Dan Lorenzo: When did you first get into martial arts?
Ray Mandal: Actually, one of my college art teachers Don Ianucci introduced me to martial arts. I had to take a gym class as a requirement and he taught tai chi, so it was a no-brainer. It turned out I loved it and joined the martial arts school he was affiliated with. They also taught kung fu, so after being immersed in tai chi, I gave kung fu a whirl and it just took over my life.
Have you ever had to use your martial arts knowledge in "real life" for protection?
The best thing martial arts has taught me is to walk away. So I’ve used that lesson more times than I can remember. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone except myself and family. It's also taught me that through “hard work” — the literal translation of kung fu — and constant, never ending improvement, any goal I set for myself is achievable. That’s the "real life" shit.
Watch your language, Ray! What are your favorite styles to tattoo?
I have a few favorite styles: color realism, watercolor, black and grey realism, geometric/black work and what I like to call abstraction, or just a mash up of all the styles listed. For example, I did a Japanese piece using fundamental design rules of Japanese tattooing and added water color and geometric elements. Anytime I can bend the rules, I’m happy.
What's your equipment setup?
Right now I use a few different machines depending on the tattoo. An InkJecta for my black and grey, Ink Machine Stingray for my line work, and a Bishop Magi for color. I fell into the trap of one machine for all, but felt each machine I used fell short in one area. So, I went back to specialized machines. I’ve been using World Famous Ink since I moved to Renaissance, and I’m really enjoying it for color work. I switched to Recovery Stencil Lock for my stencil application. It's super easy to apply with no bleed and really keeps the stencil on for a long time. Aftercare I’ve been using Recovery Derm, which is really easy to apply. I like that it's not as sticky as some other brands. I’ve had layers of skin come off personally with other derm brands and has affected surrounding tattoos.
Where do you envision yourself ten years from now?
So like every tattooer, I think working less and making more money would be the ultimate goal. But in the meantime, I envision shop ownership as part of the big picture. Also, traveling more domestically and internationally doing conventions. Also, getting back into my artwork and teaching are goals of mine. And, furthering my own art education is a great way to stay fresh. I’m always a student first.