What year did you start tattooing?
I started as an apprentice in 2011.
How did you get into tattooing?
After I retired from the army I went back to school and looked up tattoo artists in Korea. I decided to approach Sanlee [of Tattoo Korea], a famous realism tattoo artist in [South] Korea. I just went to her shop and told her I wanted to learn. She was skeptical at first and made me draw and tested me. She tested me for one year. Every day for an entire year I had to bring her one drawing. After I graduated from school, I had more time to devote to tattooing, so she officially made me her apprentice.
What was your first shop experience like?
I was at Tattoo Korea, one of the biggest shops in Korea. A lot of artists and apprentices with different styles worked there. I learned all sorts of tattoo styles because there were so many different artists who tatted in so many different styles. My job at first was to clean up and look after all the artists in the shop. But I was very fortunate to have met Seunghyun Jo. He was the shop manager and an artist. He was also the one to help me come tattoo here at Forever Young Ink in Canada. Tattoos are illegal in Korea, so marketing and finding clients were difficult. So that’s why I left Korea. So I said good-bye and I left.
What conventions have you done recently or are planning to do this year?
My first convention ever was at NIX [Northern Ink Xposure] in 2013. Fortunately for me, I won two awards—large color and most realistic. I feel really lucky and honored. I would really want to go to the London convention and Ink-N-Iron, though. It is my dream.
How do you describe your style?
Realistic, hyperrealism, but I’m working on something more creative, but still within realism. What inspires you as an artist? I get my inspiration from other artists like Robert Hernandez. His work is very special and unique. Nikko Hurtado is another artist that I respect. He is like a professor to me and has shown me the standard and technique I need to work with. Domantas Parvainis’s work is very emotional. His color and style inspire me to think deeper about my own work. Grime has also had a great impression on my work even though he isn’t a realism artist. The way he can make traditional and Asian work so creatively is amazing to me. I also have a lot of respect and appreciation for Boris, Jeff Gogue, Shige, Nick Baxter, Bob Tyrrell, and Sabado.
What sets you apart from other artists?
I don’t know.
What other mediums do you work in?
I’ve learned a lot of different mediums in my fine arts education—sculpture, oil painting, acrylic painting, watercolor, Asian painting, and photography. But I’ve been so busy tattooing that I can’t do much. But I still try to do some oil painting and photography when I can.
How has the reputation of tattooing changed since you’ve been involved in the industry?
Tattooing was very limited; it was all just gangster, traditional, and Asian. I thought so, anyways. But I feel tattooing can be so much more. It can be a fine art. Everything is possible for tattooing. It’s artistic; it’s unique, special, and very cool. I love tattooing and I’m proud to be an artist.
What was one of your favorite pieces to tattoo?
The Roy Jones Jr. piece. That piece has a lot of meaning. It’s tattooed on my boss at Forever Young Ink. I won two awards with it. Roy Jones Jr. reposted it on Instagram. And I feel like the piece was very vivid. I can see his expressions and the breath he was taking in the photo. It was a challenging piece that also paid off for me.