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When considering different mediums of art, one may assume that sculpture and micro portrait tattoos would be at opposite ends of the spectrum. One requires an artist to painstakingly carve enormous masterpieces out of stone or clay, while the other artist creates teeny-tiny paintings on a person’s skin. Growing up, Ellyn fell in love with the ability to recreate human anatomy through sculpture. But, instead of becoming the next Auguste Rodin, she chose tattooing and hasn’t looked back. Ellyn creates vividly realistic portrait tattoos on a daily basis and her story is ongoing. We caught up with this portrait perfectionist to discover how she became a tattoo artist, why she chose micro portraiture and how she plans to reinvent the tattoo genre one small tattoo at a time.

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What did you want to be when you grew up? 

When I was young, my dream was to become a sculptor. I wanted to be known as an artist who has a unique vibe and style. No matter what kind of work I do, people can recognize that it’s Ellyn’s art.

When did you decide to become a tattoo artist? 

I ran a semi-permanent beauty shop, but then I found tattooing. I started tattooing because I thought it would help my beauty shop and I worked on it whenever I had time.

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What drew you to portrait tattoos? 

My major in college was sculpture and I always enjoyed sculpting the human body. With this experience, I think I was naturally drawn to portrait tattooing.

What are the biggest challenges of portrait tattoos? 

The biggest challenge is being able to express and depict the exact realism of your subjects. I try not only to transfer pictures to the body, but also to meld the character's vibe into the tattoo. For example, when I work on a tattoo of a famous musician, I try to learn more about the musician and when I work, I listen to that musician’s songs. When I work on a famous painting, I always try to go to see [the artist’s] work at an exhibition.

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Who are your favorite celebrities you’ve created tattoos of? 

I respect and like all of the celebrities I’ve done tattoos of, but it was most fun to do a tattoo of Drake. He is a rapper who not only has good songs, but also has a good influence on people.

Is it easier or harder to do micro portraits over larger tattoos? 

I haven’t done many big works yet, but I personally think the micro portraits are more difficult.

The smaller the size, the more difficult it is to express details and to heal the tattoo. And the whole tattoo can go wrong if you make one little mistake, so you have to work extra carefully.

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Do you prefer tattooing in black-and-grey or color? 

It’s hard to choose because I like them both. Black-and-grey has its own naturalness and depth. Color tattoos are also fun because I can use a variety of colors in my works that express my own style. These days, I plan on making a lot of tattoos that combine both black-and-grey and color.

What are some of your favorite tattoo trends? 

Micro realism and micro trendy tattoos are really popular in Korea these days. Since I started tattooing these things, I’ve been glued to them. All tattoo trends seem to have their own attraction. I hope that I can build my own style well enough that someday my style will become a tattoo trend people like.

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What’s your favorite part about the Seoul tattoo scene? 

The advantages and disadvantages of the Seoul tattoo scene are the same—there are many tattooers and the scene itself is very small. The competition is fierce. It provides a driving force to grow and because the scene itself is small, there’s a strong solidarity and we cheer each other on.

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