PROBABLY ONE OF THE FIRST FEMALE TATTOO ARTISTS IN THE MONTREAL TATTOO SCENE, NAT JEAN CURRENTLY WORKS AT IMAGO TATTOO. THIS VERSATILE ARTIST LIKES TO FOCUS ON LARGE SCALE PIECES AND GETS SOME OF HER INSPIRATION FROM TRADITIONAL JAPANESE ART. SHE DESCRIBES HER JOURNEY AND INFLUENCES THAT HAVE MADE HER THE ARTIST SHE IS TODAY.
Keep reading to know a little more about her.
TNE: Could you tell us a bit about yourself, what’s your story?
NJ: I am 44 years old and I was born in Ottawa, Ont. I have been living in Montréal since 1991.
TNE: Which studio do you work at?
NJ: I work at IMAGO. (4097 boul.St-Laurent)
TNE: How long have you been tattooing for?
NJ: I have been tattooing since 1995.
TNE: At what point did you realize you wanted to be a professional tattooer?
NJ: I started thinking about tattoos when a guy who sat next to me in history class in high school lifted his shirt to reveal a dragon he had gotten on his stomach. I was amazed and immediately went to get my first tattoo (@New Moon in Ottawa) at 17. I could draw, I loved tattoos, I had friends in the industry so at 21 I realized that I could do this for a living.
TNE: How would you describe your style? Can you tell us about your main influences? (Tattoo artists and more)
NJ: I enjoy doing many styles of tattooing but my main focus has been on larger colour tattoos strongly influenced by the japanese style . Personally, I've mostly been influenced by people in my environment, my friends, the punk scene, my city and of course my work mates past and present and people that have been tattooing in Montreal for many years.
TNE: Can you recall what it was that drew you to this specific style?
NJ: Japanese tattoos are beautiful.I am still amazed by large work and the time and commitment it takes to accomplish.
TNE: If you weren't a tattoo artist, what would you be doing professionally?
NJ: I would probably have been a make up artist or a special horror effects artist. I would have gone to pastry school and been a cake decorator. Something creative.
TNE: According to you, is tattoo an art form or a craft? Please explain.
NJ: I think it's both but I feel like the craft part of it may be fading with newer generations.The need to learn how to make needles or build machines or rewire a clip cord or mix pigment is unnecessary since anyone can order anything online these days. There is a lot of information online and so I feel like maybe the tradition of passing on info or teaching/ mentoring might be fading. However, the art itself is better than ever. It's amazing how far the art has been pushed and how artists can adapt their style to the medium.
TNE: What are your other interests, are there any other topics you are curious about?
NJ: Traveling. I want to see this beautiful world we live in.
TNE: What about other art forms? Do you practice any?
NJ: I stay creative any way I can.
TNE: What kind of music do you prefer while tattooing?
NJ: I have very eclectic tastes and I love all kinds of music. You can take me anywhere.
TNE: How/where do you find your inspiration?
TNE: What is your personal approach with your clientele? Do people need to know exactly what they want? or they come with a bunch of loose ideas they need you to string together? Or do you prefer flash designs?
NJ: I have been a custom artist most of my career. Luckily, clients seem to have a loose idea and are open to suggestions. It's always great to see their satisfaction when you show them a drawing they approve of.
TNE: What are your prime life and work philosophy?
NJ: My father would always say to never turn down work. Never turn away an opportunity and I abide by that. I say do not judge. You never know who people are and what their story is.
TNE: In which kind of atmosphere do you like to work in? (music, vibe, open space with colleagues? Quiet, private space? Etc..)
NJ: I enjoy working in a group atmosphere. I am used to noise and exchanging ideas with people whether it's a street shop or a custom shop.
TNE: How would you describe your evolution as an artist since the beginning? And you work?
NJ: I've seen tattooing evolve and change a lot in 23+ years. Not only the equipment and technique but the clientele and the artists themselves. Women tattoo artists are no longer a minority. I was one of the first in Montreal and I am pleased to see so many women killing it and doing amazing work here. I love seeing the numbers of women working at conventions. Gone are days that people would assume I was the receptionist when they walked into the shop. It has come a long way.
TNE: Does tattoo make you travel? When you go on tattoo trips, do you see a difference with your clientele at home?
NJ: Doing guest spots and traveling is a great way to connect to people. It's easier to make friends in other cities if you are connected by a tattoo family. I have had great experiences and have made life long friendships this way.
TNE: Do you participate in a lot of tattoo conventions? What do you like and dislike the most while working in conventions?
NJ: I love the social aspect of tattoo conventions. That's my favourite part of it. Tattooing in a convention can be a bit challenging at times because you are not used to the environment and there are a lot of distractions but I think it's a good challenge and the change is fun.
TNE: What are some of your best tattoo convention memories?
NJ: I really enjoyed going to the Paris convention. The size of it and hearing all the different languages. I have great memories of Montreal's first conventions at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel and also the NYC conventions and NATIONAL association conventions in the 90's and seeing all the artists I had recognized from tattoo magazines. It was very exciting.
TNE: What is the ultimate goal you have set for yourself regarding your career?
NJ: My goal is simple. It is to stay happy and as fulfilled and stress free as possible. No one becomes a tattoo artist because they want to feel repressed or wear a uniform or be told what to do.We are lucky to get paid for art and we make money doing what we love and respect. I just want to keep meeting new people and hopefully connect with them in a positive way.