Although it doesn’t carry the name recognition of Sydney or Melbourne, Gold Coast is a must-see locale if you ever happen to be in Australia. This city is best known for having 43 miles of beautiful beaches, making it one of the hottest surfing destinations in the world. It’s also home to one of the most sought-after black-and-grey artists Down Under, Jai Cheong. Cheong specializes in feminine designs that flow effortlessly from curve to curve. From delicate florals to fierce lion heads, Cheong has the tattoo key to every woman’s heart. We caught up with Cheong to learn how he got his start in the tattoo industry and how everyone should take care of their ink while still having fun in the sun.
How were you introduced to tattooing as a career?
To begin with, I had a big passion for drawing. I used to stay up all hours of the night drawing, then go into work tired from staying up all night and wanting to finish work so I could go home to draw again. Then I started to do tattoo designs for people on paper, and after a while, I thought, “Maybe I could do the tattoo as well.” So I took my portfolio of drawings to as many shops as I could and after getting knocked back time and time again for about a year, I finally got my foot in the door in a sleepy little town out in the country. After eight months out there, I headed to the Gold Coast to apprentice under Nashy Gunz, where I felt like I could take my artwork further and be surrounded by more artists.
How does placement play a role in your process and what are some of the most popular placements that you tattoo?
I think the placement plays a big part in the tattoo. Having a tattoo flow with the shape and area of the body is very important to me. With the right tattoo design and placement, I can accentuate the curves and flow of the body, which makes the overall piece more aesthetically pleasing.
I tattoo a lot of hips, thighs, backs and arms. I always do my best to make these designs flow with the shape of the client's body. Even if it means modifying the design for 30 minutes or an hour before the tattoo. I want to make it fit perfectly, as every client is a different shape.
You got tattooed by Post Malone. Take us through that experience.
That was a wild weekend. I tattooed his DJ backstage and also some of the guys from the supporting act. We ended up getting along really well, partying all weekend, and he tattooed me after one of his shows. He was a lovely guy, it was like you weren’t even hanging out with a celebrity.
What is the tattoo scene like on the Gold Coast?
The Gold Coast tattoo scene is great. A lot of people drive an hour or two to get tattooed, and some even fly. It's a beautiful place, so it’s a good excuse to make a short holiday out of it as well. Sometimes the skin can be tricky to work with, as people tend to spend a lot of time in the sun. We have a lot of tradies (a tradesperson, someone who works with their hands), surfers and people who love the outdoors. I generally stick to black-and-grey, which tends to work a little better than color for the clients who see a lot of sun.
How should our readers take care of their fresh and healed tattoos?
We have a lot of clients who’ve been exposed to the sun, even to the point where they come in to a tattoo appointment with burnt skin or you will see them at the beach on social media the next day. I recommend being in minimal direct sun for a couple of weeks leading up to a tattoo to make it easier for the artist. A tattoo will hold up better over the years if it sees less sun, so try to keep your tattoos covered as much as possible and use sunscreen on them. While they are in the healing process, it’s best that they don’t see any sun at all.
What else should our readers know about you?
I think it would be good to know that my drawings and artwork were never amazing in the beginning. Art became an obsession and after hundreds and hundreds of hours of drawing, I slowly improved. The road can be long and tiring, and it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel in an apprenticeship. But if you want it bad enough, you’ll make it happen.