An Interview with Illustrator + Tattoo Artist Nomi Chi

May 15, 2013

How does being a tattoo artist compare with doing illustration? How does your tattoo work play into your personal work?

Tattooing has some pretty obvious restrictions: it is unforgiving, undoing errors can be painful and expensive, preservation can be difficult if not impossible, and it inherently involves the will and desire of another human being (although it is fun, I love my job etc etc). Illustration (or illustrative visual arts) allows me the room to prance about inside my head and experiment with imagery which may or may not yield palatable results. Failures are less of an issue, so the end result is that my tattoo work is generally more conservative than the rest of my illustration portfolio. I am trying to change that, though - I am currently studying in the UK and have encountered some pretty amazing approaches to the medium both here and during my travels around Europe. It's very inspiring to see people really push the medium.



If you were gifted with a superhuman power, what would it be? Would you use it for good or evil?

To be honest, I've thought about this quite a bit and my ideal superpower would be to immediately summon the bus at bus stops. There would also be a seat available for me on the bus, there would be no surprise route changes or stinky/crazy/creepy people. I'd use this to get from point A to point B, which is admittedly boring but I think it transcends good and evil. Or, I don't know, space travel or something would be cool too.


If you could hang out with one person, living or dead, who would it be and what would you do?

My celebrity crush, Steve Buscemi. I would just love to have coffee with him, talk about life and look at his weird face.



What's the strangest thing that's ever happened to you while tattooing?

I tattooed this one fellow who claimed to be a reincarnated martial arts master, he also claimed to be part dragon. I should note that this was a long time ago, pre HBO's Game of Thrones. He was otherwise surprisingly unassuming and well assembled. I can't really report much other than that! My tattoo career has had some peculiar twists and turns, but I try to keep the actual tattoo process as drama-free and without strangeness as humanly possible.



Where do you get inspiration? How do you deal with artist's block?

Spending time with other artists is essential - or anyone, really, who is excited by the creative process. Picking the brains of and having drinks with my fellow art peers really lifts my spirits when I'm down and it gets me really excited about my current and future projects! If I'm in a rut, I go for a run and try not to think about art for a bit. Failing that, I eat junk food until my stomach hurts too much to feel bad anything else, and then I go to sleep.



Where do you see your art going in ten years?

Considering the fact that I didn't even know what illustration was ten years ago, I have absolutely no idea. I want to keep making nifty things is all.

Anything else you'd like everyone to know?

I get a lot of questions with regards to products! I currently don't have any prints, but I have some really nifty stuff available with my publisher Vonzos, which can be found at!


Interview by Lauren YS

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