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The Dareum Journey: from Oil Pastels to Tattoo Mastery

Explore the world of Dareum, a Seoul-based tattoo artist renowned for her unique oil pastel and pencil-like tattoos, blending artistry with personal expression.

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Nestled in the vibrant heart of Yongsan, Seoul, just north of the meandering Han River, lies the creative sanctuary of Da Hye Lee, better known by her artistic alias, Dareum. Born in 1994, Dareum's artistic journey took a definitive turn away from the conventional paths of visual and fashion design, leading her instead to the richly expressive world of tattoo artistry. Since stepping into the professional realm in 2018, Dareum has carved out a niche that marries the tactile warmth of oil pastels and the delicate precision of colored pencils with the permanence of tattoos.

Challenging the notion that smaller tattoos are less significant, Dareum's work stands out for its technical innovation and deeply expressive qualities. Her private studio in Seoul is not just a place of business but a hub of creativity, drawing clients who seek something truly unique. Moreover, Dareum's passion for travel and her experiences doing guest spots in cities like Paris, London, and Tokyo have broadened her perspectives and infused her work with a global sensibility.

In this interview, we delve into the heart of Dareum's artistry, exploring her inspiration from oil pastels and pencil drawings, the impact of modern European art on her tattoos, and the personal narratives that shape her as both an artist and an individual.

What led you to transition from traditional art mediums like oil pastels to tattooing?

The transition from traditional art mediums like oil pastels to tattooing was driven by my desire to bring my unique drawing style to life on skin. While exploring various artistic expressions, I found that tattooing offered a dynamic canvas for my work, allowing me to create wearable art. The idea of my drawings becoming a part of someone's story and the challenge of translating my designs into lasting, meaningful tattoos captivated me, leading to my journey as a tattoo artist.

How do you incorporate the textures and effects of oil pastels and pencil drawings into your tattoo designs?

I bring the textures and effects of my traditional art, like oil pastels and pencil drawings, into tattoo designs by replicating the strokes and details with precision, using appropriate needle configurations and techniques.

Could you walk us through your creative process, from the initial concept to the finished tattoo?

I gather inspiration from daily life, capturing moments in photos or memories that I later translate into hand-drawn sketches. Sometimes, I begin with traditional drawings and refine or complete them using an iPad.

For custom designs, I initiate the process by discussing ideas and preferences with the client. Considering the size and placement, I create a draft. Upon approval, I transfer the design onto the skin and meticulously execute the tattoo, ensuring attention to detail. Overall, I maintain open communication with the client for satisfaction and make necessary adjustments. After completion, I provide aftercare instructions for proper healing.

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How do you collaborate with clients to ensure their ideas align with your artistic vision while maintaining the unique qualities of your style?

Collaboration with clients is crucial for a successful tattoo. I start by understanding their ideas, preferences, and any specific elements they desire. While discussing, I share my artistic vision and explain how it can be incorporated into the design, ensuring a harmonious blend with their concepts. Throughout the process, I encourage feedback and adjustments, ensuring that the final design not only meets their expectations but also retains the unique qualities of my artistic style. Open communication and a shared vision contribute to a tattoo that is both meaningful to the client and a true representation of my artistic expression.

What are some of the technical challenges you face when mimicking the look of oil pastels and pencils in your tattoos?

One challenge is expressing texture in tiny tattoos. Additionally, maintaining the right balance to avoid a too-scribbled appearance is crucial.

Is there a particular tattoo you've created that stands out as a defining piece in your portfolio? Can you share the story behind it?

One signature piece of artwork from my portfolio is the tattoo, which features cute flowers of oil pastel texture. The video clip of this tattoo has helped it reach a wider audience with more than a million views on Instagram. The artwork has significance not only for artistic expression, but also for expanding the presence of social media.

Can you discuss any modern European artists or movements that have significantly influenced your work?

Artists like Matisse with his expressive drawing lines and Monet with vibrant colors have significantly influenced my work. I find inspiration in their creations, turning to their art when seeking new ideas for my own designs.

How have your travels and guest spots in cities like Paris, London, and Tokyo influenced your approach to tattooing?

My travels and guest spots in cities like Paris, London, and Tokyo have significantly influenced my approach to tattooing. These experiences have exposed me to diverse artistic styles, cultural nuances, and different perspectives on tattoo art. Engaging with clients from various backgrounds during guest spots has allowed me to understand and incorporate a broader range of preferences and ideas into my work. Additionally, the exposure to global tattoo scenes has sparked creativity and pushed me to continually evolve my techniques and designs. Overall, these experiences have been invaluable in shaping my artistic journey within the tattooing community.

How do you respond to the perception that smaller tattoos may lack value, and how does this influence your work?

I believe that both small and large tattoos hold value and meaning. The significance of a tattoo is not determined by its size; each piece, regardless of scale, carries its own unique importance and story. Size doesn’t dictate the worth or impact of the artwork.

Looking ahead, are there any new techniques, styles, or projects you're eager to explore in your tattooing career?

I’m always eager to explore new techniques and styles in my tattooing career. Currently, I’m interested in experimenting with more intricate details and exploring larger tattoo projects that allow me to showcase a broader range of my artistic skills. I’m open to embracing fresh ideas and challenges to continue evolving as a tattoo artist.

Dareum at work
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