Maika works at Tatouage Royal click link to see the shop in Montreal and I speak to her about her inspirations and style.
Your Geometric ‘Geeky’ style is a world away from traditional tattoo style, I wonder how you came to tattoo as an outlet for your work?
This is such a good question, because it’s never a one clear and simple way that you come to do the work that you do, I think it is also true for any kind of art, it’s a process of many trial and error, although in our line of work using the word “error” is almost taboo.
I always knew clearly I wanted to do something different whether it be in my life or in my work, I didn’t always knew what, but I knew I wanted to find my particular path as a human being and as an artist, the two being closely related. I wanted to find the path that was my own. I believe each of us has its own particular highest potential to reach; the artwork of a lifetime and to tap into your highest potential you need to experience life in as many forms as possible; art, people, travel, and anything in between those that contribute to experiencing your own self as a new-renewed person, I think it is the same in art, to experience different kind of art and meet different kind of artists allows you to identify where you belong, and with who or what you connect the most. When you find those, you hold on to them, then it’s like pilling together all the things that makes you “you” and mix them together and it inevitably comes out through your work, or being, in the case of my work it’s what you see in my portfolio: organic and industrial geometry.
Your Mother was an artist? what medium? Did she influence you at all?
Yes she was and she certainly did, My mother taught me oil painting at age 9. But she later did mostly watercolor painting, she still does! I never really got into the watercolor painting, So I was pretty into oil all through my High school years, and tried different mediums as well while in school, but was often sidetracked by wanting to party and have fun. But having my mother teaching painting at home twice a week, was what I remember the most from my early teenage years. She’d let me sit in the classes and be part of the students so, her, being an artist at home, definitely influenced me in taking on the artist path, and I think she saw from an early age that I had an interest in it and she encouraged me.
You’ve said before that you are inspired by abandoned industrial sites in decay, do you take sketched of these? or just the forms form memory that inspire you?
I actually am interested in photographers that specializes in those kind of sites…I can see though that in the last few years it has almost become a “trend” somehow there’s this guy Matthew Christopher who did the book “Abandoned America” who I was interested in, Odins Raven who’s actually from the UK, although is recent work, mostly his Urbex Gallery, seem a bit over computerized for my own taste, still it’s pretty interesting, Kwolas Forest- Life is Illusion work is pretty Awesome. Plus, If you research abandoned site photography on the web, you will find a whole bunch of it and if you dig a little deeper, you can find some pretty decent ones. I could spend hours looking at those. I am also inspired by Horror films for similar reasons… I find they often have inspiring environment, Hostel, for example, which is not a great movie at all, but just for the photography I really enjoyed watching it, the spaces in which the character plays are fantastic. The first Saw, is also interesting like that. But Silent Hill is pretty much at the top for the best decaying imagery, I wish to find a way to include more of this kind of inspiration in my tattoo
What are your non tattoo related inspirations?
Those mentioned above. And Films. Few years ago, I saw a short-film by a Director from Quebec, whom, I had the chance to meet and work with, Pedro Pires, he did this short film called “Danse Macabre” and he also did a film call “Hope” both are worth watching, But Danse Macabre is the one who got me to contact him, I love his mind and creative universe, I greatly admire his work. He manages to make what I call “perfect” films, there’s no such thing as perfection, but my definition of it, is when a film is totally and completely balance in all it’s I guess I can say “department”, by that I mean, the directing, the acting, the music, the pacing, the story line. I get so excited when I see such film, it’s pretty rare, and sometimes it’s only one scene in a whole film. One scene can be quite a film all by itself, it makes my heart swell so big, I love it, I guess it comes from my year at university as an animation film student and followed by few years at working in the film industry and making films myself for a bit, before tattoo took all the space in my working life
I’ve always been fascinated with moving images, there’s also this guy I studied with in high school, and nowadays he makes the most beautiful, and what I call perfect, little animation film, his name is Patrick Bouchard, also a Quebecois, If you have the chance to watch Bydlo, the brainwasher or even The Subservience, there are all must see little films, very short so easy to watch, I also am in love with his mind and creative world, I wish I could spend time in his brain and see what it’s like in there, actually, I think you can watch both of Pedro Pires and Patrick’s work online
Who are your favourite tattoo artists/ who inspires you in the tattoo world?
Most definitely Gerhard Wiesbeck ‘Time travelling Tattoo, Blut und Eisen, Germany’ and Kenji Alucky (Japan, BlackInkPower) have influenced me the most lately. But so many other artists I met along the way have something to offer. I met guys like, Orge Kalodimas, Marco Galdo, Pierluigi Deliperi, Maxime Buchi, Raph Cemo, Ivan Hack, Patrick Hüttlinger, Jay Marceau, Veronique Imbo, Cory Ferguson, Rob Hoskins, Dillon Forte, Melanie (Inky und Stretchy, Germany), Mia (re-loaded Tattoo, Germany) and most of the co-workers and other Artists I met in different studios, I can say without hesitation that, at different degrees, I have learned form each of them. I think that travelling and being able to meet as many artists as I do make my life quite incredible to live and I feel privileged and grateful for it. It is definitely a big part of what makes me grow as a human being, as well as an artist.
And of course, the Tomas Tomas, Thomas Hooper, Curly, Guy LeTattooer are also amongst my greatest inspiration.
How did you begin tattooing?
I always find that there is no simple answer to this questions and I never really know where to start…So, I will go with this: I followed my instinct and desire to do so, I started by finding the people I knew who were tattooing, so they could get me started, and they were a great help (Safwan, from Imago in Montreal was one of them). Plus, having already a background in design and drawing help me feel confident I could eventually get there, (though, I knew it wasn’t the only answer to being a good tattoo artist), the support of my surrounding friends and loved ones, also was very helpful. Then, I didn’t let anyone who told me it was hard, or that it’s a long process, be in my way, but at the same time I made sure I respected their words by keeping them in mind at all time, Thus making sure I stayed on my toes ready for each new challenges ahead. And I made sure I was exposed at as much information as possible on the subject and kept digging, asking questions, researching and eventually “practicing” making small pieces.
I think also starting tattooing a little later in life (in my late thirties) made me, maybe, more “aware” of the possible mistake then if I would’ve started as a teenager, which made me somehow, smarter through the beginning process, which minimized the mistakes (without eliminating them altogether, but still). And of course, I did, a lot of everything at the beginning, working in a street shop in Montreal, I definitely learned a lot from that experience. I was doing as many tattoos the shop (mostly flash) could have me do in one day and making needles in quiet wintertime. I did learn what kind of artist I wanted to be and didn’t want to be in that place, that’s for sure. Making as many tattoos as possible in one day for the sake of money was definitely not the kind of artist I wanted to be, but I was “practicing” a lot, so kept going for a bit! I don’t think we can call what I was an “artist”, but I was more a tattoo factory worker of some sort! I have to give that Shop one thing though; they did hire me regardless of my inexperience, they give me the chance I needed to get started.
But it would still be a little longer even after leaving that studio that I would be able to do the style I do today. So I worked in another shop, (Excentrik was it’s name) and then it was more about finding myself in that world. The owner, Yan, let me do what I wanted, it was quite the freedom I was looking for, it gave me the time to figure this thing out but I still felt had to do anything that would come up to me, even though I had freedom. I knew I needed to do everything for a little longer; I had to eat and pay bills. But at least, I could choose just to know you have that freedom was helping my creativity to grow that much faster. So, I kept focusing at improving my skills, I stayed there 6 years I think and learnt a lot. But I was pretty much on my own, at least for the first few years, and on your own it is difficult no to “stagnate” after a while. After few years of being at Excentrik, I needed something to happen, so I could move forward in my learning, by then I had new co-workers who inspired me and encouraged me greatly. Their support gave me the courage to get out of the studio and do my first guest spot. It was with Jay Marceau, Owner and Tattoo Artist at D-markation, in Québec city, a younger and awesome dude who had been tattooing for so many more years then I did, and he was and still is so open about his knowledge and was so ready to share it, it was quite amazing to get to work with him, still awesome to work with him, it is him who actually told me about guys like Thomas Hooper, and Xed Lehead, Cory Ferguson and that’s where it all began for me after that I was on fire and a whole new world and path of possibility was opening up. My skills and technique improved dramatically as well as my confidence which is a huge push to go out there and propose a style different then what is already out there. And again, with the huge support and encouragement of co-workers, as well as clients increasing interest in what I did, I started to see my path more clearly. Then came the multiple travels and meetings with other amazing artists and yes this is pretty much how I got here
Did you study art? what do you think of art school?
I have a College diploma in Fashion design and a University Major in Film Animation, Art School was good for me, it allowed me to learn and explore different techniques and work method which is what I appreciated the most and it taught me a lot about my creative process and how to find the tool that works for me and incorporate them in everything that I do. What I learn in Fashion Design and Film Animation is something I can use in Tattooing. For example, the biggest lesson that comes to mind is from University. When you begin to make a piece, (or a film) and you focus too much on the end result, it will be extremely difficult to do the exact piece you want to do because of the many challenges you’ll meet along the way that will necessitate you to change/adjust your thinking, or your way of doing things. I learnt that if I focus on the process rather then the end result, that the result is more often then not, much more interesting then what I first had in mind. And I learnt to trust that; sometimes (often) no plan is better then having a plan. Because if you let yourself be open about the possible changes through the process to get the piece done, then your creativity is in full openness mode, you gave it the space to be. And therefore you freed yourself from any sort of limitation a specific plan/method/process can bring to a project. That being said, you still need some sort of “structure” to work (especially to make a film (or a tattoo) I also had to learn that in film school) but if at some point through your process the structure/plan gets in the way, just toss it out and give it another one, (or not) then the project is lead by creativity rather than the rigidity of a fixed plan things like that I learnt and love school also gives you the freedom to focus, which is a luxurious necessity for the creative mind to follow it’s journey.
How often do you draw or paint and how important is it to do so?
I must say, that I might be a little different then some other artist in that regard, I see a lot of my fellow worker/artists friends draw and paint a lot when they don’t tattoo, I cannot do that. What I need is balance. The work that I do is quite demanding, I need my full focus when I work, and that’s actually one of the reasons why I love it so much. But when my day is done…I need to rest my brain, I need time off from art, and be my simple me, play poker, enjoy simple food and time with friends that have nothing to do with the tattoo world, and talk about non-tattooed related things, meditate, go at the gym, read, go see a concert, enjoy being alive basically, then it’s easier for me and my creativity to get back to work…I think, my only medium is tattoo and ink, for now anyway. And I love my computer and technology. So, if I had to choose another medium, digital design might be it. Discovering a new way to use my computer to create my designs is more something I like to spend time on, of course some drawing is involved, but it’s not the primary focus… the challenge of putting the design on the clients skin is also, a part that I love!!! Also, I think, one day I’ll go back to filmmaking.
Did you always want to be a tattooist, if not when did you realise?
I always knew I wanted to be an artist. I remember being 12 years old and saying like it was the most normal and sure thing in the world, that I would live my life as an artist. What kind I didn’t know.
I think the interest in tattooing and drawing (art) was always part of my life, well as far as I remember, I always carried a sketched book with me while in school (of course interest for tattooing came more in the early teen years, but still pretty early) but the combination of both (my drawing skills (art) and tattoo) came quite late actually. I think as a teenager, being a tattoo artist, seemed to be something so unreachable that I wouldn’t even dare contemplating the thought I could become one. It’s only later after deciding to go to the university in Film Animation that I decided I should learn to tattoo and that it was definitely something I could learn. So I learned tattooing as I was learning filmmaking.
How do you feel about the current fashionability of tattooing in our contemporary culture?
I think it’s funny and the joke is on the ones that think tattooing is a Fashion accessory, because what we know about fashion is that a lot of the time, fashion goes out of fashion. So if you choose your tattoo with that in mind well there’s big chances you will regret it and get it covered at one point or another. There’s a category of people who think like that, let them think I say. They will soon enough learn their mistakes of course, we, as artist can do some education in that regard when the occasion arises and we meet such people. But, I try to focus on authentic people, being true to oneself is what is important when you choose a tattoo or a tattoo artist, that’s what I believe people should have in mind when they get tattooed, and I focus on those people, those are the people I want to work with. As the “fashionability” of tattooing, life is too short to waste time thinking about it. What I want to do is beautify my client’s body, make their tattoo an accessory to beauty that will make them more them and that will last through time! They will become their tattoo and their tattoo will become them.
Where do you hope to go from here?
To refine my skills and make bigger pieces! And keep working with as many artists that I love as possible! Keep travelling! Keep learning, always!
Did you apprentice, if so with who and where?
No, not with a specific artist. I have learned from many artists, from the very beginning up until now, as mentioned before. So, I guess, I can say I am the product of many masters!
Who have you been tattooed by?
I Have been tattooed by
Eric Dufour (ArtCyniq, Montreal, Canada.) (I also wish I could spend a day or two in his brain…)
Marie-Andree Decarie (Montreral, Canada)
Safwan (Imago, Montreal, Canada)
Jay Marceau (D-Markation, Quebec, Canada)
Lemur (Exotix, Toronto, Canada)
Jean-Philippe Burton (Brussels, Belgium)
Steve Moore (Vancouver Island, Canada)
Gerhard Wiesbeck (Time Travelling Tattoo, Germany)
Kenji Alucky (BlackInkPower, Japan)
Orge Kalodimas (Sake Tattoo Crew, Greece)
Who would you love to be tattooed by next?
Although I have pretty much reserved what space I have left on my body to these two guys: Kenji Alucky and Gerhard Wiesbeck! If I’d have another skin suit… I think I would get work done by Vincent Hocquet, Alex Arnautov, Ivan Hack, Tomas Tomas, Nazareno Tubaro, Hanumantra…But it’s the kind of guys you want to give a Big space to…and I don’t have those kind of spaces anymore :/
What’s your long term plan?
Live a healthy, rich and fulfilling life. Seeking the path to my highest potential as human being and as an artist. simple. Ahah!!