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Art is a magical place where anything can happen. You can create new worlds and imaginative creatures with just a pen or, in Shani Nizan’s case, a tattoo machine. Nizan draws spectacular animal/human hybrids that look like they walked right out of a children’s book. We sat down with her to learn how she found her signature style, how she approaches drawing designs for her clientele and much more.

Take us through your upbringing and how you fell in love with art. In almost every childhood video of mine, I’ll be shown sitting on the living room carpet drawing, gluing, cutting or building something. In high school, I noticed that drawing made me “cooler” and even the mean kids would appreciate drawing, as opposed to my piano or saxophone playing. I don’t think I ever chose to go into art—it was inevitable.

How would you describe your signature style and how did it come to be? I didn’t choose the semi-realistic, naive drawing style that I have. Looking back, I was someone who wanted to do a little bit of everything. I was never eager to go into the details or polish, instead I was always searching for the story. I think that also explains the influence of childrens’ books and the sketchy, undone feeling of my tattoos.

Where did you come up with the idea to put animal heads on human bodies? I was drawing them separately at first—animals because they’re good practice and people because I was drawing my friends. One day I showed my drawings to my great aunt Galia, her opinion matters a lot to me, and she said, “You copy well.”

After being down for a few days I saw a video called “Everything is a Remix,” which showed me how some great pieces of art were a combination of two already-existing things. I tried to do the same and to mix two of my interests. Since then, it’s been hard to draw anything else.

What are some of your favorite animal/human hybrid tattoos you’ve done? I could never choose, but I can say it depends on the connection I have with the client. I really love to do tattoos with a meaningful story that can be captured gracefully through a simple sketch. I also can’t thank those clients enough who come with an idea and give me the artistic freedom to interpret it as I like. Those are the tattoos I like the most.

What’s your favorite animal to tattoo? Why? It comes in waves. The jackrabbit is always on the favorites list and I also like long-necked animals that make the hybrid creature a bit weird. Nowadays, I’m in an Oriental Shorthair cats period. Look them up, they’re adorable.

If you were an animal/human hybrid, what would you be? That’s easy, a giraffe. As someone who’s 5’9” tall, it’s hard not to be identified in that way. I can also relate to their goofiness and their need to be surrounded by their loved ones.

What does your design process look like? Usually I will wait to meet the client in person to work on the sketch together. Sometimes I prepare something before but I’m often aware that we’ll need to start over. The connection between myself and the client as we build a sketch together is the most important part for me. That’s the moment when we both can feel it’s not just a logistic process, but an experience that means something. People can be surprised or stressed when they come to get tattooed and a sketch isn’t ready, but I think that’s the magic.

What else should our readers know about you? It sounds cheesy, but I'm the most happy when people ask me for advice, an opinion or direction. It makes me feel honored and it fills me with joy. I hope that if anyone has a question to ask me, they will not hesitate to do so and I will do the best I can to help.