Artists: Dawnii Fantana
paintedladytattoo.co.uk | paintedladytattoostudio.com
44 121 608 6086
Painted Lady Tattoo Parlour
1 Station Rd B31 3TE
Northfield, Birmingham, UK
FRESHLY INKED: What year did you start tattooing?
DAWNII FANTANA: My first year was a traditional apprenticeship, and I mostly watched and asked questions and drew a lot. I didn’t do much actual tattooing, so I’ve probably been tattooing about 10 years now. So about 2002.
How did you get into tattooing?
I didn’t get into tattooing until quite late in life by today’s standards. I was about 27. I’d always been interested in tattooing since an early age, but to be honest, when I was younger I was too lazy. I believe tattooing takes a lot of commitment and dedication, and as a youngster I just didn’t possess those qualities. I lived for the weekend. I worked to live, not lived to work, but how that has changed! As I got older I became more focused. I’d always had creative jobs but nothing I considered a passion. Once again I was drawn back to my love of tattoos and all things alternative. I was working as a body piercer, eager to get into the world of tattooing. At the time I was being tattooed by my friend Jo Harrison. She and Matt Hunt owned Modern Body Art, arguably the top tattoo studio in the Midlands and one of the earliest custom studios in Birmingham. I approached Jo and Matt for some advice on where to start and how to build up my portfolio. They asked to see my sketchbook and unexpectedly offered me an apprenticeship. I enjoyed working there for six years before opening my studio four years ago.
Do you have any special training?
I have a background in art—I studied it at college and acquired A levels in art, art and design, and textiles, and followed this with a foundation in art. I don’t believe these a necessary to be a tattooist. True constant drawing is essential. But education isn’t always the key. Sometimes life skills and experience are just a strong foundation.
What conventions have you worked at? What are some of your best convention memories?
I spent a lot of time at conventions. I think they are a great way to promote your work and to meet other artists and gain more experience and influence. Sometimes you can get stale and stuck in a rut without even realizing. It’s good to put yourself outside your environment every now and then. One of my favorite memories was at the first Liverpool tattoo show—me and a bunch of tattooist friends came up with the crazy idea to get ’80s tribute portrait tattoos. One friend had Billy Idol, one Kiefer Sutherland in Lost Boys, there was a Patrick Swayze—Dirty Dancing era. And mine, the love of my life—Mr. Kevin Bacon.
How do you describe your style?
My style is a very much acquired taste. My friend once said it’s like Marmite—you either love it or you hate it. At the beginning of my career this would sometimes bother me, to think some people would really dislike my work. But nowadays, that’s okay with me. It would be a boring world if everyone liked the same thing. And I’m lucky enough that some people really like my style enough to let me put it on their skin. My style is probably described as very feminine, girly, and sometimes cute. Though I don’t find this limits my client base; I have as many male as female customers. Times have changed and men are happy to wear bright colors and flowers, etc.
What inspires you as an artist?
As an artist I am inspired by everything. Creative people will tell you it is inevitable—everything you see, hear, or watch you’re constantly absorbing and extracting inspiration for your art. Sometimes it can be annoying; I just can’t switch off. My main inspiration is the female form. I love the basic beauty of the female form, so gypsies, pinups, mermaids, and ethnic beauties are my favorite things to do, along with other pretty treasures such as flowers, birds, and jewels. I’m like a magpie drawn to anything shiny, pretty, vintage, and ornate.
What sets you apart from other artists?
I’ve been told my work is very distinctive—I have an obvious unique style. And although not everyone likes it, I’m actually quite proud when my clients tell me that their work has been recognized and someone has asked, “Is that a Dawnii?”
What other mediums do you work in?
I love all things arts and crafts. Tattooing is my first love, but it is also my strictest. It requires so much concentration and discipline, so it’s nice to escape and do things just for fun, to enjoy art for a hobby and not even take it too seriously. Candle- making, scrap-booking, glass painting—if I hadn’t become a tattooist I think I would have maybe been an art teacher.
How have you branched out from tattooing?
My second passion is painting. I wish I had more time for it. I have so many ideas in my head. But with my private studio, Painted Lady, and my new second shop, I just don’t have as much time to paint as I’d like. I’m in the process of launching an art line, selling original prints and clothing, and I’m loving it! I’m hoping it will be successful enough for me to justify dedicating more of my time to drawing and painting.
What tattoo artists do you admire most?
There are so many amazing artists out there, too many to mention them all. And I’m lucky enough to have been tattooed by a lot of them. Jo Harrison and Matt Hunt, who trained me, are without doubt two of the most inspiring artists I know. I have some awesome work by some amazing British artists, including Steve Byrne, Tiny Miss Becca, and my good friend Helen Brown (guilty of my Kevin Bacon portrait), to name a few. Also, inter- national artists such as Sabine Gaffron, Amanda Toy, Rudy Fritsch, and Dennis Pase are part of my patchwork collection of awesome artwork.
What kind of tattoos do you look forward to doing?
I’m very lucky—I rarely get asked to do any tattoos I won’t enjoy. I think that acquired taste means anyone who is attracted to my style knows what they can expect from me. Though I would like to think that my training with such an all-around custom studio means I can turn my hand to Japanese, biomech, or tribal, etc. Nevertheless, I’m not going to deny that these are some styles I’m not so good at, and I’m happy to recommend more skilled artists to give the client the best job. If someone asks me to design a grim reaper, he’ll be wearing lipstick and have flowers in his hair. I like all the tattoos I get to do—admittedly gypsy girls are probably my favorite. I never get bored of drawing hot girls!
Before someone gets a tattoo what advice do you give them?
I can’t say there’s any specific advice I give someone before they get tattooed. These days there are so many amazing artists out there catering to all genres, so there is no excuse for not finding the artist suitable to produce the perfect piece for you.
Is there a tattoo that you haven’t done yet that you are dying to do?
Every tattoo I do is fun, but when someone comes up with a new twist or something a little bit challenging, it excites me. I don’t know—maybe one day I’ll get bored of drawing gypsies, mermaids, pinups, and pretty treasures … but somehow I doubt it!