Each week our intrepid artist liaison and generally jovial Eikon staffer Patrick Coste sits down with a tattoo artist to get to know them a little better. This week, he's catching up with Christina Christie
Christina and her mind are so in tune with the art of tattooing, that she is ever-evolving and adapting her technique to suit the purpose - Patrick Coste
Name: Christina Christie
Year tattooing: 15 years
Year actually good at it? hah: “Maybe one day”
Place of business: Black Rabbit Tattoo, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
PC: Wasssap Christina?? Been a while...Calgary was the last time we saw each other right??
CC: It’s all a blur, but I believe so! That was a great show.
PC: I remember having small chats with you. Then I popped over to your booth, I saw you working and I was like; "GOOD LORD! I know it's illustrative/realism/FREAKING AWESOME style, but damn!!!" How would you define your style?
CC: Thank you! But I have no idea, haha. Most people tell me that it’s "Illustrative" and sometimes it’s referred to as "Neo-Traditional", but I don't really know how to pinpoint it. For me, it's a mashup of all the things that I enjoy, and have learned up to this point. I suppose I try to push my work into a direction in which it works for my process, and an understanding of what I think makes a unique tattoo.
PC: You truly bring the ART in Tattooing!
CC: I think that tattoos have an interesting relationship with fine art in that they both work off a canvas of sorts. The biggest difference with both mediums is that tattooing is a living, breathing canvas, and fine art is often on an inanimate object. The two age over time but in very different ways. Often fine art will age in subtle ways, that in some cases foresee many lifespans. With the art of tattooing, there is a guarantee that as the person that wears the tattoo ages, then the tattoo will continue to change every day. Although the change can be subtle too, it has a uniqueness about it because it is under skin cells making it transformable. I've seen many tattoos in various stages of their lifespan and noticed that they all age differently. The lines thicken the colour changes, the finer points slowly dull as with the body. Google told me...
PC: Wait, what? Google???
CC: haha, yes, haha... He told me that humans are made up of 11 different elements, and all of those elements together give us life. So it only makes sense that our bodies will hold onto inks in various different ways, which in effect will change the overall appearance. At some point, I began inserting maps of lines into my tattoo work as an attempt to create definition and structure to the subjects that I tattoo. This was a calculated move because I did a lot of figurative work before I came to this style, and over the years I began noticing that my older work was losing its definition. I wanted to control this process to some degree, in which the ageing process would complement the work. I actively began studying what made a successful tattoo that aged perfectly.
PC: I totally follow you. It's one reason I love American traditional work. I can definitely see the "bold lines", yet it's paired with very delicate and intricate work.
CC: Yes definitely. After much research and discussions with other artists, I learned that a trick to maintaining longevity seemed most successful through “Neo-Traditional” work. Artists from overseas who were doing this work began using small precise lines to distinguish certain elements of their work, like noses and hands. Before this discovery, I tried things like adding more black, thinner lines, thicker lines, larger scale. Over and over I worked towards some sort of perfectionism in my work. But through that process, I learned that tattoos are never perfect and that it is in fact the hand of the artist that makes for a successful tattoo which ages gracefully. I had to reprogram my way of thinking at that point, to accept that tattoos will age and change once they leave the shop.
Through this study, I began admiring and loving the way tattoos age. In fact, the deterioration process is so compelling to me that some of my favourite tattoos are the oldest ones that have aged so significantly, they are almost ineligible. They have a beauty to them that displays character, history, and a life lived. After careful thought and exploration, I decided that I wanted to make tattoos that would age gracefully and through their ageing process, would still maintain definition. While still focused on how I could transform my work, I began applying loose lines to my tattoo work. The addition was not unfamiliar to my sketching process, so it felt natural to add the line-work in a more controlled way.
This process was in part helpful in giving me an understanding of the subject that I was tattooing, and visually interesting to me and my clients. This worked for me on paper, so I wanted to be able to apply this process to skin. My thought process was that when my tattoos age and lose some of their definition, the lines (much like the framework of a building) would be the foundation for the overall piece during its lifespan. Time will tell and I’m always learning new things, which is why I find it hard to pigeonhole my work as I’m certain that with time my work will continue to change.
PC: You have a fair collection yourself, who did your back?
CC: Steve Moore did my back and now, more recently completed my front too.
PC: Was that a way for you to learn your craft?
CC: Absolutely. Steve has been a huge influence on my work! I believe that if you want to reach your goals, then a part of that is to surround yourself with people and things that inspire you. Spending as much time as I do with Steve has pushed me out of my comfort zone and into avenues I previously didn’t venture into before. But I also think that a majority of tattooers all around the world, are inspired by Steve’s work. I just so happened to have the privilege of getting tattooed by him and seeing his work firsthand. Believe me, his work transcends both through a lens and in person.
PC: What’s next for you this year?
CC: Probably a lot of Netflix… Just kidding! This year I'm focused on staying put here in Vancouver for a while. I have a lot of large projects in the works and would love to bring completion to them. I don’t plan on doing many conventions this year, because I want to focus my attention on growing my work. Travelling, though very inspiring, can make it hard to focus on goals. I'm extremely lucky to have my shop and my tattoo family with me here at home, and Jon Clue has been a huge support and inspiration for me. We do plan to go back to Jon’s hometown of New York City soon for some guest spots, and I think that will be a great source of inspiration too as New York always is.
PC: Christina, I truly enjoy this exchange with you. I feel truly blessed, thank you.
CC: Thank you, Patrick. See you around!!!