Haunting and Beautiful: Sandi Calistro's melancholy portraits capture emotion with gigantic eyes
"Its important to balance the art of tattooing with other forms"
Name: Sandi Marie Calistro
Hometown: New Britain Connecticut
Coffee or Tea: Coffee
Sushi or Burrito: Sushi
Last book you read: I have a 2 year old so … Pout Pout Fish
Advice to live by: you win em’ all... hahah
Every artist should have: small sketch book and pencil
Favorite time of day to draw? Night time
Strangest thing you have in your fridge right now: under eye cream
Favorite bear: a good saison
How long have you been painting, and what got you into art in the beginning?
I’ve been painting for as long as I can remember but I started painting on a regular basis after about three years of tattooing. It was kind of a hobby and something I did not have a ton of time for but I knew it was what I wanted to be doing.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten as an artist (or human)?
I think I learned this on my own by trial and error but I try to let all of the new tattooers know, it’s important to balance the art of tattooing with other mediums that are just for you. And even take it a step further and explore things that are outside of your comfort zone. It helps you grow in every way as an artist.
You work with a lot of different mediums - do you have a favorite? Why?
I guess I touched on this a little bit earlier but I think it’s a very important way to grow and learn as an artist. It’s so fun to make a tiny painting one day just for you —and the next day paint a gigantic mural on the side of a busy street or help a client through a hard time with a lovely tattoo. It’s all very fulfilling in different ways.
What’s the next project you’re looking forward to doing?
I’ve been slowly starting on a fairly large commission piece that I cannot wait to finish. A female figure with bees was the description.
A lot of your work features really unique illustrations of girls and women - are these recurrent characters you draw? Or are the subjects different for each illustration?
The subjects are different every time but they definitely have a similar look to them. It’s not something I’ve done intentionally but it’s definitely a pattern. I’ve always been drawn to art featuring a female focal point with a melancholy feel. I think there’s such a beautiful connection with women and nature.
How do you come up with the ideas for your illustrations/drawings?
I utilize everything in my life as inspirational things I see on the street, people I meet, Pinterest, Instagram, old magazines, movies ... dreams I’ve had.
Did COVID-19 shift the focus of your work, when tattoo shops shut down?
Yes. I had always wondered what life might be if I painted for a living and was not a Tattooer. I think I got a taste of that when I had no choice and I honestly loved it. Although- Painting as my sole income has an element of stress to it that it did not have before and I was not very fond of that part but I was so grateful to learn I could actually earn a living just painting.
You’ve worked on tattoos for a few breast cancer survivors — what was that experience like?
It’s one of the most rewarding types of tattooing I’ve done. Sometimes these clients have a negative association with these scars and we work together to create something that makes us feel strong and beautiful. It’s the type of tattooing that reminds of why I’m doing this.
You seem to have an affinity for big eyes. Is there a reason for that? Or just an element of your style?
It’s something I’ve always been drawn to. It started with anime and not long after that I discovered artists like Mark Ryden. To me, the eyes capture so much emotion.
If you could sit down for a beer (or a blunt or tea or whatever) with any artist dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Probably Frida Kahlo. I look at her work and it reminds me of how my thoughts unfold. Her work moves me so much. I’d love to have a tequila and cigarette with her...
Any upcoming events or happenings?
I’ve just opened my very own tattoo shop! With the help of my lovely husband.
Shameless Plug: Tattoo Dumond 140 W 11th Ave Denver @tattoodumond @sandicalistro