Introducing an engaging interview with tattoo artist Haenal, whose creative journey reflects a unique blend of design passion and tattoo art inspiration. Born and raised in Korea, Haenal shares fascinating tales of how he merged his visual art skills with the realm of tattoos. From transitioning from a successful design career to developing his own distinctive style and organizing exhibitions and seminars worldwide, Haenal exemplifies dedication to his craft and a pursuit of excellence. Join us to delve into his remarkable journey and inspiration.

Let's start with introductions and some traditional questions for us. Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from, and where are you currently working?

- I was born and raised in Korea. I started majoring in design in high school, and during college, I double majored in ceramics and visual design. Drawing has always been a part of my life. After graduating from college, I worked as a GUI designer in Seoul for 6 years, catering to various clients such as Samsung and the Seoul Metropolitan Government. Currently, I’m based in Seoul as a tattoo artist in Korea, but I’m also active globally. I engage in various activities as an artist, including exhibitions, workshops, and artworks.

Tattoo artist Haenal

What led you to tattooing? Who were you, and who was your mentor? Tell us about how it all began.

- While working as a designer for six years, I felt a growing desire to chart my own creative path. Inspired by the transformative experience of getting my first tattoo, I became captivated by the idea of permanently etching meaningful artwork onto the body. Transitioning from a successful career in design to tattooing wasn't easy. After deliberating for over a year, I took the leap, driven by the desire to pursue my true calling. Embracing tattoo artistry has allowed me to combine my love for design with the opportunity to create deeply meaningful artwork that resonates with both myself and others. When I first embarked on my journey as a beginner, I possessed a burning desire to excel in this profession.

Tattoo artist Haenal

Leveraging my innate artistic abilities and combining them with unwavering dedication, I devoted myself wholeheartedly to my craft. My natural aptitude for visual art, my ability to conceptualize and bring ideas to life through drawing and design, and my keen eye for color, composition, and detail have all played crucial roles in my development as a tattoo artist. Striving tirelessly day in and day out, I worked to expand my reach and impact, driven by a deep passion for tattoo artistry. The process was undoubtedly challenging, yet I found immense joy and fulfillment in the pursuit of my passion. I believe that it was the combination of my innate talents and relentless dedication that ultimately garnered such remarkable results. These qualities have not only shaped my journey as a tattoo artist but have also been instrumental in my success in various artistic endeavors throughout my life.

Tattoo artist Haenal

Is tattooing for you now an art, a job, or something else?

- For me, tattooing is not just an art form but my own expression. It’s about drawing pictures that reflect my tastes and personality, meeting customers who appreciate them, and etching lifelong images onto them. Every step of the process is precious to me. Through this journey, I express and affirm myself. The passion and satisfaction I derive from it are unlike any other activity, making it truly meaningful to me. Naturally, my primary focus is to delve deeper into my passion for tattooing. Expanding my artistic repertoire, I aim to diversify my style to accommodate a wide range of clients and projects. Moreover, I'm excited to embark on new ventures such as exhibitions, seminars, videos, merchandise, and other initiatives to further elevate my profile as a respected tattoo artist on a global scale.

Tattoo artist Haenal

Your tattoos are very unusual, almost like children's drawings with colored pencils. How did your style develop? And why did you choose this particular aesthetic?

- Since deciding to learn tattooing, I’ve always wanted to pursue a colorful and textured style. The subtle differences in brightness and saturation of colors have always inspired me. Since my school days when I learned art history, I’ve admired the Impressionist style, with Monet being a favorite painter of mine. Perhaps it was a natural choice to follow my passion. Color tattoos intrigued me because the canvas is the individual’s skin. Each person’s skin tone is unique, making it always fascinating, enjoyable, and beautifully diverse.

What is the most important thing for you in tattooing?

- Tattoos are not only the works of individual tattoo artists but also wouldn’t exist without clients. Therefore, the most important thing to me is my clients. For me, effective communication during the consultation process is crucial, along with understanding the needs of my clients. Furthermore, I hope that every step of the process, from the initial meeting to the actual tattooing experience, leaves my clients with happy memories. This is because I understand that these emotions and memories ultimately accompany the tattoo on their bodies for a lifetime.

Tattoo artist Haenal

What subjects do you find most appealing? What inspires you?

- Inspiration comes from all the colors of nature that can be seen and felt in everyday life. Perhaps that’s why I adore sunny days so much. When the weather is clear and the sunlight is beautiful, I naturally feel like drawing while observing the landscapes and nature changing with the light. Another source of strength is the support of loved ones. The affection and interest of those close to me who always support my artistic endeavors serve as a great driving force.

Tell us how your designs are born. How long does your average session last?

- When it comes to custom designs, I make sure to thoroughly understand the client’s needs. This includes identifying which elements of my design they like and what mood they want to convey. My work mostly consists of small, cute projects, with very few large-scale projects. On average, each project takes around 2 to 3 hours to complete. However, I allocate an additional hour for careful transfer printing and photography before and after the work, respectively.

Tattoo artist Haenal

Every tattoo artist's career has unusual projects or collaborations. Have you had such events in your career?

- Fortunately, I was able to have guest work experiences in Thailand and the United States. Two years ago, in New York, I hosted a seminar, and last year, in New York again, I organized an exhibition. I was recently invited to conduct a seminar at Yant Studio in New York, which was aimed at aspiring tattoo artists. During the seminar, I had the privilege of sharing my journey and insights as a tattoo artist, discussing various aspects of the craft, from technique to artistic expression.

It was a remarkable opportunity to connect with fellow artists and enthusiasts, exchange ideas, and foster creativity within the international tattoo community. After sharing my insights and passion at Yant Studio, I received an invitation to exhibit my artwork at the same esteemed venue. This gesture not only honored my craft but also acknowledged my contribution to the tattooing community and recognition of my artistry. It felt like a natural next step in my journey as an artist, a moment where recognition met opportunity, marking a significant milestone in my career.

Tattoo artist Haenal

Do you travel a lot? Do you have an understanding of which country your tattoos are most popular in?

- Of course. Well, I believe it might be Korea, Thailand, Singapore, and the United States. It’s just a guess based on my followers on social media. My colorful and cute small-scale artworks have generally been popular in Asian countries. The United States, with its diverse cultural landscape, is similar in that regard.

Which country has had the greatest influence on your creativity?

- The experience of living in the United States, where various cultures coexist, was intense for me, and it had the biggest impact. The tattoo exhibitions and educational seminars I participated in there provided me with significant inspiration and passion. They embrace diversity and respect it. I traveled to cities like Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, and San Francisco, and each state had a truly unique vibe. Even though they’re all part of the same country, the different weather and cultures were fascinating.

Tattoo artist Haenal

What is the most important thing in a tattoo artist's career for you?

- For me, I recognize the significance of honing personal tattooing skills, and therefore, I am committed to investing efforts in this aspect. I try to attend seminars and engage in artistic activities globally to further my career development. Additionally, a tattoo artist’s career is the ability to comprehend and fulfill the client’s needs and expectations. Effective communication, empathy, and meticulous attention to detail are essential in crafting tattoos that not only align with the client’s desires but also surpass their expectations. Establishing strong connections with clients and ensuring their satisfaction not only cultivates trust and loyalty but also enhances the artist’s growth and reputation within the industry.

Tattoo artist Haenal

What goals do you set for yourself? Share your creative plans for the near future.

- My foremost aspiration is to continue expanding my artistic expression within the realm of tattooing. Tattoo artistry is not just a profession but a deeply ingrained passion that fuels my creative spirit. With each tattoo I create, I aim to push the boundaries of my craft and explore new styles and techniques. I am committed to broadening the scope of my tattooing style, delving into diverse projects, and catering to the unique preferences of my clients.

Tattoo artist Haenal

Beyond tattooing itself, I see each piece as an opportunity to channel my artistic vision and leave a lasting impression on the canvas of human skin. In addition to tattoo work, I am excited about the prospect of organizing exhibitions, leading seminars, and creating educational content that celebrates the artistry and cultural significance of tattoos. These endeavors not only allow me to share my passion with a broader audience but also contribute to the elevation and recognition of tattoo artistry on a global scale.