An Interview with Nomi Chi

Nomi Chi is a prolific tattooer and illustrator out of Vancouver, Canada. She currently tattoos out of Gastown Tattoo Parlour. We had the excellent opportunity to ask her some questions:

Tattoo You – What was the first tattoo you received?

Nomi Chi – When I was 14, I got a treble clef on my ankle. My tattooer was a scruffy biker fellow who went by the name “Spider”. My mother paid for it, voluntarily at that. Since then it’s been covered up three times.

TY – Do you have a favorite tattoo?

NC – No – I consider all of my tattoos to be part of a singular ongoing project rather than individual pieces. I’m often infatuated with whatever newest tattoo I have, before I get used to seeing it. Right now my newest piece is a janky stick-n-poke I got from a friend – it says “ugly boy”.

TY – Are there any challenges translating your illustration style into tattoo?

NC – Not really. I try to be very careful with how/when I cross-pollinate between my tattooing and illustration work. I do not think I illustrate like I tattoo: yes, I borrow a lot of illustration imagery from tattoo iconography, and I try to apply illustrative atmospheres to my tattoo work, but in a technical sense tattooing is a relatively restrictive medium. Ergo, I feel like my illustrative work is less conservative than my tattoos. That used to bother me, but I’m warming up to the idea that tattooing is its own distinct medium with it’s own strengths. It doesn’t have to echo my illustrative work to be impactful.

TY – Who would you say are the artists, illustrators, or tattooers who have influenced you the most?

NC – I don’t even know where to start! There are too many! The obvious ones would be James Jean, Peter Aurisch, sometimes Alexander Grim, Yoshitaka Amano, Vania… Then there’s Aubrey Beardsley, Junjo Ito, Mioke, Lauren YS, Sabrina Elliot, Tina Lugo, Artemisia Gentileschi, Trevor Brown, Yoshitomo Nara, Aya Kakeda, Mandy Tsung, Joel Rich, Michael Deforge, Greggletron, the list goes on indefinitely.

TY – You are very prolific. We follow you on Instagram and you always seem to have so many different types of projects going on. What drives you to create?

NC – I am very neurotic and I become anxious if I am not constantly making things! I also have a short attention span and I’m bored easy, so I have to juggle lots of different projects to stay interested in the creative process.

TY – So you’re going to school. Where are you going and what are you taking?

NC – Emily Carr University in Vancouver, and I’m finishing my degree in illustration. I’m graduating in a month!

TY – Why do you think people come to you to get tattooed?

NC – I would hope people get tattooed by me because my work resonates with them in some sort of way. I try to approach each of my images from a fresh angle, and I think people appreciate that.

TY – You’re well known for your animal tattoos. What are your favorite animals to tattoo?

NC – I actually like to tattoo animals that I haven’t yet tattooed. I like weird, ugly animals but cute ones are okay too. So hit me up with your weird animal projects!


TY – You must have a playlist that you listen to while you work. Who are your favorite musical artists these days?

NC – Actually, I struggle with this a lot! When I’m trying to come up with ideas and problem solve, I usually need some aggressive and high-energy music to keep me motivated. If I’m coasting along and markmaking/applying paint then I usually lean towards more chill, ambient stuff. If I get frustrated with my playlist (it happens often), I listen to podcasts. These days I’ve been drawing a lot with my partner Joel Rich (who is also a tattooer) so we’re usually griping about tattoos, and about art in general, it’s pretty tragic.

TY – Do you have any advice for young tattooers?

NC – First of all, I don’t consider myself to be in a place where I can give useful advice. That being said, I’ve noticed a lot of tattooers starting out and immediately gravitating to a very particular aesthetic or style of tattooing. I think it’s pretty important that you stretch your legs, try lots of different things, and try to bring something unique to the table without being too derivative. That “something unique” will change over time, so give yourself space to do so. Obviously this applies to tattooers of all experience levels. I also think it’s important to have an art practice outside of tattooing, be it comics or illustration or basket weaving – constant visual research can only help.

TY – Tattoo is fundamentally permanent. How do you feel about having some of your designs being used as temporary tattoos?

NC – Life is temporary and life imitates art. Right?

Thanks Nomi! We’re thrilled to have you on the team!

Check out Nomi’s temporary tattoos on her TattooYou page.

You can follow her on Instagram.

Visit Gastown Tattoo Parlour.

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