Frank La Natra grew up drawing, reproducing Disney characters. But when he started tattooing in 1997, it was the old school style that he learned first, struggling to really own his work. At the time, he was trying to stay afloat, treating it “as a quick way to make cash”, he once said.
Flash forward, years later, after he moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida: La Natra has gone back to art school, embraced the world of ink, and become a true tattoo artist in his own right. The animated, cartoon style tattoos are still where he feels the most inspired as an artist. “For me its the narrative, illustrative style I love doing most,” he once told Skin-Artists.com. “Always full color. I like when I can tell a story with my artwork.”
"De Fied Fiddler" - 24x48" Oil Painting. "It is my rendition of the pied piper, The fiddler leading his monster army of man-eating pumpkins. This is a tortured boy forced into decisions that were not his own, which was the death of him, and now he comes back leading his army to haunt the one who did it to him. His own mother."
"Tails of Woe" - "Digital Painting for a full back piece I am working on. It is a tale from his chilhood and his obsession with climbing tress and catching small critters."
Today, La Natra’s skills are in high enough demand that he chooses to focus most of his time on these designs, and 90% of the creative thought behind his tattoo designs come from him—not the input of his client. In other words, people get La Natra tattoos because they know what he’s about and know he’s going to design them some stellar work.
Most of La Natra’s designs based on animation tend towards the playful or even cute, but he’s an artist of considerable flexibility. This design, called “Vampire Attack”(above), melds Batman and vampires, exaggerating the Dark Knight’s dark side for dramatic effect.
"Apocalypse Alice and Hatte" - "Just my spin on a post apocalyptic version of Alice in Wonderland. Eventually it will be a full sleeve and I will add a few more characters. I tried to give it an animated and cute yet disturbing feel at the same time by using certain expressions with the characters."
La Natra’s cartoon-style designs have a comic feel to them, often playful even when they’re a bit on bizarre or grim side, an element of complexity that suits tattoo art well.
"Wickets Wild Ride" - "Another spin on a classic in my own style. As a huge Star Wars fan, I wanted to add an almost cute look yet keep the violent battle. This actually is a full back leg sleeve."
"American Firefighter" - "Another animated approach to a common theme. Combining certain elements into a more character based and moving feel."
Some designs tap into the nostalgic feel of older-style animation and illustration from old pin-ups, Looney Tunes-type cartoons, etc. Fans of this type of art don’t have much in the way of specialists to turn to, but La Natra fills the niche admirably.
"To Thine Own Self" - "This is an in-progress sleeve. This represents her and her first 6 steps of NA. Her reverted child-like self defeating the monster she had become that drove her addiction. Each character represented a piece of the tale."
This piece is unfinished, but again relates the artist’s ability to capture the style and soul of the original media he’s recreating.
"Separation of Church & State" - Digital Painting, "A different spin on a political stance. I relate a lot of things in life to chess."
For straight-up cute designs, La Natra may just be one of the greats. His lifelong appreciation of Disney and Pixar animation has rubbed off in his ability to nail those happy, light-hearted designs with colorful ease.
"Blood of Life". - "Is a massive cover up of 6 tattoos and I combined the theme of all of the pieces we covered up into one giant piece to illustrate the death of her aunt and birth of her children. From death, life blooms is the theme of this one."
La Natra’s style is also particularly well suited to sleeves and large body-scaled pieces, since inking a full scene (a “narrative” design, as he's called it) allows him to create colorful backdrops.
"Undead Wolvie" - "My spin on classic comic book characters. This is the start of a massive battle that will take place across his body."
"Perfect Balance" - "Its all based strongly on balance in every form of the way from good and evil to male and female. It is a very cartoon like and animated take on a very traditionally Japanese style."
La Natra is a generally well-rounded artist who’s capable of inking any sort of design he wants, but he’s really the go-to man for people who love full color illustration and animation-style tattoo designs, the kind of art he grew up on—the kind of art closest to his soul as an artist.
"Crest of Cobian"- "My rendition of his family crest. Took the elements that made up his crest and brought them to life in one large piece."
"Death Blooms" - "Just tried adding a more animated and new school feel to something that is usually traditional. I paid particular attention to reflective lighting and color on this one especially in the water and lotus."