Tattoo Artist Interview With Bongjin Jeon
Bongjin Jeon (he/him) creates bold black work tattoos at Tenderfoot Studio at 199 Cook St #103, Brooklyn, New York 11206. We chat to the tattooer about his journey into the tattoo world, art style and proudest moments…
How long have you been tattooing and how did you get started in the industry? I’ve been tattooing for around one and a half years. I’ve always been into tattooing since I was young.
During the pandemic, I approached my favourite tattoo artist and asked if he could be my tutor – he accepted and that was when everything started.
How has your experience of the tattoo industry been so far? Are there any moments or stories that stand out? It’s been great so far honestly. It’s been better than I expected and I’ve not regretted it.
A moment that shocked me the most was when the boss of this huge tattoo shop in our shop’s neighborhood wanted to get a tattoo from me even though I was in an early phase of tattooing. It was a big compliment for me – it convinced me that I’m doing the right thing in the right way!
What inspired you to become an artist? Do you have a background in art? Frankly, I wasn’t into ‘art’ when I was child. I was more of an athletic student. But at the same time, I was interested in something distinctly different in many areas like comics, music, doodles and of course tattoos.
Then I realised I liked fun, goofy and creative tattoos the most. After realising that, I went to art school and learnt how to draw, craftmanship and how to market myself – all of these have been the root of my career.
What’s your first memory of tattoos? My first memory, always cracks me up. I did the tattoo on an old friend after learning to tattoo from my tutor. It was lettering on the clavicle so I had to stand up leaning forward all the way during the whole session. Of course I had practiced on fake skin before that day but still, it was somewhat overwhelming and a lot. Fortunately my tutor was with us so everything was under control. It was a pretty chill and fun time; my friend and I still laugh about that day.
How would you describe your style? My tattooing style is called black work with bold outlines. It’s from solid black to zero for strong contrast. This strong contrast makes tattoos alive and also surreal at the same time. It feels like these tattoos are about to jump or move around and I love that.
What inspires your designs? I always find fun in the paradox and unusual, especially when two different things or styles are put together, like serious and dark drawing styles with silly subjects like a Pikachu.
What are your biggest artistic influences? One of the biggest is from the movies. I draw movie scenes and characters sometimes but also just get influenced by the mood of a movie whether that’s the emotions or sense of humour of it. I mainly take inspiration from comedy movies, like Step Brothers, 21 Jump Streets, The Office, The Hangover…
Another influence is nature. I’m obsessed with going to parks and I get ideas for flash tattoos by watching animals and plants there.
What do you like to tattoo and what would you like to do more of? My tattoo style itself with bold lines is fit for something strong, solid and that stands out. And I believe there’s a charm to these strong subjects being funny and silly with a small twist. So far, my works have been 50/50 serious themes and funny themes. I’d love to work on these silly goofy tattoos with bold lines more by collaborating with clients who have similar tastes with me.
How do you see your tattoos evolving in the future? I’m thinking about adding other line thicknesses, especially thinner lines for more abundant details depending on designs and sizes. I also may start putting some colours in depending on themes.
What was your first tattoo? To be honest, I don’t have any tattoos myself so far. I know some people in this industry will disagree and hate this, but I can take it. In my opinion, having zero tattoos and a bare body is also one kind of body design in the tattoo sense. Not having any can stand for having a cool one.
Where’s been your favourite place to travel and tattoo? I would say New York is a pretty decent city for a tattoo trip. New York is one of the cities that has the most old and also new tattoo artists and shops in the world in smaller areas compared to other big cities. This means each tattoo artist has gotta be competitive. In terms of the city itself, I think New York gets underestimated like people saying New York is overrated.
Another city I’d love to travel to is Madrid. I want to experience working in another atmosphere with New York like weather, people and buildings.
What’s the tattoo scene like where you are? I’m working in Bushwick, Brooklyn. I’d say Bushwick is pretty vibey and has a good atmosphere with fancy bars and restaurants but also calm to walk around at the same time. That’s my favourite part.
Most shops in Brooklyn are new and young so you can find new styles of tattoos easily in this town. Tattoo artists are also young and usually chill. Come through, we won’t bite!
What do you do when you’re not tattooing/drawing? Besides tattooing, I play soccer and tennis for my back and wrist pain from tattooing. Or I love to go to big and small parks in my neighbourhood and lie down. I always say the best part of New York is parks.
What moment in your career are you most proud of? When clients come back and get a tattoo from me again. It always feels like a big credit and I’m so happy about it. And also lots of my tattoo flash designs are designed as patch works. So if a client gets another tattoo or even more from me, it would look better together. This makes me proud and increases my happiness.
Make sure to follow Bongjin Jeon (@telephonepole2) on Insta for more bold tattoos.
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