
Do you draw inspiration from certain artists?
Difficult question. Musically speaking, I am crazy about the London funk/jazz band The Heliocentrics, who release incredibly uplifting and inspiring music. This collective around drummer Malcolm Catto finds it extremely difficult to be pigeonholed and experiments to its heart's content. On their latest album, '13 Degrees of Reality', they explore latin, jazz, afrobeat and musique concrète, among other things. Really edgy.
In the world of art, Frida Kahlo is an absolute hit and a model artist. How she broke taboos, painted outside the lines and profiled herself as a free woman is incredibly inspiring. But of course, Kahlo's tragedy and bohemian nature are also particularly intriguing. It is unbelievable how her life full of pain, as she struggled with a very bad health, can be read in her work.
As far as tattooists go, I love Guy Le Tatooer and Kat Blackstone. You can call me a groupie if you like, but you can do nothing but admire these artists. It is hard to grasp how Guy Le Tatooer, as a turbulent personality with an adventurous life, could build a such a career. Kat Blackstone, on the other hand, is iconic because of the Oriental-inspired works brimming with ancient symbolism. But actually, I try to let my work be guided as little as possible by other influences and to base it mainly on my own creativity.
For Yugen, you illustrated the design of the Ginger Lemon flavour a few years ago. How do you look back on that now?
I still stand behind that design 100%. I think the drawing is really the ultimate match for that flavour. The cockerel symbolises a fresh sunrise, a scene that completely fits in with the energetic flavour of Ginger Lemon. And the full, yellow lines, flowing into a sun-drenched landscape, show the beauty of nature. I think that was essential when creating a design for Yugen. After all, this is a sustainable brand that emphasises the importance of nature and is committed to organic and healthy. What could be better than a drawing that embodies the reconnection between man and nature?
What do you see yourself doing in the next ten years?
Opening a café is still on my wish list. But one that is filled to the brim with vinyl. All regular customers can put an album on the table. The café should become a creative space where like-minded people can meet, enjoy, experiment and create. Meaningful conversations, listening to music, tattooing: it should all be possible!