Dillon Forte goes where no tattoo artist has gone before
By Kamala Kirk
One of the world’s top artists in sacred geometry design, Venice-based tattoo artist Dillon Forte views art as an extension of the body. From Morocco to Mount Everest, he has traveled across the globe, finding inspiration in all corners of the world and amidst nature.
It’s reflected in his harmonious designs.
Forte’s clientele includes Usher, Kehlani, Kat Von D, Imagine Dragons’ bassist Ben McKee and NFL linebacker DeAndre Levy.
One of his most memorable experiences was flying to Morocco to tattoo Chris Hemsworth, who was filming “Men in Black: International.”
“That was one of the most interesting experiences, I came from the London Tattoo Convention and met up with Chris at his hotel,” Forte said.
“We had been talking for a while about doing a piece for him. His daughter was there looking at my drawings and while she was doodling, she created a design based off one of mine, so I tattooed it on his arm. Another time I flew a helicopter out to a location above Base Camp on Mount Everest to do a tattoo for someone.”
On another occasion, Forte tattooed himself while visiting the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. Within the king’s chamber, he tattooed three dots on himself to represent the alignment of the pyramids with the Orion star system.
“I had my tools in a fanny pack and the tiniest little setup, it was a really cool experience,” Forte said.
“I’m super into anthropology and Egyptology. I love learning about history, why we are here, what happened in the past and how that relates to what’s happening now.”
Forte enjoys traveling because it gives him a break from his routine and opens him up to new ideas and inspiration. He regularly attends tattoo conventions around the world and has traveled to Bali, Japan, Nepal, Tahiti, Singapore, Mexico, among other places.
“My parents took me traveling frequently and it’s one of my biggest passions,” Forte said.
“I’m very ritualistic and routine-based, but I also like to have a complete break from that to have new experiences and adventures. I love being outside and I’m really inspired by ancient wisdom, which a lot of people overlook because they don’t understand it. True innovation comes from understanding the past and ancient practices.”
Born in Santa Monica, Forte moved to the Bay Area with his parents and grew up in Oakland and Berkeley.
His mom was an author and his dad was a fashion photographer, so Forte grew up exposed to the arts. The book “The Ancient Secret of the Flower of Life” by Drunvalo Melchizedek fueled his geometric inspiration and has remained a foundation of his work.
“My parents always had books around so I would read about a variety of topics like numerology, astrology and philosophy,” Forte said.
Forte skateboarded and created art as a child and teenager, and enrolled in art classes at Berkeley City College.
He got his start with a tattoo apprenticeship when he was 19, then went on to work at various tattoo shops around the Bay Area before ultimately opening his own studio in Oakland.
“After I broke my ankle skateboarding, I realized I probably wasn’t going to pursue that anymore, so I decided to focus on art,” Forte said.
“The first tattoo I did was on myself – it was a star on my hand in between my thumb and index finger. A lot of people are nervous about the permanence of tattoos, I don’t get that. I got my tattoos as a reminder of impermanence and mortality, you only have about 90 years at best with your tattoos, so I never thought of them as a permanent thing.”
Forte’s signature sacred geometry style features various motifs including mandalas, cubes, line work and black dots, as well as tribal and spiritual influences.
“The term ‘sacred geometry’ was coined due to the architectural styles of temples, churches and mosques, which all use these mathematical principles to inspire awe and give the appearance of perfection,” Forte said.
“I create all kinds of imagery, it’s all black and gray now, I don’t really do color anymore. For me, it’s like a language. I’m trying to say something with my work. I want my work to feel integrated with the body, I call it the ‘infinity pool effect.’ For instance, you look at an arm, it has a silhouette but you don’t see the end of the design, it just continues off forever into the distance.”
Forte said, through his occupation, he enjoys meeting different people and helping them build and share their creative visions.
“I get to hang out and collaborate with different people every day,” Forte shared.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do each day to some extent, and I get to think outside the box to help tell a story that is important and share some insight into the mysteries of our world.
“Creating visual art with needles on another human’s body is way more interesting and high stakes. There’s an element of rebellion and danger that makes it appealing.”
Two years ago, Forte moved back to the Westside and eventually opened shop in Venice Beach.
He recently relocated to a new space on Lincoln Boulevard, which has a private tattoo studio and an art gallery that displays his canvas work and sculptural collaborations.
“I moved back here to switch things up and am way happier now,” Forte said.
“I like the beach, and I love the vibrant and positive vibes here. I’ve been painting my whole life, and even though I spend most of my time tattooing, I try to make limited capacity paintings that are also for sale.”
“My latest collection is a series of abstract geometric paintings about order and chaos. It’s like a study of sacred geometry in the medium that is painting.”
Forte has multiple projects that he’s working on, including a sacred geometry app that will allow people to design and draw, making sacred geometry more accessible.
Forte is also building a marketplace where people can buy and sell tattoo designs with a sense of authenticity.
Last year, Forte launched Forte Tattoo Tech, a line of eco-friendly tattoo products he created as a solution to help solve the issue of excessive plastic use in the tattoo industry.
He custom developed innovative products including ink caps, bottle bags, eco-cling film, rinse cups, razors and clip cord sleeves using natural renewable plant-based resources such as hemp, bamboo, cornstarch and sugarcane.
“Tattooing uses enormous amounts of plastic and non-biodegradable materials,” Forte shared.
“The amount of trash produced is insane, especially by tattoo studios, and it’s only going to continue to increase. I love nature and I don’t want to see it destroyed. We need to make our supplies out of renewable resources. I don’t want to complain about things that I’m not actively changing, so I decided to be part of the solution. I think all things are possible.”
For more information, visit fortetattootechnology.com, dillonforte.com