Credit: Blackdot/Tyler Hobbs

Exclusive Interview: An Inside Look at Tyler Hobbs’ Generative Tattoos

BY Erika Lee

October 16, 2023

Blackdot, an Austin-based studio that recently publicly launched, has developed an automated tattooing platform device capable of giving remarkably precise and long-lasting tattoos. Merging hardware, software, and cloud technology, Blackdot offers artists globally the chance to translate their designs into tattoos with less pain and more accuracy.

Blackdot is partnering with multiple artists to create exclusive tattoo designs— including renowned digital artist Tyler Hobbs. Other artists supporting the launch are Omer Tunca and John Craig.

Generative Tattoos

As the creator of the leading Art Blocks project, “Fidenza,” Hobbs is well-known for his innovative work in computation aesthetics, utilizing a combination of algorithms, paint, and mechanical plotters. The pieces in “QQL: Analogs” follow in these footsteps, along with his new venture: generative tattoos.

He told nft now that he decided to partner with the company after learning more about them through mutual friends in Austin. He tweeted the announcement on Oct. 12, saying, “Yes, generative art tattoos are here,” along with a trailer.

Through Blackdot, customers will also be able to commission artists worldwide to design their tattoos. The designs are then scanned into a machine that renders the tattoos through tiny dots — instead of freehand line drawings. The dots will ensure more detail and more accuracy.

“The coolest thing about it is that the artists don’t have to be trained in operating a tattoo machine,” Hobbs said. “They don’t have to be trained tattooists. So it really opens the door for digital artists to participate, and I was very much interested.”

Those who get the opportunity to have Hobbs as their tattoo artist will be able to work with him to choose a type of bird in the style of his “Flyaway” collection to interpret. He will be using a combination of computer-generated and hand-drawn elements.

“The designs also utilize elements that are quite difficult to execute by hand, close parallel lines and small, sharp corners resulting from pixelation effects,” Hobbs said about how the Blackdot technology will upgrade the standard tattoo. “This is a transition to a new artistic medium.”

Hobbs gave nft now an exclusive look inside his tattoo designs, his process, and how he envisions technology reshaping the tattoo industry.

Blackdot Tattoo
Credit: Blackdot/Tyler Hobbs

nft now: How did you get the inspiration for your designs?

Tyler Hobbs: The basic aesthetic coming out of these is based on work that I’ve done since 2020-2021; some of these ideas I used in a series called “F(l)ight.” I’ve always had this fascination with birds, particularly birds in flight. I think they just have a really wonderful energy, and there tends to be a lot of symbolism tied to them. Then, from there, I did studies of that bird and put together drawings by hand that the tattoo would be based on.

Credit: Blackdot/Tyler Hobbs

nft now: Tell us more about the process.

Tyler Hobbs: From there, I digitize the bird and convert it into a format that I can play with algorithmically. So from there, I’m working in code and manipulating the curves and the lines in the drawing and playing them with them in different ways. So, the result is this nice blend of hand-drawn elements and algorithmic elements.

Credit: Blackdot/Tyler Hobbs

nft now: For people who know you best for “Fidenza,” this might be something new and interesting.

Tyler Hobbs: I’m always interested in exploring the possibilities of generative art and new ways of applying it. And so, when I had the opportunity to potentially work with tattoos, that was enormously exciting to me. I really felt that I had to explore that and see what that was like, to see what was possible.

Credit: Blackdot/Tyler

nft now: Just to confirm, these are permanent and not temporary tattoos?

Tyler Hobbs: These are permanent tattoos. And if anything, they should hold up better over time than most manually applied tattoos because it’s so precisely getting ink at the right location.

nft now: When will the tattoos be available?

Tyler Hobbs: So, right now, people can apply for one of the slots that they do have available on the Blackdot website. For now, they’re doing about two tattoos per month. Eventually, it will get more streamlined, and they’ll have more of the devices so they can operate and execute more tattoos every month.

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