Greg Casares

Through thick and skin

In the confines of a sterile tattoo parlour, amid the aroma of ink and antiseptic, Greg grasps his tattoo iron tightly, meticulously etching a medieval creature onto the skin of his client’s calf. The rhythmic buzzing of the machine is interspersed with stifled groans, his client’s discomfort an audible testament to the permanence of the art being created. But what is Greg Casares, Audio Visual officer for Group Communications, doing here?

Greg's childhood fascination with art led him to the École Cantonale d'Art de Lausanne, where he immersed himself in film studies, soaking up the works of Tim Burton, Wes Anderson and David Lynch with insatiable appetite. After a brief spell freelancing, making animated movies for public broadcasting TV channels, Greg joined the audio-visual   team at Pictet (“just for a year or two   to get my finances in order”) with the instruction to “bring an artistic touch to corporate films for the bank”]. That was six years ago.

Early on Greg opted for an 80% contract, to allow time to pursue his multiple creative exploits. The medieval and occult arts had long captivated his imagination. From the Brothers Grimm to Hans Christian Andersen, these macabre fables shaped his worldview and his art is imbued with a dark mystique. Using very fine, individual strokes, in imitation of medieval engravings, his sketches are inspired by the likes of Gustave Doré or Albrecht Dürer. 

Greg would regularly post his drawings on Instagram. Encouraged by the fervent following he’d unintentionally built, he began to sell his unique sketches and 1 of 1’s. He was occasionally asked for bespoke pieces with very specific, unusual characteristics, their symbolism, often only fully understood by the requestor. It was here that he discovered a parallel world brimming with ink and artistry: tattoo design.

As the world grappled with the pandemic in 2020, Greg seized the opportunity to experiment with tattooing. “I compulsively bought two cheap machines online and just dived in,” he recalls, amused. Delving into online tutorials and armed with artificial skins, he spent all his free time practicing. “But at some point, you’ve got to try it on real skin, right?” Greg smiles. His forearms are tribute to his trials. “We were in confinement. What better way to understand the pain than to try it on myself?” 

Tattooing, Greg attests, is akin to an artist transitioning from pencil sketches to pen drawings—a shift in technique that demands mastery. The stress of perpetuity accompanies every stroke, a reminder that a tattoo is more than mere doodling. “It’s the last time you get to choose  , once I start, there’s no going back,” says Greg to his customer before turning on the machine. 

Yet, with clients he doesn’t know seeking his designs, a new level of intimacy and pressure came to the forefront. It’s one thing to tattoo yourself, friends or family but when it comes to someone you just met, the social? boundaries are harder to break and expectations are way higher. Every tattoo session comes with a new challenge.  

We were in confinement. What better way to understand the pain than to try it on myself?

Pain, he believes, is a rite of passage, a testament of one's determination to carry their stories through life. “It is the major metric in my work.” It allows him to know how deep he is going and how efficient he is. “If it doesn’t go deep enough, it won’t hurt but it won’t stay,” he explains. Greg avoids the use of colour in his tattoos “just like how I dress, all black” he says, but there are other reasons for this choice. Dyes are riskier in terms of reaction of the skin, diseases and cancer. The final result of a coloured tattoo can also vary a lot between different skin tones.

Despite his tattooing success, Greg treads carefully, balancing his passions with practicality. The prospect of making tattooing a full-time pursuit triggers insecurities and uncertainties. Would monetising his art detract from its enjoyment? He ponders whether the financial pressure would dull the creative spark that currently fuels his work. And the fact is, he loves his job at Pictet. “I have a creative freedom that I never expected coming into a corporate environment. I like my colleagues, new encounters and have way more opportunities than I expected artistically.” 

As Greg continues to spread his artistry across mediums, his journey is an ode to creative exploration. From capturing moments on film to drawing narratives on skin or on paper, his story weaves through diverse expressions of art, just flowing with seemingly no predetermined direction and certainly, no ebb in sight. 

When Greg is not sketching or tattooing, he is an Audio Visual Officer in Group Communications. Follow him on Instagram (#gregcasares) to see his personal work.

Here are the films Greg is most proud of:


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