Chen Jie is a tattoo artist that creates intricate watercolor tattoos that look like real ink brush paintings.
Chen Jie is a tattoo artist that established Chen Jie Newtattoo Studio tattoo workshop in 2005. The stunning beauty and distinct details features of her works, that look like a brush ink painting, made her became popular on Instagram, with followers from all over the world. Chen Jie has become an internationally well-known tattoo artist that attracted many overseas clients to China due to her style, which had incorporated traditional Chinese aesthetics. She paints elements of Asian culture and old art into her tattoo artworks given than a watercolor style effect. The effect of the gentle touch of ink brushes instead is made with tattoos needles on the skin by the professional and accurate hand of Chen Jie that works with great precision. In 2017, Chen collaborated with Nike on their The Force is Female campaign which celebrated the strong women shaping their culture and inspiring their communities. She runs her own boutique studio at Sanlitun, where she is turning bodies into living canvas.
Do you remember when you ﬁrst saw a tattoo that fascinated you? When and how did you realize you wanted to become a tattoo artist?
I remember seeing a picture of a tattoo on Angelina Jolie’s arm on a magazine that particularly struck me. Ah, ah, being a tattoo artist it was quite an unexpected thing. One of my tattoo artists (and who later taught me to tattoo) once said to me: “You can try to be a tattoo artist.”. I just bite the bullet and made up my mind in 2004. I didn’t realize that I had become an artist. I prefer to consider myself an artisan. There are too many great artists around the world who are too young to be artists, I really don’t deserve it.
Who inspired you as an artist and what is your aesthetic philosophy?
My tattoo artist became my teacher and said I might have a gift for this, and I could give it a try. When I learned the art of tattooing, I realized that nobody in China did tattoos of this style. I said to myself, why not? Chinese paintings are so beautiful. So I tried to make ink tattoos following the Chinese style.
Later I was recognized by everyone.
Can you tell us about your experience with the ﬁrst tattoo?
I was very nervous … Fortunately, I had many friends who trusted me and were willing to get a tattoo on their skin.
Doing watercolors on the body and paper is essentially the same, on paper, you need to dilute the ink to get lighter colors and achieve that faded effect. It’s the same on the skin.” – Chen Jie
Do you remember the ﬁrst person you tattooed? What did you tattoo?
I approached the world of tattoos in 2004, and I did the first tattoo on the skin in 2005. I remember the first tattoo: a six-character mantra in the Tibetan language. And as for my first client, it was too long ago.
What was the relationship with tattoos in China when you started working as a tattoo artist. What were the biggest difﬁculties you encountered?
I started in 2005, so early enough. Tattoos were not very popular at the time (I’m a woman, and it was even worse for me). In the past, in fact, there were many negative prejudices. With the development and subsequent opening of the country, and innovations in the themes, everything has changed.
Nowadays, many bring their parents to have the same tattoo done.
Can you share some stories with us that touched you emotionally about someone who asked you for a tattoo?
There are too many. Many foreigners came to get tattoos and trust you. It was moving, since some people lost their love wanted some commemorative designs related to their relationship. Others wished to remember a place where they had lived. There really are many.
For regular tattoos, you have first to outline and then fill in the colors, but Chinese watercolor tattoos don’t have outlines. You have to ink it slowly, bit by bit from the bottom to top.” – Chen Jie
What has changed in the relationship with tattoos in China nowadays, since you started? Do you think there are still prejudices and taboos about tattoos in China?
Maybe my style can convince many people who don’t want to have tattoos and have prejudices about them. What I do are mostly Chinese paintings with more ink and wash, floral, or bird-themed elements… Therefore, I had won many girls’ love.
There are fewer and fewer taboos and prejudices about tattoos, which may have something to do with pattern types as well.
You create intricate watercolor tattoos that look like real paintings with incredible precision. What are the differences in making traditional tattoos?
I like the traditional Chinese painting style and I think it is beautiful, it is the expression of artistic conception. The technique and method of application are a little different, but they are not difficult to achieve.
Many tattoo artists are good, but much depends on the themes and aesthetics, and also on the experience.
Beijing based tattoo artist Chen Jie makes traditional Chinese landscapes, still-life paintings, and portraits.
What is the strangest thing you’ve been asked to tattoo?
Nothing weird, just something personal, but all good.
Compared to conventional styles, Chen Jie’s watercolor tattoos require greater precision and different techniques. The process for creating her watercolor and ink brush tattoos requires two types of guns: one that acts as a pen to draw the bold lines and another to act as a paintbrush injecting faded colors.
What differences did you notice in the course of your activity regarding the requests for tattoos between Westerners and Orientals, women and/or men (body parts to be tattooed, motivations, subjects of tattoos, ages, etc …)?
Perhaps boys prefer more tough patterns. Compared to women, western countries are more open to tattoo culture, therefore the places chosen are more exposed.
Since it is still developing in the East, or at least still in the stage of being accepted by the public, there are countless employees, doctors, teachers, police officers and other professionals who cannot have tattoos on exposed parts. (On Instagram there is a graphic that shows how most of my customers are women between 25 and 40 years old).
Photos courtesy of Chen Jie and Newtattoo Studio
CHINA-UNDERGROUND. Ciao! My name is Dominique. I’m Italian and I’m proud to be a mix. My father was an Italian chemical engineer and high school teacher, with Greek and Polish heritage. My mother is Haitian, she was high school language teacher, with Dominican, Spanish, French, Portuguese, African and Native American heritage. Being a mix makes me appreciate to want to understand different cultures and lifestyles. I grew up in Italy, lived few years in Haiti, travel around main European capitals, lived seven years in China, six in Spain and UK. Traveling makes me feel that we can learn something from every situation in every part of the world.