Artist Spotlight: Mawi "Mawi Wowie" Dubale - Part 1


We first met Mawi Dubale at a tattoo show in Portland, Oregon.  He tried our products and gave us great feedback.  His interest and support of Ink Defense products led to him being a part of our Ink Defense Pro-team.  Besides his on-going support of Ink Defense, he has had some incredible growth in is tattooing career. Learn more in this entry of Ink Defense’s Artist Spotlight. 


How did you get started tattooing

MD: When I was managing a jewelry store, I noticed that one of the employees had some crappy tattoos.  I thought ‘why would you pay for this?”. I had thought about tattooing and it might be cool to do; I drew but had not taken an art class.

When I hurt my back, I was off my feet for two months. I was looking through an old yearbook and saw where I mentioned I would like to try tattooing. So, with time on my hands, I started researching and learned everything I could about tattooing.  I started tattooing on my friends. Those tattoos weren’t the best but my homies loved it.  I did that for about a year, even got some shout-outs from friends.  It became my starting base.  

I went to a shop, talked with the owner to see about working there and he asked “when could I start?”.  So, I took a huge leap of faith; I quit my job and started tattooing.  I didn’t know where it would take me, but I also knew I didn’t know when this chance might come around again. 

I was focused.  I tried different machines, setups and suppliers, I wholly invested every dollar into my tattooing.  I started guest spotting locally and I learned a lot of different stuff; how shops do things, how artists set up their trays.  I would not book out, just so I could have time to watch and learn from other artists while guest spotting.


What is your favorite style of tattooing?

MD: I started with neo-traditional but doing Nippise Hussle I found I was on it – black and grey, portrait realism. It is important to decide what style you want to do and excel at.  I personally don’t take on everything, every style. For instance, I stopped doing coverups.  Even though it was case-by-case, I felt I had to adjust so much and I was never fully satisfied with the outcome.  To me a coverup is like painting over another painting.  I can’t make everyone happy.  It doesn’t mean I can’t do it, but I have learned, for me, that focusing on styles I am good at helps me avoid burnout. 

(Portrait of Nippise Hussle done by Mawi Dubale)

What makes you different?

MD: I do stuff that makes a statement. It isn’t about being good or great.  I look at it personally, my client, their personality.  Their skin is the canvas.  It is important to know when to draw the line; what is your artistic license vs what your client wants.  I want to create art that reflects their soul and personality.  It shows because the art is detailed but is also about the person.  I put in 110% of myself into the design.


Mawi “Mawi Wowie” Dubale lives in the Washington DC area where he owns Obsidian Ink Studio.  He is actively promoting his craft by tattooing and teaching up and coming artists.
Learn more from Mawi in Part 2 of Artist Spotlight