Tattoos by Guen Douglas are unmistakable: brilliant colour, technically impeccable, full of grace and irony. This British-French Candian tattoo artist who now works in Berlin has created a particular style which she defines as “bold, illustrative and heavily influenced by American Traditional”, finding her inspiration everywhere.
She speaks to us about it in this interview where she also tells us about the genesis of her digital eBook: a collection of gorgeous drawings and flash which focus on… Hands. Enjoy the read!
Hi Guen, would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?
Sure, my name is Guen Douglas, I am a British/French Canadian tattooer and I have a little private studio, Taiko Gallery in Berlin, Germany. I grew up in both the UK and Canada, and as an adult have lived in various cities around the world including, Ottawa, Montreal, Brighton, Rotterdam and Amsterdam.
When did you start tattooing and how would you define your style?
I started quite late as a tattooer, I was 26. I went to university for English literature and Criminology and after stepping away from that, realising that I had no intention of being the lawyer I had previously imagined I spent ten years working in gastronomy as a bartender and bar manager before finding an apprenticeship at a busy local street shop. I usually describe my style as being bold, illustrative, and heavily influenced by American Traditional,. One could say that it’s a spectrum, from very Fine Line, Illustrative, and sometimes Comic book inspired, to straight up American Traditional.
Did it change over time?
I learned to tattoo in Canada in 2005 when the Canadian tattoo identity was Illustrative and influenced by Art Nouveau, New School and Graffiti. So at the beginning of my career I tried mostly to emulate those styles. When I moved back to Europe in 2009I found myself surrounded by much more traditional forms of tattooing, Japanese and American Traditional.
This cultural shift definitely affected the way I tattooed. I moved towards a more traditional approach to my tattoos, single pass line work, black, solid colour and skin breaks. Now settled in Berlin, I enjoy being able to tattoo the full spectrum, choosing the right style to best interpret the client’s wishes.
Is it important for you to also paint and draw, besides tattooing?
It’s definitely important that I get to draw/paint/work on art outside of tattooing. This is how I move in new directions.
Exploring art away from the permanence of skin is a great way for me to challenge the way I look at tattooing and what’s possible.
What are your favourite subjects and techniques?
I love tattooing hands, the human form (lady heads, men, pin ups), large and small Art Nouveau and Art Deco inspired pieces. I also love interpreting stories into images, and anything with a sense of humour! Also any of my signature series like the cocktails and cubes reflections or the manties (men’s underwear hearts). I am most known for my colour work but also love doing Etching, and Black and Grey.
Where did the idea of this digital eBook come from?
When I was thinking about making an ebook, I wanted to make something useful as well as universally appealing to tattooers (and illustrator/designers). I wanted to make something that could be an easy to use go-to in a pinch, good for conventions or street shops but equally useful for people doing custom work that struggle with finding the right hand position for a design.
This book is not a book of finished designs, although each hand could in theory be its own stand alone tattoo. It was designed to be used to enhance or aid in the design process.
They are line drawings of female hands in 198 popular hand positions (200 if you count the cover).
They can be altered to make more haggard and shorter and stumpier, lengthened to make more stylised or used as-is. They can have various objects added to them or they can be added to lady head designs to make them more interesting. The possibilities are endless!
What are your projects for the future?
I would like to make a volume two to include the long list of hand positions I think could also be useful. I’m also working on various posters, tees and illustrations for businesses outside of tattooing, as well as adding to the line of apparel and homewares that I put out myself. And, of course, tattooing!