J: How We Started on the Other End of the Earth
My name is J, and I am currently the owner of the Dark J Tattoo Studio here in Taipei, Taiwan. The studio/shop is located on the basement floor, next to the studio is a band practice space, and that’s co-owned by the Taiwanese metal band, Chthonic. The studio/shop has frequent customers and a lot of bands walk by, like the artwork, and then got tattoos. I’ve worked with multiple bands and artist, I would say that the studio has been doing really well. Fans, bands, friends and walk-ins are the major source of customers at the place. It’s located at such a perfect environment that it became an attraction around the area. TV shows often come by and pick up the scene as the background for various TV programs…
Things weren’t so easy when I first started my tattooing career. When I first started I was 19, there were no jobs, no nothing at all… And drawing is all I’ve ever known. I started drawing at a very little age, I didn’t know all the scribbles and random lines helped me in my future career. The shop I first was an apprentice was located in a downtown area where the fashion trends take place. The shop didn’t have the luxurious equipment such as the transfers, shaders, colored ink and better quality Vaseline.
All we had was one-liner machines and the rest was to be drawn on the customers and we must complete the tattoos in a perfect fashion, otherwise the owner gets really anal and beats up the tattoo artist. At that time, the Western knowledge and information hadn’t reached the area where I am from, so I did not have the position to be picky. The tattoo shop was located near the food stands and restraunts, the place is nearly unsanitized and filled with bugs. I wouldn’t say that it was dirty per se, but pretty close to the dirtiest place I’ve ever worked at.
There was also a serious time constraint from the owner, at that time I was young and wasn’t sure if there was a set rule or guide to follow, plus I was not known and the skill level wasn’t promising, rules are rules, and rules are set by the owner to be followed. A time limit of 30 minutes, no longer for each tattoo. Since there was no copy machine around and that the transfer papers were not provided, perfect tribal tattoos must be drawn on the customer before proceeding. Times were hard but the jobs still has to be done. The pay was terrible, I made hardly enough to feed myself.
After learning how to tattoo the hard way, I find that it did help a lot with my future career. Arists from the same shop are taught like soldiers in the military force, “do what the boss says and don’t argue” is the motto of the shop. The artist are naturaly forbidden from all styles of tattoos, only tribal and Japanese/Taiwanese Traditional designs are implanted in our minds. Thanks to the Internet, we gradually got more and more information on Western tattoos, and that opened up the state of mind and the style of my works today. Tattoo shops, foreign artists, conventions, machines, inks and a lot of well known artist like Paul Booth, Jeff Gouge, Mr. Cartoon have a recent great influence on artists’ minds and designs.
Music was never a big thing here, but the current years, artists have built a great scene, that influenced clients and people to have greater demands for [Western] tattoos. My personal influence is Tommy Lee Wendtner, and he has such detailed work, and the style of his designs reminds me of how much I love to draw in details and how much it affects my work today. Working with Intenz Ink and Hawk machines reminds me to appreciate where I came from and it helps me to discover the essential needs for a good machine, it provides great quality work for customers and my personal satisfaction.
With the success of tattoo conventions in Taiwan and multiple tattoo related events has brought attention to tattoers in Taiwan. Visualizing the methods and skills performed in the worldwide community can’t beat learning with the actual artists. This has inspired me to improve my personal work, not only working with the machines, how liners are done better, and how shaders work differently to create impressive colors, but also to brainstorm and stimulate to have more creative mindset to produce unique art on human bodies.
Since the culture and and the lifestyle of most Taiwanese are different from the rest of the world, the stimulation and the influences are different, and these are some of the areas where I get my ideas on creating some of the work I do. It is a great thing to follow some of the great artists in the world, but creating something that’s proven to be unique and connected to where the artist’s origin is a rough road to take, but the results are really mindblowing. I am working my way to achieve that level.
This is my first blog for TAM, and I will be sharing more and more stories and some of the things that are happening on the otherside of the Earth right now. Hope you guys like the blog and I will see you guys really soon!
Here’s the links to my shop and some of the work I’ve done.
(J is a tattooer and blogger for Tattoo Artist Magazine. He can be found at his shop Dark J Tattoo Studio in Taipei, Taiwan.)