Sunyoung Kim (Tilda Kim) or as you might know her @tilda_tattoo creates beautiful intricate tattoos at Studio by Sol in Seoul, Korea. We chat to this flower obsessed tattoo artist about her journey into the tattoo world and of course, flowers…
What inspired you to become a tattoo artist and how did you become one? When I was in my third year of college, I saw (my now) tattoo teacher, Sol’s fineline tattoos for the first time. I was so surprised by them as he recreated my favourite paintings by Van Gogh and Monet beautifully with tattoos. I was shocked that a tattoo could be so small and delicate in such a pretty way.
Before that I had only seen black work and bold lines. I was surprised at how many colours could be used in tattoos. I thought tattoo ink was only black, red or blue with a high saturation. I like to use lots of colours when I draw, so this style of tattooing was so attractive to me and I loved that there were so many colourful tattoo inks.
When I was in college, I had a chance to learn how to tattoo, but I hesitated because of the conservative perceptions around me. After graduation, I worked as a fashion MD for about a year, but it didn’t suit my aptitude, the fast pace exhausted me. I wondered what kind of work I could do that was a better way of promoting my own style and drawings to other people. I remembered my college days when I was interested in tattoos. From then on I wanted to learn how to tattoo.
Do you have a background in art? From the age of 17, I studied painting to enter an art college and I then attended an art college for four years.
Can you tell us about your experiences in the tattoo industry? Tattoos are pictures that remain on the skin for life. Therefore, I have a sense of responsibility to my customers. This is the biggest experience and the most important point of view I’ve had since I started learning about tattooing.
How would you describe your work? I have a so-called “fineline” style of tattooing which consists of using small and delicate lines. My tattoos feature a variety of natural materials such as flowers, birds and butterflies in various colours.
You specialise in flower tattoos, what do you love about them? The reason why I usually tattoo things such as flowers and butterflies is that these natural objects look even more natural when they are on a person’s body. I think the most attractive thing is the bright and vivid colours of the flowers and their harmonious appearance as they flow along the curve of the body.
I also create a lot of bouquets of flowers which are made up of the person’s birth flowers. In Korea, many people want to immortalise their family’s birth flowers as tattoos. I think these tattoos show that the flowers can never die as they’re alive on the body. To me these look like small flower gardens too.
Do you prefer to do colour or black and grey tattoos? I prefer colour work, but I also like black tattoos. I think black tattoos are a more attractive option when an artist is expressing the feeling of a pencil drawing.
Can you tell us about the process behind your tattoos? When I draw tattoo designs I look for images a lot, then I try to synthesise various ingredients. These include encounters I have had with butterflies, famous paintings and flowers. Sometimes I can create a good design from items and places I didn’t expect to.
Are there any challenges you face when doing tiny tattoos? These are a little tricky because I have to hold my breath and concentrate when tattooing animal’s features.
What inspires you? In particular the memories I have of drawing fashion illustrations have helped me a lot in tattooing. When I drew clothes, I liked to draw checked patterns, lace, tweeds, flowers, etc. My past life as a designer is very helpful when I’m drawing tattoo designs, as I am expressing various materials and combining colours.
Also colour and texture are a very important part of flowers, I’m sure there are no boundaries between different types of art. I refer to Pinterest or Google when I draw designs, sometimes I get inspired by vintage botanical art books and classic movies.
What do you like to tattoo and what would you like to do more of? I like drawing roses the best. I like the variety found in a rose’s appearance, from rose buds to full bloom, and roses have various colours. Also I love that roses bloom in their prettiest form in the hottest days of summer.
I like creating small and large tattoos alike. In particular, I think flower tattoos or plant tattoos are wonderful to tattoo as if they are blooming along the curve of the body. Someday I want to try to make a flower tattoo that makes it look like someone’s entire arm or leg is wrapped like a vine.
Can you tell us about your own tattoos? Are you a tattoo collector? I like flowers, natural objects and famous paintings, so I have these tattooed on my body. My favourite tattoo is Monet’s Water Lilies done by my teacher, Tattooist Sol. This was my first tattoo, Monet’s beautiful blue and purple colours have remained clear even after two years.
What’s the tattoo scene like where you are? As tattoos are illegal in Korea, tattoos seem to have more negative views associated with them. In particular, many women in Korea like small-sized tattoos because they are not noticeable and they can use tattoos like fashion accessories. I hope tattoos become legal as soon as possible so that everyone can confidently enjoy tattoos of various genres.
What moment in your career are you most proud of? I feel so happy and proud when my clients constantly visit me and are satisfied with my work.
Follow @tilda_tattoo (if you don’t already) for more incredibly beautiful tattoos.