For decades, tattoo artists have been choosing their own names and developing their brand through an artistic alter ego. You may not be familiar with the names Norman Keith Collins, Katherine Von Drachenberg or Mark Machado, but you’ve certainly heard of Sailor Jerry, Kat Von D and Mister Cartoon. For Eun, she chose the name Ink Traveler to fulfill her deepest desires. She wanted to travel the world and give people stunning micro realism tattoos—now she’s doing just that. We caught up with Eun while she was guesting at Inked NYC to learn about her inspirations, how she fell in love with micro tattooing and much more.
How did you decide on your moniker, Ink Traveler?
I wanted to be a traveler who goes around the world with tattoos. I worked for a design company for a long time, but then I quit my job and went on a trip to give a new stimulus to my life that seemed to be falling behind. After traveling around the world for almost a year, I decided to try finding a new job. At first, I was a freelance designer and I worked on designing mobile ads, websites, illustrations, stickers, etc. I also worked as a barista and a painting instructor and I taught illustration painting for online classes. However, while looking for a more enjoyable job, I found tattooing.
What are your favorite places you’ve traveled to for guest spots?
It’s definitely New York. It was so good to meet so many people and there are many different types of people in New York. I’ve traveled to many places, but New York was the first place I traveled to for work. I met so many great friends, I feel like I’ve made another hometown.
Which artists inspired you to start tattooing?
I’m inspired by Ziho, Eva Krbdk, Edit Paints, Q Tattoos and Coldgray. But there are so many other artists that I love.
What have you learned from the other artists you’ve tattooed with around the world?
I always learn from the artists and guests I’ve met. Everyone tattoos in different ways, treats tattoos in different ways, has different skin, different personalities and different attitudes about life.
What led you to micro tattoos? Did you ever consider doing large-scale pieces?
I’ve always liked making small paintings. I think the size of my artwork has naturally decreased because I only get up from my seat when a picture is completed. I’ve become interested in big work and fortunately, I’ve had an opportunity to work on it. I’m currently working on a dragon sleeve and I’m going to start another sleeve soon.
What are the pros and cons of micro tattooing?
The good thing about micro tattoos is that I can express so many things with them. The bad thing is that the more details I add, the longer the tattoo takes. Because my tattoos are so small my eyesight and posture are getting worse. My posture has become like a turtle.How do you ensure your tattoos will last? Tattoos remain on the skin for the rest of your life. However, when the details are too small, they can become unclear as the skin ages. This part must be explained to the customer before the tattoo is done.
What are your favorite animals to tattoo and why?
It’s especially fun doing tattoos of cats and dogs—they are always cute. I'm so happy when I finally put the white color on their clear, pure eyes.
Who are your favorite characters from movies or television shows to tattoo and why?
I like tattooing people with strong, symbolic characteristics. In movies, I especially like comic book characters like Iron Man, Wonder Woman, Thor, Captain America, Spider-Man, etc. This is because it’s clear that the tattoo is of that person.
What’s something you could tattoo every day and never get tired of?
Flowers and animals. I don’t get tired of the beauty and cuteness of nature every time I see it. It’s always exciting and fun to see the process while I’m working.
If you weren’t doing color realism, what other tattoo styles would you like to try?
I think I’d try abstract color illustration. My favorite painters are Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Paul Cézanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet and Edgar Degas. When looking at art, the most important thing is color. So I think I’d try these painting styles with tattoos.
What’s your process for doing a cover-up?
The most important thing in the cover-up is understanding the direction the customer wants. Customers who want a cover-up are already unsatisfied, so expectations for these tattoos are higher. I try to match the subjects they want and the size they want as much as possible to ensure that they don't get a cover-up again. We brainstorm ideas for tattoos that can obscure the original tattoo and how they can turn it into something else. Then I find a similar reference and sketch the design. When designing, the focus is on making sure the cover-up isn’t too dark. I always pay attention to the contrast and brightness of the tattoo.
What else should our readers know about you?
I mainly work in color realism, but I also work in black-and-grey. I also welcome not only small work, but big work. And I’m ready to travel to any country for tattooing. If Covid-19 gets better, I will visit as many countries and people who want me.