Chris Cleen: The Fire of the Heart

September 19, 2014

As a long time admirer or the darkly romantic, classic work of Chris Cleen, I had the pleasure of meeting, interviewing and getting work done by him on a recent trip to San Francisco. As a New York based tattoo artist, Cleen spends his days at Saved tattoo in Brooklyn, and at his drawing table, creating his erotic themed Victorian imagery for enthusiasts of his craft and those looking to get tattooed by himself. -Lust After

Lust-After: Put a name to the color of red that you use.


Cris Cleen: My red is the fire of the heart.


I adore the combination of prim Victorian imagery and erotica that you use, how did this style develop for you?


There are a lot of victorian erotic artists but I guess tattooing them only works when someone is willing to wear them. So much older tattoo flash is erotic in nature and to appeal to the fantasies of men and if i can push people to embrace that in themselves, I think its a very important avenue in tattooing and in turn , self discovery. I'm not trying to keep the erotic art Victorian necessarily its just more the clothing that I think is sexy specifically under things! I guess with that, just showing enough is what makes it more inviting than something crude. If it engages you to look closer, it makes it interesting as art and also in a tattoo.


Have you noticed a change in the types of images people have asked for over the years you’ve been tattooing?


People have changed the images they get many times mostly through internet trends, unfortunately. I guess thats why I ry to offer something specific so that those designs circulate. I want the primitive subjects to circulate because they will last longer than a custom piece for one person that gets homogenized a hundred times over. People that are worried about their personal design getting created don't realize that they will get used on other people when it makes its rounds on the internet.


Is there anything you’ve been wanting to tattoo, but haven’t gotten the chance?


I always get to do what I love in the way of designs. I can't think of anything that someone could do that would flip my switch other than scale. I guess if someone wanted to get covered in my work and or the subjects being bigger, like a snake along one side of the body, things like that. I'm always on the lookout for a women with no tattoos who wants a american image body suit from me that I could take around the world to show off.


Read the rest of the interview at Lust-After for Juxtapoz Magazine.