Interview with tattoo artist Arirang – Things&Ink
Arirang (@tattooist_arirang) works in his own tattoo studio in Seoul, South Korea where he makes beautiful painting-like tattoos. We caught up with the tattoo artist to find out more about his aesthetic, journey into the tattoo world and beautiful brush work tattoos..
How long have you been tattooing and how did you get started in the industry? My journey to becoming a tattoo artist has been marked by a series of twists and turns, fueled by a deep and abiding curiosity about the world and a persistent search for my own true passion. As a young person, I struggled to find my footing and often felt adrift, unsure of what direction to take in life.
Despite the uncertainty, I remained determined to explore my options, taking on a variety of different jobs and experiences in an effort to discover my true calling. However, my physical and financial health began to suffer, and I knew that I needed to make a change.
It was during this challenging time that I began to reflect deeply on what truly sparked joy and fulfillment in my life, and I came to the realisation that tattooing was a craft that held a special allure for me. With a sense of newfound purpose, I made the decision to pursue my passion, saving up money by working at a construction site and enrolling in tattooing classes to hone my skills.
Since embarking on this journey, I have discovered a deep and abiding love for the art of tattooing, finding fulfillment and satisfaction in the act of creating unique, meaningful designs that carry a deep personal resonance for my clients.
Through my work as a tattoo artist, I have found a sense of direction and purpose that has allowed me to thrive both creatively and personally, and I look forward to continuing to explore the endless possibilities of this incredible craft in the years to come.
What inspired you to become an artist? My artistic journey has been a dynamic and ever-evolving process, fueled by a complex interplay of personal passion and a deep fascination with the inner workings of the human psyche. At its core, my inspiration to become an artist can be traced back to my abiding interest in the mysteries of the human mind and the emotional complexities that drive our thoughts and behaviors.
My path to becoming an artist began with a simple passion for drawing, which eventually led me to pursue a career in tattooing. However, it was not until I began interacting with the diverse array of people who sought out my services that I truly began to understand the power of art to touch people’s lives in profound and meaningful ways.
Through countless conversations and interactions with my clients, I came to realise the deep-seated emotions and personal stories that underlie the decision to get a tattoo, from the light-hearted and whimsical to the deeply personal and sometimes painful.
In response, I sought to create art that not only captured the individuality and uniqueness of each client’s vision but also served as a means of healing and transformation.
As I continued on my artistic path, I discovered that the process of creating and sharing my art had a profound effect on me as well as my clients, imbuing me with a sense of purpose and strength that carried me forward in my career. In this way, my artistic inspiration has become a mutually reinforcing cycle of creativity and connection, driven by a deep commitment to the transformative power of art and the human experience.
Do you have a background in art? Despite my early affinity for art, I was regrettably forced to relinquish my passion during my high school years due to familial financial constraints. This decision was not an easy one, as my artistic inclinations had been evident since my formative years, having been encouraged by supportive instructors from kindergarten through elementary school.
During my time in middle school, a teacher recognised my potential and suggested that I pursue gifted education, which would have been a significant stepping stone in my artistic development. Alas, the financial burden of such a program was too great for my family to bear, and I was unable to pursue this opportunity.
As a result, I never had the privilege of receiving formal art education, which has often been a source of frustration for me. However, this did not deter my passion for artistic expression, and I continued to nurture my creative inclinations through self-study, experimentation, and a commitment to honing my craft through practice and hard work.
My journey as an artist has been unconventional, to say the least, and it has required a great deal of determination and resilience. Despite the lack of formal training, I have remained steadfast in my pursuit of artistic excellence, drawing inspiration from a diverse range of sources and using every opportunity to refine my skills and deepen my understanding of art and design.
While the absence of professional art education has presented its share of challenges, it has also given me a unique perspective and approach to my work, and has ultimately served as a source of motivation to push myself further and achieve my artistic goals through perseverance and dedication.
How would you describe your style? My aesthetic sensibilities are centered around a profound appreciation for the beauty of softness. There is something particularly alluring and captivating about the delicate and subtle elements of design that are often overlooked by others. In my creative process, I am constantly seeking to imbue my work with a sense of tenderness, a quality that speaks to the human spirit and taps into our shared humanity.
One of the key motivations behind my work is the desire to create garments that not only make individuals look their best, but also have a therapeutic effect on the wearer. I strongly believe that clothing has the power to transform our moods and emotions, and as such, I strive to create pieces that can uplift and inspire the people who wear them.
Moreover, my approach to design is informed by a deep respect for the human form and a keen understanding of how different materials can accentuate its contours and features. I am particularly drawn to the use of tattoos, which I believe can be harnessed to create an aesthetic that is both elegant and striking. My aim is to leverage the inherent beauty of tattoos to create a sense of quiet strength and poise in the wearer, as opposed to the more traditional, confrontational approach to body art.
My style is defined by a sensitivity to the nuances of design, a commitment to therapeutic principles, and a unique perspective on the role of tattoos in fashion.
You tattoo a lot of brush stroke tattoos, can you tell us about these? My artistic style is deeply rooted in my love for the tactile sensation of the brush, which I find to be an incredibly versatile and expressive medium. From a young age, I was captivated by the raw energy and intensity of the brush, which allowed me to create bold, dynamic strokes that conveyed a sense of power and emotion.
However, my attraction to the brush is not solely based on its forceful nature. In fact, one of the things that draws me to this medium is the subtle nuances and delicacies that can be conveyed through a single curve or line. With the brush, even the slightest variation in pressure or angle can produce a dramatically different effect, imbuing each stroke with a unique sense of character and depth.
As a tattoo artist, I have found that the feel of the brush is particularly well-suited to the art of body ink, as the flow and movement of the design can be shaped and molded to fit the curves and contours of the human form. The soft, flowing feel of the brush allows me to create designs that feel organic and natural, seamlessly integrating with the lines and curves of the body.
My passion for the feel of the brush is born out of a deep appreciation for its versatility, expressiveness, and ability to convey a broad range of emotions and sensations through the delicate interplay of strokes and curves. It is a medium that continues to inspire and challenge me in my work as a tattoo artist, and I look forward to exploring its endless possibilities in the years to come.
How do you create the paint like texture in your work? Creating paint-like texture in artwork requires a thorough understanding of how to use various paint textures, densities, and techniques to achieve the desired effect. By experimenting with different brush strokes, paint densities, and the amount of water used, artists can create a wide range of paint textures that can be used to add depth, dimension, and character to their work.
One technique for creating texture is to use a dry brush or a brush with less ink, which can produce a rough, grainy texture that is perfect for creating a variety of effects. Alternatively, using a lot of water in the brush can produce a smooth and fluid texture, which can be ideal for blending colours together seamlessly or creating a soft, misty effect.
What inspires your designs? As an artist, the sources of inspiration for my designs are numerous and varied. I draw creative influence from a wide range of people, experiences, and cultural artifacts, as well as from my own internal emotional landscape. My designs are informed by everything from the mundane details of daily life to the grandest and most profound moments of human experience.
Does your heritage influence your art? As an artist of Korean heritage, my cultural background has certainly had a significant influence on my creative process and artistic output. Korean culture is known for its rich history and unique artistic traditions, including intricate patterns, bold colours and stylised depictions of nature and everyday life.
Korean culture is known for its use of specific colours, including vibrant red, blue, and yellow hues. These colours have particular cultural significance and are often used to convey a sense of energy, vitality, and passion. I find myself drawn to the rich, bold qualities of these colours, and often use them in my own work to create a sense of dynamism and intensity.
My Korean heritage has also influenced the subject matter of my work. Korean art often depicts elements of nature, such as birds, flowers, and landscapes, and these themes have become an important part of my own artistic vision. Whether through tattoo designs or other visual mediums, I find myself drawn to the beauty and complexity of the natural world, and seek to capture its essence in my work.
I believe that my Korean heritage has had a profound influence on my artistic vision, creative process, and visual output. By drawing on the rich artistic traditions of my culture and blending them with my own unique perspectives and experiences, I am able to produce work that is both culturally specific and universally resonant.
Can you tell us about the process behind your tattoos? As a tattoo artist, I believe that collaboration with clients is crucial to creating truly unique and meaningful body art. During the initial consultation, I make a point to discuss the client’s vision for their tattoo, exploring their creative preferences, stylistic influences, and personal history to ensure that the final design is a reflection of their unique personality and style.
To bring these visions to life, I work with clients to experiment with different designs, colour schemes, and placement options, carefully considering their individual characteristics and artistic preferences. Once the design is finalised, I use a stencil or transfer to carefully apply the design to the skin, taking care to ensure that it is aligned and proportional to the client’s body.
During the tattooing process, I use a range of specialised techniques and tools to meticulously apply ink to the skin, creating a highly detailed and precise design that fulfills the client’s expectations. This process can involve everything from shading and colour blending to line work and specialist equipment to achieve certain effects.
After the tattoo is complete, I provide clients with detailed aftercare instructions to ensure proper healing and maintenance of their body art. This can include advice on cleaning, moisturising, and protecting the tattooed area, as well as guidance on avoiding certain activities or exposures that could damage the tattoo.
Overall, each tattoo that I create is highly individualised, taking into account the unique characteristics and preferences of each client. By working collaboratively and creatively with my clients, I am able to create highly personalised and meaningful works of body art that reflect their unique personalities, histories, and styles.
What do you like to tattoo and what would you like to do more of? I get inspiration from a variety of subjects. Tattoo art allows me to interpret and bring to life objects, people, and even intangible concepts. I love working with clients to create custom tattoos that reflect their style and personality. I adore using bold colours, precise line work, subtle shading, and tonal variations to bring these drawings to life. I love working with clients on fresh and challenging projects, but certain topics inspire me. I like designs with animals, plants, and landscapes, as well as abstract or intellectual subjects.
I want to try new tattoo art challenges that push the limits. I love trying various colour palettes, shading techniques, and cultural and historical design influences. I believe tattoo art is a deeply personal and expressive form of creative expression, and I feel honoured to help clients realise their artistic aspirations.
I love taking on new challenges and creating unique and inspired body art, whether it’s portraying nature’s beauty or exploring abstract and conceptual topics.
How do you see your tattoos evolving in the future? As a tattoo artist, my work is always evolving and changing, reflecting my own artistic growth and the shifting trends and influences within the wider tattooing community. I believe that as I continue to develop my own artistic vision, my tattoos will become increasingly nuanced and refined, incorporating new techniques and styles that allow me to express my ideas in complex and intricate ways.
Additionally, I am excited to see how the wider tattooing community will continue to evolve, and I am committed to staying current and up-to-date on the latest trends and techniques. As I continue to develop my artistic style and technique, my tattoos have taken on a distinct character that reflects my own creative vision and personal interests. At the same time, I am always attentive to the needs and visions of each client, ensuring that every tattoo is a truly unique and exceptional piece of body art.
What was your first tattoo? My first tattoo is a very sloppy cartwheel.
Do you still like it? Yes, I still love my first tattoo. While I understand that to some, these types of tattoos may not look very impressive, to me, this particular design holds a special place in my heart. In fact, I put a lot of time and effort into perfecting this design, even though it may not look like it at first glance. There are a total of 19 lines inside the round tyre, and each one was an experiment in different techniques, which I carefully recorded in a notebook and observed. Despite the imperfections in the final design, I love the earnestness and passion that I poured into this tattoo. It represents an important moment in my artistic journey, and serves as a reminder of the hard work and dedication that goes into every tattoo that I create.
How has your tattoo collection developed since then? Since my first tattoo, my collection has continued to develop and evolve, with many of the tattoos on my body being self-tattoos that were the result of my experimentation with new needles and inks. I have also traded tattoos with friends, further expanding my collection and providing me with new opportunities to experiment with different designs and techniques.
In the future, I am eager to continue exploring new and exciting tattoo designs, whether through experimentation or by finding tattoos that I particularly admire and want to add to my collection.
For me, tattoos are not just about the final product, but about the journey of creative exploration and self-expression that goes into each and every piece.
Ultimately, my tattoo collection is a reflection of my own artistic journey and personal interests, and I look forward to continuing to add to it over time, exploring new designs and techniques and pushing the boundaries of what is possible with tattoo art.
Where’s been your favourite place to travel and tattoo? My favourites are USA and Australia. I felt a lot of emotions there and it is a thankful space that has helped me grow.
Do you have any travel or guest spots planned? Yes, I would like to travel to the U.S. and I am planning on working there.
What’s the tattoo scene like where you are? It seems normal here. I think it’s somewhere in between, neither bad nor good.
What do you do when you’re not tattooing/drawing? I meet friends or go camping. After working non-stop for a long time, I sometimes travel. It’s so nice to have a relaxed mind because I think it’s the most important thing.
What moment in your career are you most proud of? One particular moment in my career as a tattoo artist is etched in my memory as the most meaningful and rewarding. It was when a dear friend of mine, who had endured the pain of a suicide attempt, came to me with a wound. Instead of concealing the wound, I decided to use my art to create a staircase tattoo on it. My intent was to symbolise his journey of recovery, growth, and transformation, with the staircase as a powerful metaphor for the steps he would take towards healing.
To witness the impact of the tattoo on my friend’s life was beyond what I could have ever imagined. It went beyond just being a work of art, but it became a symbol of hope, resilience, and determination. He was no longer ashamed of his wound, but instead, he took pride in it and wore it as a badge of honor.
For me, this experience was a defining moment in my career, as it reminded me of the power and responsibility of art to inspire, heal, and transform people’s lives. It reaffirmed my belief that tattooing is not just skin deep, but it can penetrate to the soul and help people navigate the darkest of moments. It’s moments like these that make me feel proud to be a tattoo artist, and it gives me a sense of purpose to continue using my art for the greater good.
Follow @tattooist_arirang on Instagram.