This is how an aspiring librarian became an artist able of combining the Black and Grey style with the dark creations and cosmic monsters of H.P. Lovecraft.
Hello Tessa! Have you always wanted to be a tattoo artist since you were a child, or did you dream of being a princess or ballerina like all your peers?
I have the most boring and unsatisfying answer to your question: I wanted to become a librarian! (laughs) Since I was a little kid, I was creating short stories and cartoons. I was obsessed with the local libraries and spent hours reading and drawing. And in the near future I think of creating my own graphic novel! When I’m old, I would love to have my own little library.
Will you reveal who has been your greatest teacher so far in your life?
My parents. My mom has the most amazing imagination. She taught me how to draw and how to use my fantasy from the moment I could hold a pencil. From then on, I expressed my love and gratitude through thousands of drawings.
Tell me about your dad too.
My dad taught me that creativity and perseverance go hand in hand. He told me that once you master a skill, nothing will stand in your way.
Let’s talk about your surreal Black and Grey tattoos. Sometimes these great works seem to me to be inspired by H.P. Lovecraft to whom you even dedicated a portrait…
Yeah, Lovecraft is my main inspiration to this day! I researched his work along with the works of E.A. Poe and Algernon Blackwood during my university years, after being obsessed many years before.
H.P. Lovecraft talks about grotesque cosmic monsters and at the same time, he describes the tiniest details.
I take this quite literally and while tattooing, I go for strong shapes and contrast combined with texture and fine lines.
What are your reference points anyway?
When I design, I look for a shape that will be recognizable after many years-skin ages and so does the tattoo. During the tattoo, I always have my iPad near with all kinds of textures. A reference for hair texture could be a photo of grass, a reference for a monster’s skin can be a close up of a horror movie prop.
Besides being a very good tattoo artist I notice that you are also a fantastic illustrator. Will you reveal the contemporary literary author of your dreams for whom you would immediately create a cover artwork?
I’m afraid all of my idols were alive in the Victorian age! I think the only contemporary writers whom I admire are illustrators themselves – and they don’t need a cover artist.
In my opinion, words lost some power. They need to be combined with images.
So this is my takeaway: I will create my own stories, illustrations and cover artwork!
Do you listen to music with headphones when you tattoo?
No. I mostly listen to fictional horror stories or podcasts during my working hours. Music distracts me too much and messes up my working speed. The monotonous narrator voice helps me to focus!
For which band or artist would you like to make a record cover directly from your works?
Well, there are a lot of bands that ask me for a record cover, but I simply cannot find the time to design. I should make time!
Would you like to tell me about your little personal kingdom, namely ‘Hond van Gent Tattoo’? What is it like to share this workplace with Cristian, the other owner?
Honestly, my boyfriend Cristian (IG: @i.need.moneyyyyy) and I are the strongest team you will find. The shop is a natural result of how we function. We want the best for each other and this really shows in our work. We always discuss our projects with each other and make sure that each piece that leaves the shop is a work of art.
Tell me about your respective styles.
We have different styles – Black and Grey and Blackwork – but that is what makes dialogues interesting. Even after we are done, we talk about the quality and the techniques. There is no place for competition, shop drama or envy – only good stuff! Spending just one day in the shop is enough to experience the vibe.
How is the tattoo scene in Gent?
Only those in the tattoo scene can speak for the tattoo scene, and I never felt like a part of it. I feel more like a storyteller or a concept artist! There are of course a lot of good young artists in Gent, more than in any other Belgian city.
I think Gent has the widest and wildest range of tattoo styles compared to other Belgian cities.
Is Belgium a tattoo friendly nation?
Walking around with big, unusual or scary tattoos in Belgium does make people’s heads turn, but I feel like Belgian people are learning to appreciate the art.
What 2023 do you expect? Will you be travelling to guest spots and tattoo conventions?
For now, I’m not that interested in guest spots or conventions. I like the way my chair is perfectly lined up with the tattoo chair, my lamp on the left, my trolley on the right and the coffee machine in sight. Perfect!
Of course Cristian and I will travel a lot in 2023, as we are so grateful to be here right now on this planet. (smiles)
And your last famous words are… ?
Okay, take a look in the mirror and tell me what you think!
Follow ‘Hond van Gent Tattoo’ on Instagram: @hondvangent