For decades, flowers have been featured prominently throughout many distinctive styles of tattooing—from the peonies of Japanese Irezumi to the roses of American traditional. Flowers are universally beloved, and some artists, including Jen Tonic, have such an affinity for drawing them that their entire portfolio resembles a garden. Tonic crafts enchanting neo-traditional blooms for her flourishing clientele. We took some time to stop and smell the roses alongside Tonic, where she shared her evolution story, her tricks for tattooing chests and the status of her “Animal Crossing” island.
When did you decide to become a tattoo artist?
I was around 15 when I wanted to become a tattoo artist. That’s when I started to go to concerts and met people with tattoos. After finishing school I started working “normal” jobs and was looking for an apprenticeship as an interior designer because everyone told me to be safe and learn something before I started tattooing. Long story short, I quit my apprenticeship after six weeks and started at a tattoo studio. And I’ve never regretted my decision.
What drew you to neo-traditional?
I’ve always found neo-traditional beautiful; I had some pieces on me done before I even started doing neo-traditional myself. I started off doing linework and dotwork tattoos, because I was afraid that my sense for colors wouldn’t be good enough.
What is your favorite part about designing and tattooing flowers?
To dig deeper into a topic that I love. Speaking through the language of flowers and finding new ways to arrange them in my style is what I love to do. I have plenty of books about the symbolism of flowers and considering them for my designs gives the tattoos even more depth.
What are some of your favorite flowers to tattoo? Magnolias, cosmeas, chrysanthemums, peonies, bellflowers and many more.
We’ve noticed that you tattoo a lot of chests. How do you design for this part of the body and why is placement important? The funny thing is, I used to dislike chest tattoos on women. I always thought they’re too much for such a delicate and feminine area. I guess, for me, the most important thing is picking colors that are closer to the skin tone—like beige, brown, yellow, rose or even red. I rarely use blue, green or purple on a chest. In my designs, I usually leave some open area so it’s not too heavy and try to play up the natural curves of the shoulders, breasts and collarbones so it goes with the body and not against it.
You love painting in your spare time. Can you tell us some more about this and where you find inspiration?
I have quite the variation in my paintings. In the past few months, I did another gouache painting of my whales series. I’ve also started an oil painting of a woman holding an apple basket. Another thing I really enjoy is acrylic pouring and drawing flower designs on them. My inspiration comes from literally everything I see throughout the day—animes, classical art, other artists and illustrators, nature, video games, photography, etc.
What role does color saturation play in your work and what advice would you give to other artists about achieving solid color?
I work with a mixture of saturated parts and parts with color fading out. For me, it works best to achieve solid color if I don’t hurry and keep a slow, steady movement to fill the color in. I know this feeling of impatience when you’re coloring in a large area, but keeping the same speed is essential. Also, smaller magnums work better to pack in solid color.
We saw you’re an "Animal Crossing" player. What’s your island like?
At the moment, it’s abandoned. I haven’t been playing for a while now, unfortunately. I put in around 300 hours and most of my island is done. I have some parks with rare flowers, a cafe, a plant store and two different villager areas. One is a friendly neighborhood and one is urban-inspired with a dodgy hidden black market.