Meet Jess Yen, aka Horiyen, founder and tattoo artist at My Tattoo (in Alhambra, CA – USA), and discover his amazing, brand new eBook.
Hi Jess, would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is Jess Yen, and I started as a Tebori tattoo artist (Japanese hand-poked tattoo), so many people know me as Horiyen. The name “Horiyen” is derived from Japanese kanji of “Hori”, meaning to tattoo and English pronunciation of my last name, “Yen.” I was born in Taiwan and raised strictly by my grandfather and mother under Japanese culture, but now a proud and patriotic American and live in Los Angeles, California, USA. I currently own two tattoo shops and a private studio in City of Alhambra and Huntington Beach, California. I am also a founder of my own tattoo family, known as Horiyenichimon or Jess Yen Tattoo Family with six members including myself.
When did you start tattooing and how would you define your style?
I have been tattooing professionally since 1992, starting as a Japanese hand-poked tattoo artist (tattoo method known as Tebori). Initially, I did traditional style of tattoos, which were like Americana style – the tattoo design emphasized in line work and the colors/shades were filled in by hand-poked method within lines. After learning how to use an electrical machine in US, I did all kinds of styles, but mainly oriental tattoos. Adopting Western culture plus my background in fine arts & interior design industry, and changes in styles overtime in tattoo industry, I used both Tebori method and electrical machines to create a new style.
Today, people know me as Oriental Realism style or Illustrative Oriental style as I called it myself.
Did it change over time?
Yes, with an electrical machine, I was able to add elements of realism and materialism into my work, in which, a Tebori method was not able to achieve it. Also, time has changed, people like different things, and realism style became very popular. Oriental style tattoo has a lot of “fantasy” creatures that were not exist in real life, for example, a dragon. By adding elements of realism and materialism, I could bring a life out of them. People could visually feel sharpness of a dragon’s claws, the texture of its snaky skin, the furriness of its horse hair on the its back, and its vivid eyes that tell you the storyline behind this work. The main subject character pops out and has 3-dimentional effect. I do not think less of old traditional style. That was where we all started it from. Many people today, like me, still love and appreciated the traditional way of oriental tattoos. Although my Illustrative Oriental tattoo style derives from time changes, needs of my work, and influence of Western culture, I keep the original story and spirit of Eastern history and myth.
Is it important for you to also paint and draw, beside of tattooing?
Absolutely, I think drawing/painting and tattooing work conjointly. If I get improved and better in drawing/painting, at the same time, I would advance in tattooing. For a beginner tattoo artist, drawing and painting is like his/her foundation. As we grow to intermediate or advanced artists, drawing and painting become necessaries or even as commitments. From drawing and painting, I was able to create and design new ideas, then, I would duplicate these creations and new designs on tattoos.
What are your favorite subjects and techniques?
When I do my drawings and paintings, I use varies medium from pencil, charcoal, pastel, to airbrush, acrylic, sumi inks and watercolor, in which, each of them has their own different techniques. I cannot say what technique is my favorite, but they are being used here or there, in order to achieve the effect that I desired. They served to their own purpose. Because I had over 20 years in oriental art, most of my subjects are oriental subjects and characters in both painting and tattooing. I have spent long time studying their details, history and myth, so I have more understanding in them and I guess you can say they are my favorite.
Where did the idea of this eBook come from?
First, I would like thank very much to TattooLife Magazine and my dear friend Miki Vialetto for this great opportunity to issue this eBook. The cover page of my eBook was a thousand-hand GuanYin which I painted on a guitar for Gretsch Guitar Art Exhibition during 2018 London Tattoo Convention. The rest of art works were sketches I have done for my tattoo clients. Taking this opportunity, I would like to share my arts and ideas with many enthusiastic and artists in a celebrating and joyous aspect and community that Tattoo Life Magazine creates.
What are your projects for the future?
Currently, I am co-hosting “Korouten” art exhibition with legendary Sensei Horiyoshi III annually in Tokyo, Japan, In the future, I plan to host Jess Yen and Jess Yen Tattoo family art exhibition at our home base here in Los Angeles, California. I will also continue to do more drawings and paintings, hopefully, to publish some of my art books. At the old age, I wish to open a gallery/museum to showcase history of Tebori tattooing method and art work of Horiyenichimon (Jess Yen Tattoo Family) and many of our friend artists.