Clockwise from top left: Lost Souls; Bunny Dream; Coffee Angel; INKED logo.
Artist: Caia Koopman
Caia Koopman’s cast of sexy tattooed lowbrow characters pose among recurring icons like painted skulls, multicolored roses, peacock feathers, lovebirds, and heart lockets. A California native with a BFA from UC Santa Cruz, Koopman’s pop surrealist paintings have been shown from Culver City, CA, to Bayonne, France.
Koopman grew up skateboarding, snowboarding, and skiing the hills of southern California—an influence that would ultimately lead to gigs designing sunglasses and goggles for Oakley as well as board graphics for K2, Morrow, and Hyperlite. Koopman also hawks accessible goods like business card cases, pendants, pillboxes, and lockets through Classic Hardware. “The commercial aspect of my art is really fun,” she says. “I love being able to offer my art to everyone—not just people who can afford the originals.”
Lost Souls, Lift My Spirit, Road Side Angel, and Bunny Dream are titles of some of Koopman’s most recent works that feature pixie-like characters of her own imagination. “All of my subjects are [depictions] of what I see in all women,” she says. “I try and make my female subjects kind of iconic, so that most women can relate to one or more of the characters.”
Koopman also includes elements of body art, with iconic symbols like hearts and skulls as well as flora and fauna, and is herself heavily inked on her upper arms. “I love tattoos,” she says. “My subjects’ tattoos are about the connection between humans and the nature around us.”
Clockwise from top left: The Knife Thrower Assistant; The Ocean; The Twins; Self Portrait; Blue Orchid; INKED Logo
Artist: Edith Lebeau
In The Protector, a small, tan Chihuahua peers out of a nest of scarlet ringlets and pink magnolia flowers. In The Ocean, a woman with teal hair and a large octopus tattoo seems at ease among a sea of jellyfish. In The Knife Thrower Assistant, a fiery redhead smirks as white stars and red clouds billow around her. Two knives protrude from her coif, and a tattoo of a red heart surrounded by daggers prominently rests on her sternum. These are just a few of the images swirling around in Edith Lebeau’s head.
A 29-year-old Quebec native, Lebeau graduated from l’Université du Québec à Montreal with a BFA and has shown her work around the world, from San Francisco to Rometo Berlin. “I’m attracted to taking something that is already an art form and making my own version of it,” she says, adding that she’s inspired by the work of film directors Tim Burton and Wes Anderson, American painter Andrew Wyeth, and music video director Floria Sigismondi.
Lebeau’s paintings are also influenced by the relationships between superheroes and villains; Greek, Roman, and Celtic mythologies; and ink art. A large number of the models she paints are tattooed—and for those who aren’t, many times she will add one or two pieces to their skin, if only for the painting. “I really like the idea that an art piece can be put on your body and it becomes a part of yourself,” Lebeau says.
Clockwise from top left: Flight; Blond Gaijin; Memories Lost; INKED logo; Mina.
Artist: Hoang Nguyen
Born in Vietnam in the mid-’60s, artist Hoang Nguyen grew up surrounded by tanks, military Jeeps, and nighttime bomb raids. What seemed to him like a normal childhood in the midst of the Vietnam War would later have a large influence on his artwork, which is a mix of Asian culture, steampunk, and tantalizing tattooed chicks.
Nguyen and his family immigrated to the United States when he was 9. He studied illustration at a community college in Virginia and eventually landed work as a comic book artist for Dark Horse Comics, DC, Malibu, and Marvel, and served as a character modeler at EA Games. But Nguyen always felt like something was missing; he wanted to pursue his own artwork.
“I draw from my head and the people around me,” Nguyen explains of his paintings, which are inspired by anime and Japanese artist-printmaker Katsushika Hokusai. “I like to capture that fleeting moment in time when nobody’s looking and all of the nuances that go along with it.”
Now a studio art director for the Bay Area location of Namco Bandai Games, a video game developer and publisher based in Japan, Nguyen is only able to work on his own projects—primarily a comic book titled Carbon Grey—part-time. “This project is consuming me,” he says. “I dream of having my own little studio where I can just draw and paint every day.”
Clockwise from top left: Tattoo VIII; Sarah; INKED logo; Autumn Nymphs.
Artist: Janice Urnstein Weissman
You would never guess that Janice Urnstein Weissman spends her days painting heavily inked nude models. Now in her mid-60s, the classically trained artist with an MFA from the University of Cincinnati lives and works at her home in Rancho Palos Verdes, an affluent suburb of Los Angeles. Each of Weissman’s works are nothing short of a masterpiece. She spends up to six months on the large-scale paintings and, like most classical artists, places high value on skill and beauty. “I am definitely detail-oriented,” she admits. “I’m a colorist—color is very important to me, as is pattern.”
For more than 16 years, Weissman has explored tattoo culture through her art. She finds most of her models—predominantly female—by exploring southern California tattoo shops and conventions. “I love Japanese-style ink and tribal work—traditional tattoos with strong design and lots of color,” Weissman explains of what she looks for in a subject. This is how it works: She finds one or more ink-saturated models and poses them draped in kimonos or other props for prominent commercial photographer Jack Andersen. She then projects the developed photograph onto a screen in her dark studio and works on one small section of the image per day.
It’s a labor of love. That’s why Weissman’s tattooed pieces sell for around $35,000 each and take up to six months to create. As for her own skin, the sexagenarian remains a blank canvas, saying, “I’m more of a voyeur looking into their culture.”
Clockwise from top left: Chantal Menard; Portrait of the Artist, Jo Harrison; Last Gasp; Tattooed Self Portrait at 39; INKED logo; Juan and Otto Geronimo Puente.
Artist: Shawn Barber
Los Angeles–based painter and tattooist Shawn Barber has painted dozens of industry icons such as Stan Moskowitz, Aaron Cain, C.W. “Chuck” Eldridge, Philadelphia Eddie, Paul Booth, and Kari Barba. “Tattooed Portraits,” Barber’s series of figurative portraitures using oils and acrylics, got its start in 2005. “I’m a tattooed person and I began to draw my own arms and my friends’ tattooed arms,” he says. “I started learning about the craft and the history of tattoo, and it just kind of elevated from there.”
Barber also decided to add “tattoo artist” to his résumé and began an apprenticeship with Mike Davis at Everlasting Tattoo in San Francisco. “It was a difficulttransition,” Barber says of trading a paintbrush for a tattoo machine. “The first few hundred tattoos I did were very stressful, but everyone has to start somewhere.”
Today, Barber splits his time between traveling the globe for fine art shows (London, Montreal, Brooklyn, etc.) and running a shop, as co-owner (with LA Ink alumna Kim Saigh) of Memoir Tattoo in Los Angeles. Barber’s body is a masterpiece in its own right, featuring work by industry favorites Bryan Bancroft, Seth Wood, Jason Kundell, and Henry Lewis. “The new stuff always kind of becomes my favorite,” Barber explains of his ink. “But really, none of it ever gets old. I still love all of it.”