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Brush to Skin: The Artistic Evolution of Isle

Delve into Isle's transformative journey from painting to tattoo artistry in the vibrant heart of Seoul, where tradition meets innovation.

Tattoofilter in Interviews

In the bustling heart of Seoul, where traditional artistry meets contemporary innovation, resides Isle, a tattoo artist with a journey as unique and colorful as her creations. Before her foray into the world of tattooing, Isle was immersed in the realm of fine arts, painting canvases and guiding high school students on their artistic journeys towards college. Seeking a bridge between her passion for painting and the desire to explore commercial avenues, Isle turned to tattooing under the tutelage of a mentor whose style vastly differed from her own. This transition was not just a change of medium but a profound evolution of her artistic expression.

Initially, without the constraints of professional tattooing knowledge, Isle's work spanned a wide array of styles and subjects, embodying the freedom of her artistic spirit. Over time, however, her work has distilled into a more focused and solid thematic core, not by intention but as a natural progression of her craft. Despite this evolution, her commitment to capturing what she truly desires to express remains unwavering. Isle now stands on the cusp of a new artistic endeavor, eager to delve into the world of abstract art, drawing inspiration from natural elements and aspiring to create on a grand scale. Join us as we explore the depths of Isle's artistic journey, from her roots in painting to the bold strokes of her tattoo artistry.

How has your background in painting and art instruction influenced your approach to tattooing?

Tattooing is an area of art. What I learned before I started tattooing was the spirit and skill to become a painter. Those were naturally embedded as I grew up. Tattoos can be said to be a picture of a person's body as a canvas drawn with needles. Except for the technique of injecting ink with a needle, it is no different from a general picture. The first tattoo I had on a person's body was my university graduation work. Since then, as my career has built up and I have gradually gained an understanding of the human body and curves, I have come to think of tattoos before anything else, not pictures, than when I was used to flat painting.

Can you describe how your tattooing style has evolved over time and what influences have shaped it?

It's really hard to define my style with a specific word. I think my style is mixture of Eastern and Western paintings. I usually use dry material when I draw the design for tattoo but since I majored in oriental painting, I think it naturally contains that atmosphere. Actually my style wasn't created with intent, it's my way of expressing myself, 20 years of learning and drawing. I like to find colors that are hard to see in things and I like to emphasize the reflected light.

Stencils on the wall of Isle's tattoo studio.

What is your process for transforming an idea into a tattoo design?

Normally I get inspiration from photograph and landscape. When I see a scene that catches my eye, I take a picture and draw using my iPad based on it. I imagine where I should put a tattoo on human body to look pretty and I decide an ideal size and make a shape with a rough line. And then just draw. But when I draw it, it's often erased because it's different from my imagination.

What are some of the challenges you face when translating intricate designs onto skin?

To be honest, it's so much fun to express small details. However, the problem is that it takes a long time and loses concentration and physical strength. We have to maintain the same quality as the beginning until the end, but I think this is a matter of physical strength.

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How do you collaborate with clients to ensure their vision aligns with your artistic style?

Most clients' tastes are consistent with mine. Because they look at my portfolio and make inquiries. Sometimes, when their words feel abstract or don't understand, they receive as many reference images as possible and ask for detailed explanations. Tattooists cannot understand the customer's imagination unless they explain it in detail. And when what they want doesn't fit my style, they are forced to refuse.

Can you share a story about one of the most memorable tattoos you've created and why it stands out to you?

Really hard to pick only one but I will choose the oriental incense burner tattoo. Instead of a candle, I made with smoke rising from the lotus flower. It is a tattoo to commemorate the death of my mother. This heavy and meaningful work gives me responsibility too. Just as tattoos will remain with her for the rest of life, so will memories of her mother. Everyone will be hard to forget for the rest of their lives if they do such meaningful work.

Where do you draw inspiration from when creating your designs?

Artwork, movie, landscape, everything visual. Most of the subjects are nature, and the way of expression and color are inspired by many things such as paintings and the scenery made by light.

How do you choose the techniques and tools for each project, particularly for your more detailed work?

Almost I only use 3RL needle. Magnum may be used if it is a design that needs to fill in a wide range of colors rather than description. Rather than adjusting the concentration of the needle and ink, I tend to control the speed of the needle and the number of times it touches the skin. So there is no significant change in technique for each task.

Looking ahead, what new directions or projects are you most excited to explore in your tattooing career?

I always imagine about big piece. Not only botanical tattoo but also abstract tattoo. Body is very good sketch book. Because there are many curves. I REALLY want to do more big pieces. It could be a botanical or an abstract design. I always imagine the big piece in my head.

What advice would you give to artists transitioning from traditional mediums to tattooing?

It is important to draw a good picture for tattoos, but I think it is most important to make them remain well in the human body for a long time. You should try to acquire skills well so that you can have a lot of skin data. Theory has limitations, and practice is the most important.

Isle in action
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