Dillon Forte: Answering Life's Biggest Questions Through Tattoos

For some, geometry was a source of struggle in math class. For California tattoo artist Dillon Forte, it’s the foundation of his passion and his designs.

Taking heavy inspiration from what he’s described as the “sacred geometric nature of existence,” it translates nicely into his art – which TattooYou now carries – and helps us get just a little bit closer to answering our existential queries.

“What I’ve gathered is that these are the building blocks of reality; the archetypal constructs that the world within and around us is made through,” he says. “The more we can gain awareness into the essence of life, the greater understanding we can achieve to the most important questions of who, what, where, when, and how we are who we are.”

Having gotten his first tattoo as a teenager (a five-pointed star on the top of one of his hands), the now-31-year-old Forte – already an avid painter and drawer – entered the tattooing industry following his apprenticeship in 2006 under California tattoo artist Mark Freitas. Since then, Forte has opened his own appointment-only studio, Sri Yantra Tattoo, in Oakland, and would open a second location in Los Angeles (more specifically in Venice) in fall 2018.

His tattoo career has also caught the attention of high-profile celebrities; having done work on fellow tattoo guru Kat Von D, as well as musicians (Kehlani, Imagine Dragons bassist Ben McKee), athletes (NFL linebacker DeAndre Levy), and actors like Chris Hemsworth – the latter appointment being a long time coming for Forte, as the two couldn’t meet up until they both happened to be in Morocco while Hemsworth was in the country filming “Men in Black: International”.

“I had just finished the London [Tattoo Convention] and wanted to go somewhere warmer for a few days. Since Morocco has such an rich ancient beauty and insane geometric influence in their architecture, it was as good a vacation as any,” he says. “Chris was out there filming [the new] Men in Black [movie], ironically enough, so it seemed to work out, it was just a little one for now but we’ve been talking about some big stuff for sure.”

Regardless of whether that “big stuff” has anything to do with Hemsworth’s upcoming role in Men in Black: International, Forte certainly has a flair for sci-fi. Citing the genre as one of his chief inspirations (Star Trek, Star Wars, Mars Attacks! and The Fifth Element are among his favourite sci-fi flicks), he was also once quoted as saying if he could tattoo any person in the world, it would be Elon Musk. When asked what design the enigmatic tech entrepreneur and SpaceX founder might want, Forte thinks he’d “probably want some nerdy engineering diagram, or Earth from the martian’s view, or some Spaceballs theme.”

When discussing the future of tattooing, however, he claims that it could come in the form of virtual reality or A.I. (though he says the latter “terrifies” him), though he wonders if those implementing such technologies have seen films like The Terminator, The Matrix or I, Robot, where artificial intelligence tends not to end well for humans. That said, Forte thinks it wouldn’t be without its upsides. 

“I’m sure people will attempt better reiterations on machines that can print tattoos on to you,” he admits. “I think it would hopefully propel tattooing via real humans to the fine art level of painters, sculptors and other classical high revered art modalities. Tattooing – being the highest risk and craziest of the arts – gets such a low brow appreciation, and I think that's entirely disproportionate. It would also help with the inherent lack of scalability in tattooing.”

As far as his plans for the rest of 2019, Forte says – jokingly or not – that he wants to “build a spaceship,” as well as bring a few of his art concepts to life. He also plans to release a coffee table book; a project he’s already made a well-received prototype for, and one he plans to expand on.

“I have so much content and I really want it to exist somewhere physical, and not just accumulating data space on the internet somewhere, living its life on a server,” he says. “I appreciate the textile feel of real books, and want the work to last forever and not just the lifespan of the individuals. It really has to be put together as a collection of living art made slightly less temporary. The book will also feature a decent amount of personal philosophy, which is nice to go along with it and explain some of the thoughts behind the work.”

To view more of Forte’s artwork and designs, please visit his website at www.dillonfortetattoo.com, his Facebook page, and his Instagram account @dillonforte.

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