Interview with Jessica O

We chat to 28-year-old tattoo artist Jessica O who works out of Lado Clássico Tattoo in Blumenau, in the south of Brazil, about what inspires her traditional style and the tattoos she creates… 

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How long have you been tattooing? I’ve been tattooing for about three years now, counting my apprenticeship.

How did you start? I had tattoos and loved them, but never imagined myself as a tattoo artist because I was afraid of creating bad tattoos. I was in a very bad year of my life, at the end of 2012, I had just quit an awful job and wasn’t happy at all with my professional life. So I decided to do what I had always loved the most: drawing. Then I started to study and understand tattoo flash and read about the old tattooers, Coleman, Bert Grimm, Percy Waters, Dietzel and fell in love with it all. A friend of mine saw my paintings and offered me an apprenticeship at his studio and here I am today!

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What did you do before? Do you have a background in art? I worked within the fashion and product development sector of the textile industry. I have been drawing since I can remember, but I’ve never taken classes for it.

How would you describe your style? I don’t know,  it’s too detailed to be traditional and too simple to be neo traditional I guess. But I like to say traditional. I try to make tattoos that are solid and long lasting, anatomically correct (little OCD especially with hands), bright and beautiful to look at from close and far away.

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What inspires you? I especially like vintage photography, circus and old postcards. I love looking at old tattoo flash sheets, and the history behind tattooers and tattooing. Early renaissance paintings are beautiful but I’m most of all I’m inspired by people that make things with love.

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Do you admire any artists? Do they influence your work? I admire a lot of today’s artists, too many to count! For the most part they’re women. Since the beginning of my career I have looked up to lady tattoo artists. I discovered Ashley Love, Claudia de Sabe, and I thought “God, I hope to be this good someday!

What kinds of things do you like to tattoo and draw? Mostly human figure, ladies, cats, dogs, mermaids, roses and hands.

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Can you tell us about your own tattoos? On the palms of my hands I have a butterfly, that was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced. Most of my tattoos were done by friends and people that I admire. I mostly choose flash from the person I’m getting tattooed by. I plan on going to Europe to get tattooed by a lot of awesome people someday soon!

Interview with Mermaid Moon Child

19-year-old Hayley Sunter is a business student and blogger from Bradford. We chatted to Hayley about how she started her blog www.mermaidmoonchild.wordpress.com and her tattoo collection… 

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When did you start blogging, how did you get into it? I started blogging September of this year, what got me into blogging was just a passion for writing, I also wanted to share and talk about things I love.

What kind of things do you blog about? I don’t like to see myself as a typical beauty blogger not that there is anything wrong with that, I just wanted my blog to be more. I blog about things such as mental health, my tattoos, life updates and if I do talk about beauty products I am always promoting cruelty free ones. I like to see my blog as a somewhat visual and online diary,  I am a very open about my life online as I hope some of my life struggles and achievements will either help or inspire people who come across my blog.

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How would you describe your style? Honestly I have people try to label my style as many things but for me personally I get fashion inspiration from alternative women, typically on Instagram so I would label myself as alternative.

What inspires you? I get inspiration from a lot of different things from compassion and kindness I see online, to people loving themselves and being truly happy the way they are in their body. I feel like the world wants us to dislike at least one thing about ourselves and seeing people overcome that inspires me to love myself and others.

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Do you have a favourite artist, designer or musician? Or someone you admire? The person I admire the most is a tattoo artist called Hannah Pixie Snowdon, I first came across her on Instagram when I saw some of her tattoos and that is one of the first times I fell in love with heavily tattooed women. I then went on to get more inspired by her outlook on life, she has so much compassion, she is so mindful and she has overcome some dark demons in her life. I plan on getting her portrait tattooed one day, because she has inspired me so much and pretty much changed how I see life.

When did you get your first tattoo? Do you still love it? I got my first tattoo August 2015 just after my 18th birthday, its a little traditional style black cat sat on a moon on my ankle and honestly it was a painful little thing. I do still love it but where it is in terms of placement, it didn’t heal the best and the lines blew out a bit.

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Tell us about your tattoos? Do they help you to see your body differently, do they inspire confidence? I am not the most heavily tattooed person but I plan on being, I currently have four tattoos including my second tattoo – my thigh piece done by Lucy O’Connell at Red Tattoo Leeds. It’s a portrait of my beloved pet ferret Ed who sadly passed last year, he was literally like my fur child so I booked in with Lucy the month he died. My third tattoo is done by Danny at Cobra Club Leeds, it’s of Gizmo from the film Gremlins I just love everything about it!

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My last but not least was done by Tom Flanagan at Odd Fellows in Leeds. This tattoo has a lot of meaning behind it, as it features a love heart with a hand holding a panther paw its a little twist on the traditional style two people holding hands tattoos. I wanted it to represent that animals are here with us not for us. I recently turned vegetarian when I got this tattoo and never looked back.

In terms of do my tattoos make me see myself differently? Absolutely they do, about three years ago I never got my legs out without some fake tan, as I didn’t really like my legs. Now with my legs featuring some beautiful art I love it, I can’t wait for summer so I can get them out again! Each time I get a tattoo I feel more and more like myself.

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Do you have any future tattoo plans? I actually have a tattoo booked just after Christmas which I am looking forward to. As for future plans I plan on adding more and more to my legs first then I will work my way up my body. For years I have wanted my stomach tattooed so I might make plans for that sometime next year.

Do you consider yourself as a tattoo collector? I do, I plan on travelling around the country to different tattoo artists I have admired on Instagram. Luckily some really talented people are based right on my door step in Leeds. I’ll only really stick to one artist if we are working on a stomach or back piece, other than that I want to collect as many different tattoos from different artists that I really admire.

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What kinds of reactions do your tattoos get? Honestly I think I have only had one bad reaction to my tattoos and that has been online, where they were a bit old fashioned and thought that females don’t suit tattoos. Other than that I have had some lovely reactions in person and online. I remember in the Summer I was shopping and the shop assistant asked to look at my legs I was so confused for a second until she commented on how beautiful my tattoos are. Sometimes I forgot they are there I am so used to them now.

Sonia Kolner Illustration

24-year-old Sonia Kolner is an illustrator and retail worker based in Oakland California. We chatted to Sonia about her dark illustrations, what inspires her and her tattoo collection… 

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Inspired by Things&Ink  Sonia created this illustration just for us…

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What medium do you use? How do you create each piece? I use mainly crowquill for my pen and ink work. I also work on printmaking from time to time, mostly consisting of lithography. I create each piece digitally and traditionally. The end result is always fully traditional, however I like to collage digitally beforehand. It makes planning a lot quicker and I can scan/scale elements easily. I am committed to the idea of being a pro at Photoshop slowly but surely.

What do you like to draw? I love drawing anything anatomy related, eyes, patterns, distorted or conjoined things. I also find comfort in drawing nature such as flowers, and of course snakes and bats.

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What inspires you? Really, really good music. I would say a lot of creative people whether it’s other artists, musicians, skaters, writers, etc. Also, any other unique beings who have their own style, tastes and opinions that I find to be inspiring and good to converse with. A few of my close friendships inspire me, as I find myself getting into unexpected deep conversations with them about life, death, trust, and everything in between. Often what inspires me as well is other people’s stories. I always treasure when someone trusts me enough to open up about their suffering and or other personal things. Because it’s an extreme challenge, those small moments inspire me and I hold them dearly. Other than that I would say last but not least, nature, animals, and old school Japanese art. The list could go on!

How would you describe your style? Organized chaos. Visually and emotionally.

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Are there any other artists that you admire, do they influence your work? Of course. My current favorites are Suehiro Maruo and Junji Ito. I love both artists work because of not only their talent, but also the psychological twists to their pieces and stories. I enjoy art that’s intriguing and leaves me wondering. I never liked comics, but Junji Ito’s Uzumaki series is gory, emotionally haunting and nothing short of brilliant. Besides them, about two years ago I used to have a long list of artists, but now I find I get most of my inspiration from old books, music, and certain conversations.

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Can you tell us about your own tattoos? I have quite a few so I’ll just talk about my two most recent ones that I drew and designed that mean the most to me. I got conjoined Japanese Noh Masks in June, done by Arielle Coupe. In September I got a chrysanthemum done by Michael Deschenes. The tattoos are on the same forearm, one in the front and the other in the back, close to the elbow. Both of them are super talented and translated my drawings onto skin seamlessly. I’m planning to get a snake that sort of intertwines itself among these two current tattoos.

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What drives you to create work that draws upon the motifs and the style of tattooing? Pen and ink stippling/hatching style is my driving force. I like how much dedication and patience it takes.  I never used to think that my work drew upon tattoo motifs, until anyone who saw my work would asked me if I either a) Would design them a tattoo, or b) If I would consider being a tattoo artist. That’s when I started to notice a pattern and blackwork translates quite easily into a tattoo these days.

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Do you do commissions? Where can people buy your work? Absolutely. You can contact me through my website and we can chat. www.soniakolnerillustration.co. You can purchase my work on Society6 https://society6.com/soniakolnerillustration

Film Review: Kubo and the Two Strings

Hobbyist reviewer Harry Casey-Woodward reviews a cool kid’s movie, the magical epic of Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo and the Two Strings, 2016, cert PG, dir Travis Knight, 3/5

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The best kid’s films have some basis in the oldest stories. See Disney’s biggest successes for example. So what with a lot of the classic fairy tales having been filmed (or re-filmed in the case of Disney’s recent remakes), it’s always exciting when a new family film comes along based on something that isn’t princesses and palaces.

Enter Kubo and the Two Strings, a dazzling mix of stop motion and computer animation with a story set once upon a time in Japan. I don’t know which parts of the story are based on actual Japanese folklore and which are made up, but the movie has a rather authentic mythic feel even when it’s served with dollops of Disney-style, family-friendly goo.

Kubo is a boy with a rather emo fringe that hides his missing eye. This eye was stolen from him by his grandfather and the film opens with Kubo and his mother fleeing their wicked relatives during a storm. Cut forward a few years and Kubo lives with his mother in a cave just outside of town.

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Kubo spends his time in the town below, entertaining people with violent samurai stories and acting them out with his enchanted origami. He brings the paper to life by playing a two-stringed, guitar-like instrument that is the source of his powers. So he’s having fun, until one day he accidentally stays out too late and his witch-like aunts wearing creepy masks come chasing him. His mother saves him by enchanting his robe to grow wings and carry him away.

He finds himself stuck with a talking monkey (Charlize Theron) who tells him the only way he can be safe is to seek the three powerful objects he told stories about: a sword, a breastplate and a helmet. Kubo finds himself on the quest of his dreams, but it doesn’t come without challenges. However with the help of his origami, his monkey and a new samurai friend cursed into a half-beetle creature (Matthew McConaughy), he gives it a go.

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So as you can see, the plot has some quirky ideas. Who doesn’t love a story of a young boy going on an epic quest with talking animals, fighting monsters with cool weapons in rather impressive action scenes? For kids it’s going to feel like one big video game. It has its soft side too, with a stress on the importance of family and friendship in the face of hardship, that sort of thing.

There are some funny moments too, often at the expense of the monkey which is a slight shame because she’s an awesome character. The beetle samurai reminded me of Kronk from Emperor’s New Groove, which will be good for people who like loveable idiots. The animation isn’t sloppy either and may be the best thing to see this movie for. Slick, colourful and genuinely beautiful in places, this is a feast for the eyes. If you can adjust to Japanese characters speaking in American accents, you should enjoy it.

Careers: Tattooed Retail Manager

We chat to 33-year-old Natasha Janzemin, Retail Manager for MAC Cosmetics based in London, about her love for cosmetics, the freedom she has at work to explore her creativity through her style and tattoos…

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How old were you when you got your first tattoo? I was 17 when I got my first tattoo at a shop in Fulham. I went on my lunch break from college and got a compass star, naturally on the lower spine!

What drew you to tattoos, did anyone influence you? For as long as I can remember I have loved alternative styling and the darker styles of fashion and lifestyle. I saw Cher in her ‘If I could turn back time’ video with her mesh body stocking and the tattoo on her behind and it definitely gave me food for thought! Also, my grandad had a few tattoos, I was so intrigued as a child by them. The twist is that he was Iranian so having them was very rare. He had his hands tattooed and his forearms and I just loved them. He had a heart with a serrated edge surrounding it on his hand which I always remember.

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Can you tell us about some your tattoos? I tend to have work done based on my mood like my Danielle Rose piece of a woman putting her red lipstick on. It’s a very feminine and dark, all rolled into one. Or when I researching and really immersing myself in John Willie imagery I had my bullet bra tattoo done and when I had green hair, I saw a flash piece for Halloween of a green haired witch on broomstick years ago by the lovely rose Whitaker which I had to have! This has cemented a firm friendship between us! Also my ornate dagger between my breasts on my sternum done by the insanely talented Clara Sinclair, combining again softness with an edge. Right now, I’m in to a lot of esoterica and also medieval oddities. I recently have a mace on my arm as well as creepy doorway, almost something you would see Nosforatu peeking out off! The next one I have planned is the hanging man tarot card. Adam ruff at parliament always gets it right!

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How did you get into your current role? Working for MAC has been and continues to be an amazing journey! I worked damn hard to get where I am coupled with respecting my colleagues and customers alike. I started as a supervisor and worked my up to my current role as retail manager of my Camden store. Working for a brand where you can be yourself, where actually, being yourself is celebrated is an amazing feeling to have! You do your best work when you’re being yourself!

Did you have to study or get any qualifications or have you worked your way up? I’ve worked in retail management for years. Since I was 17 I’ve been running stores and I’ve worked in a fair few brands for the past 16 years. I’ve always loved cosmetics, in fact been obsessed with them and creating and executing looks! I believe in hard work and that’s exactly what I’ve done to grow in my retail career. I’ve never trained in retail management but just got stuck in and learned from my mistakes and moved forward.

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What is a typical day like? A typical day for me is never the same twice! I have a great team of people I work with who all bring a lot of fun, creativity and personality to my everyday working life. I do the normal setting up of the store, organising and then see where I’m needed. I may be office based some days or on others, working the floor with my team, interacting and making customers happy through make up and having a good time with each other. It’s amazing to work with such a talented bunch of individuals and so great to be able to create looks and introduce products to our customers to make them feel amazing!

How do you dress for work? Do you show off your tattoos? How would you describe your style? For work we have an all black dress code which is great for me! I dress how I feel for the day. My tattoos are exposed depending on the weather really.  It’s great working for a company who don’t see tattoos as a barrier to executing your job successfully. I wear black all the time and I alternate between Doc Martens and Vans for my feet. Some would say slightly goth but I just dress in what I feel comfortable in!

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Do you find in retail people react more to your tattoos? I find that people are definitely drawn to me because of my tattoos. Where I work in Camden, a lot of tourists come in and ask about them. I think a lot of people are intrigued about body art if they haven’t got anything and working in retail makes it more accessible for them to ask questions rather than someone they may see on the street.

Do you have any advice to other people considering their careers when getting tattooed? The only advice I could give is maybe to start getting pieces in areas where you can cover them until you decide on a career. Unfortunately some career paths will be obstructed by visible work, although I do feel more and more leniency is being displayed in more traditional careers nowadays for visible work . Now I have a career with a great brand who accept and celebrate art and individuality, if I took the plunge and got something more visible it wouldn’t be a problem but just add to the diversity in image we have here!

Interview with John Avanti

35-year-old John (Lupo) Avanti works out of Ocean Avenue Tattoo in San Francisco and Lucky Drive Tattoo in San Rafael, where he creates surreal tattoos. We chatted to John about his style of work and how he likes the idea of reading people through their tattoos…

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I began tattooing  about five years ago, after my friend Joey Cassina decided to open his shop Ocean Ave Tattoo in San Francisco. I used to work in construction so I helped to get OAT built and eventually spent enough time at the shop to pursue an apprenticeship. The apprenticeship was going great but was cut short, so I decided if I was going to keep tattooing then I would have to figure it out on my own. I quit Ocean Ave and started working out of my basement in Oakland tattooing friends and locals to build my portfolio up enough to get in another professional shop.

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Fortunately, the guys at Lucky Drive tattoo saw I had some potential and gave me a sort of soft apprenticeship. I was at Lucky Drive for about a year until I decided to take my tattooing to Australia. I spent three years in Australia and just recently moved back to work at both Ocean Ave and Lucky Drive where I started. A bit of a complicated start but I really love my friends and family in San Francisco and I’m proud to have made the long journey back.

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Tattooing has been the best way for me to do what I to do best. As I said before, I was in construction but over the years I also worked part time in many other forms of illustration including: animation, comics, large-scale murals, and commercial illustration. The only formal training I have was a trade school style animation course I took in Vancouver. I also did a landscape painting class in Italy. That’s probably more artist experience than most tattooers have starting out so my style has a lot of influences.

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Coming from San Francisco I was initially focused on doing traditional tattoos but after my time in Australia I wound up wanting to make tattoos that resemble a style closer to my acrylic paintings. If you had to put a label on it – you could describe it as “neo traditonal surrealism.” Italian style tattooing and George Burchett tend to be my “go-to” influences but it’s hard for me to draw things without it being overly imaginative. I want people to like my designs without fully knowing the reason why they like them.

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A good image will always jump out at you and you don’t always have to understand it. It’s that geo treasure kind of searching for new iconic designs that makes it interesting for me. I also tend to think about what people will look like when they are dead and in a morgue having their bare bodies examined. I like the idea of seeing a person’s tattoos and understanding who they are without knowing them. Sometimes I just want to make designs that are classic with little to no distortion but most people like my more artsy pieces. Usually they are simple concepts in unique combinations.

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I don’t put many restrictions on what I want to tattoo but it also depends on the person. If the person is not familiar with my work then I don’t just put a fine line surreal image next to the their sailor Jerry eagle. I am also careful when it comes to people with intense mental illnesses. Tattoos are therapeutic in troubled times but I will never tattoo a person who’s mental condition is constantly changing.

Music Review: Seasick Steve at Wembley

Casual music lover Harry Casey-Woodward was lucky enough to see bearded bluesman Seasick Steve playing in our merry capital at Wembley Stadium…

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Apart from Elvis, there is perhaps no other musician who embodies the American dream than Seasick Steve. In particular, he embodies the mythical spirit of American freedom, that gets lost on highways and hitches on trains. In October, this big-bearded icon graced our shores with a one-off show.

After fruitlessly circling the wrong Wembley arena, me and my companion found the right venue. We were introduced by Steve himself on a giant screen to his support act, a two-man band named Black Dog Revelation. They sounded like a gnarly Black Keys with slow snarling songs powered by thunderous drums.

After they rocked the house, we were treated to a video of Steve driving up to the venue in a tractor before he walked on stage to deafening applause. He started off with some politics, voicing his disapproval of Trump before opening his set with a hushed Dylanesque solo song.

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Steve and his small handful of musicians then proceeded to turn the cavernous venue into a warm, cosy atmosphere. Steve was as relaxed as if he was playing in your front room. The lighting helped too. The stage was backlit by simple but pleasant fairy lights, draped as if over a tree. The most striking lighting was used when Steve played solo songs like ‘Treasures’. One spotlight would light him up in the middle of the dark venue, making him look dramatically humble.

Humble is something Steve is very good at. More than once, he asked for the spotlights to sweep his cheering audience and appeared constantly stunned at their adoration. He came close to tears when he expressed gratitude for his slot on the Jools Holland show that got him exposure.

He was also good at being kickass during his louder songs like ‘Thunderbird’. He and his giant bearded drummer lost themselves in colossal solos as they thrashed their instruments, even the homemade ones Steve expressed fondness for like his Diddley Bo.

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His most stunning performance was when he pulled a random woman from the crowd and played her a tender rendition of ‘Walkin’ Man’. The lucky lass looked as if she would melt from tearful gratitude.

Other ladies who joined Steve onstage included a singing guitarist from Glasgow who played a cover of a Steve song she had already done on YouTube, which Steve had admired. There was also a gifted filly on the fiddle and a talented square dancer who could tap along to Steve’s songs with her shoes.

The gig ended with Steve being given a cake, showing us a picture of his tractor and playing ‘Dog House Boogie’, which took a while to finish since he forced his drummer to repeat faster and faster endings.

So despite drunken calls of ‘Steeeeeeve-oooooh’ and one or two fights (one of which broke out in front of our seats) the gig was an evening of musical magic and thrilling musicianship. It was also a pleasure to be in the company of such a character like Seasick Steve.

Images from bluesmagazine.nl.

Shaded: Megan Climaldi

‘Shaded’ is an on-going interview series created by 22-year-old Bournemouth-hailing music journalism student, writer and editor James Musker, which focuses on tattooists, the interesting people that wear their work and both the artist and canvas’s relationship to the craft.

Megan Climaldi is a 19-year-old illustrator and tattoo artist who is currently working and living in Portland, Oregon. Born in Las Vegas and raised in Hawaii, Megan describes herself as an openly-gay half-Korean who is trying her best to be happy and kind. As part of Things&Ink’s on-going feature ‘Shaded’, Megan opens up about her personal relationship with art, Portland’s tattoo community and her attraction to the darker side of things.

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Can you tell me about your relationship to tattoos? My relationship to tattooing is deeply personal and mostly centred around the healing aspect of it. I got my first tattoo as a 15 -year-old. My mom signed off on it, but would only allow it if the tattoo related to her in some way. She eventually became a negative part of my life, and we haven’t spoken for years. I think that was a bit of a sad beginning to my relationship with tattoos, but every tattoo I’ve gotten after, in comparison, completely relates to things that I want myself. It’s more about the feeling I associate with the imagery than anything else. It’s healing for me, and has an ultimate sense of self care to it. It’s almost ritualistic.

Who’s currently inspiring you as an artist? I look up to a lot of people, as I’m still very new to the industry. I’ve barely scratched the surface, but I have very high hopes and dreams for myself. Some artists I really look up to are Nomi Chi, as someone who is also mixed race and queer. Other artists who I have immense respect for include Cal Jenx and Alice Carrier. I have always been hesitant about tattooing because I feel that a majority of the industry in the US is geared to a certain demographic, and that anyone outside of that is an outlier. It’s great to see artists that are happy and proud of their identity outside of that.

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What’s tattoo culture like in Portland, Oregon? Tattoo culture in Portland is very, very interesting! People here are so open and supportive of art in all of its forms, and I feel like the people I’ve met through tattooing have mostly been very welcoming and genuinely good folks! It’s a small community, even though it feels large. The art scene here is very community centred. Everyone knows each other and will show up to each others shows. The line from tattooing to art, I feel, is starting to blur. I only hope that the worlds continue to collide! I went to a gallery show for the first time here and was in awe of how supportive and relaxed people were. I could only hope to bring that sort of feeling, that inclusivity, to tattooing. Art should be for everyone, and I feel that it has such deep benefit for so many people that it should be accessible, comfortable, and most of all, inclusive! My friends influence me greatly and their continued support and understanding has inspired me to always be kind, and to grow on a daily basis.

What attracts you to blackwork? I love contrast. I love a strong silhouette; I draw much of my artistic inspiration from the art world, and have always been interested in black and white as its own genre. I feel that being able to express with a balance of minimalism and detail is something that is very beautiful. I aspire to create things that are simple, but still complex. Black and white is a fantastic platform for this, and also happens to look great on any skin tone.
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What predominantly inspires your work? My art is predominately inspired by emotion and things that I find beautiful, whether that be a feeling or an image. All of my drawings I could look at and describe exactly how I felt when I created them. I draw so much out of my own personal emotion – my own suffering, that when someone I don’t know sees something I’ve drawn and wants it tattooed, I always am astonished that the imagery resonates with them as well. The fact that a complete stranger could see something I’ve made and feel deeply enough to want it tattooed, I feel like it’s sharing in a subconscious feeling, an unspoken “me, too”. Outside of this, I draw much artistic inspiration from art with strong silhouettes and imagery, traditional Japanese and even American traditional have influenced the way I draw and create my artwork.

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The imagery of your work naturally gravitates towards the dark and morbid. Can you tell me about your relationship to these things? The things I draw tend to gravitate towards themes of death, pain and even self induced suffering; I attribute most of this as a reflection of my own psyche. Art is for me very personal, and always something I have done to heal, express and recover. I have suffered for years with depression and have recovered well and am happy, so perhaps my gravitation towards images of sadness is a way of remembering. I feel like being able to take these feelings, these sad images, and make them beautiful and make them something people enjoy looking at and having on their bodies is truly where I want to triumph. I am growing as a person every day. I am still sad sometimes, but I want to spend my life making beautiful things out of the darker, more tragic parts of life. It is how we heal, and how we all exist as a microcosm of living and dying, forgiving and forgetting.

How do you see your work evolving? I see my work moving in a direction where I use more traditional influences. I would also like to work in larger spaces, but that’ll come with time. I want to involve myself more with programs that cater to marginalised groups, LGBT youth and folks with mental illness outside of my tattooing endeavours. I am so new to this – still developing and still growing that what my future holds is still so open. The possibilities are endless, I believe.

Film Review: The Girl on the Train

Casual film viewer Harry Casey-Woodward investigates the psychological thriller of The Girl on the Train, based on the bestselling novel.

The Girl on the Train, 2016, cert 15, dir Tate Taylor, 2/5

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Naturally a lot is expected of a cinematic adaptation of a popular book, especially when it’s released so hot on the heels of said book. There is the assumption that just because the book was a success, the film will be just as good. Unfortunately this is not often the case.

Before I talk about one of this year’s most hyped book adaptations, The Girl on the Train, I better admit that I have yet to read the novel by Paula Hawkins, so this isn’t going to be one of those reviews where I list point by point what the film gets wrong. Nevertheless there is one fact I learnt about the film that bothered me.

I was informed that the story has been transferred from the UK to Manhattan. Not only do I feel it a bit much to adapt a bestseller a year after publication, but it also feels like extra cashing-in for DreamWorks to Americanize the story for bigger US audiences. There’s no denying however that its dark story is gripping.

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Emily Blunt plays Rachel, the woman who likes to ride on trains. We gradually learn some unpleasant facts about her life, such as her alcoholism and her obsession with her ex-husband (Justin Theroux), his new wife (Rebecca Ferguson) and baby. One night their young neighbour Megan (Haley Bennett) goes missing and Rachel is terrified that she was somehow involved, but can’t remember due to a drink-induced blackout.

The film’s strongest feature is Emily Blunt, who gives a convincing portrayal of a woman on the constant verge of emotional and mental breakdown. This doesn’t mean she acts so mental that we don’t feel sorry for her, but when she does fly off the handle she’s genuinely scary. She is also a fascinating protagonist since we can never trust her view of the plot, for she has no firm grip on reality or even her memories.

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The remaining cast’s performances are also good, but they are too good-looking to be believable as ordinary people. This is where the Americanization of the plot rears its ugly head. I feel if the film had been made in the UK, it would have felt much grittier. Instead it has this slick sheen of beautiful actors and glamorous sets that makes it feel like an episode of some glossy US drama.

In fact the whole film, despite its fine performances and dark, occasionally moving story, feels like a formulaic thriller, which would be fine if there hadn’t been so much hype. As it is it feels underwhelming, a familiar helping of suburban strife and domestic depression. It’s a maze of twists, flashbacks and awkward sex scenes that tries to be some menacing film noir but cinematically lacked ‘oomph’. Blunt’s powerful performance deserves to be in a better film.