Alice Guerin, after receiving her Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2013, quickly found a sector where she could continue her artistic practice: tattooing. Due to her incredible attention to detail and ability to do delicate, precise designs, Guerin’s business gained traction very quickly.
Today, Guerin only takes appointments, and for good reason: her parlor, Knot Eye Studio, has a incredibly high level of demand, and her appointment books currently closed until fall 2019. She has been featured in Indianapolis Monthly and The Good Trade, along with numerous other publications. Here, Guerin discusses her artistic process, inspirations, and more.
HERRON: What are some of the creative challenges, or the differences between creating artwork on human skin instead of on a canvas?
GUERIN: Physically, it’s really nothing like working on canvas at all. With tattooing, you’re using a loud, vibrating, awkward-shaped tool to create an image on a soft, squishy, fluid-filled, moving, curved canvas that has feelings. Not only that, but there are millions of variations and combinations to pay attention to.
The length of your needle, the pressure and speed of your hand, how fast the needle moves in and out of the skin based on your power settings, the abilities of your specific machine in use (they’re all a little different), the thickness of the skin in the specific body part on the specific person, the pain tolerance, the thickness of the needle, the thickness of different inks, the weight and grip of your tube, and even the amount of water the person drank that day. It’s an exhausting and endless amount of variations!
Then, there are the mental differences. For me, the mental process is entirely different than creating on canvas. When I paint or draw for myself it’s usually surrealism involving only variation and shifts in value — no hard lines at all. No visual references either, usually. But when creating a tattoo, I’m using mainly hard linework and tons of reference imagery. This can be probably the toughest part for me — making tattoos has caused me to have an entirely different creation process which sort of rewired my brain. I find it a lot more difficult now to draw without references or to create the surreal works I used to be so passionate about.
HERRON: Your tattoos are known for their intricate, meticulous designs. What does your process for creating designs look like?
GUERIN: If it’s an idea a client is bringing to me, I generally start with a consultation. Say they come wanting three different specific flowers, two bees, a butterfly, and some sort of sash tying it into a bouquet. I ask their preferences of style, be it crosshatching, dotwork, soft grey shading, color. I then ask where they want it on their body, how big it should be, and if they could show some references that let me get a feel for their style and what they’re looking for.
From there I’ll go grab a coffee, throw on a podcast, and research the heck out of each specific element — finding different angles of each, trying to match what I see in my head. I’ll do a few thumbnails of the basic shape I want the tattoo to be and how it will sit on the specific body part. I find movement to be really important with placement, so I’ll doodle till the shape feels right. Lastly, I ink it all in and tweak it as I go!
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At the age of 23, Guerin has already established an extremely successful business and, on top of that, she enjoys what she does. “It feels wild, and I think I’m really lucky.” When asked what sparks her passion for tattooing, Guerin cites the interpersonal connections involved with her work and the ability to make many new acquaintances daily, leading to both new friends and new business opportunities. “Plus, I get to leave forever-marks on my buddies,” she adds. “That being said, it’s not without its stressors, but it’s worth it.”
Follow Alice Guerin’s activities through her Instagram account, @knoteyetattoo.