Qtattoo (dongkyu lee)

I started as an apprentice in 2011 – mopping, cleaning, setting up and tearing down and designed tattoos for the other artists in my shop. I apprenticed for a year and started tattooing a year later in January of 2012.

I used to be a musician but I soon realized I had no talent, so I joined the army for 2 years. My job was to plan war strategies. One day, a lower ranking soldier went away and came back with a tattoo. I had never really seen such a good tattoo before. It looked so cool and I became very interested in the art form.

After I retired from the army I went back to school and looked up tattoo artists in Korea. I decided to approach Sanlee (of Tattoo Korea), a famous realism tattoo artist in Korea. I just went to her shop and told her I wanted to learn. She was skeptical at first and made me draw and tested me. She tested me for one year. Everyday for an entire year I had to bring her one drawing.
After I graduated from school, I had more time to devote to tattooing, so she officially made me her apprentice.

My first shop experience was at Tattoo Korea – It was the biggest shop in Korea. A lot of artists and apprentices with different styles worked there. I learned all sorts of tattoo styles because there were so many different artists who tatted in so many different styles. My job at first was to clean up and look after all the artists in the shop. But I was very fortunate to have met Seunghyun Jo. He was the shop manager and an artist. He was also the one to help me come tattoo here at Forever Young Ink in Canada.
Tattoos are illegal in Korea, so marketing and finding clients were difficult. So that’s why I left Korea. So I said goodbye and I left.

I don’t really have any special training. I just watched and asked questions while other artists worked. I trained myself, but nothing special. Seunghyun Jo did teach me how to tattoo in exchange for me teaching him how to paint.
When I was 14-16, I did comic book animations. I later attended Sungkyunkwan University for fine arts, one of the best universities in Korea.Tattooing was a bit easier for me thanks to my artistic background

My first convention ever was at NIX in 2013. Fortunately for me I won 2 awards – large color and most realistic. I feel really lucky and honored. I would really want to go to the London Convention though. It is my dream.

To describe my style it is basically Realistic, hyper realism but I’m working on something more creative, but still within realism
I get my inspiration from other artists like Robert Hernandes. His work is very special and unique. Nikko Hurtado is another artist that I respect. He is like a professor to me and has shown me the standard and technique I need to work with.
Domantas Parvainis’ work is very emotional. His color and style inspire me to think deeper about my own work.
Grime has also had a great impression on my work even though he isn’t a realism artist. The way he can make traditional and Asian work so creative is amazing to me.

I’ve learned a lot of different mediums in my fine arts education – sculpture, oil painting, acrylic painting, water color and Asian painting and photography. But I’ve been so busy tattooing that I can’t do much. But I still try to do some oil painting and photography when I can.

Looking back, tattooing in the beginning was very limited, it was all just gangster, traditional and Asian. I thought so anyways. But I feel tattooing can be so much more. It can be a fine art. Everything is possible for tattooing. Its artistic, its unique, special and very cool. I love tattooing and I’m proud to be an artist.

Looking to the future, I want to express more creativity to my work. I’d like to find out how to add more emotions to my pieces as well. But still stay within the boundaries of realism.

If I were to give someone that is planning to get a tattoo an advice, It would be to make sure to find an artist who represents your style and personality and then trust them to do what you want. Just explain the simple concept and leave the rest to the artist. That’s the best way. I think.

If I were to pick out one of my favorite piecesthat I’ve tattooed it would be The Roy Jones Jr piece. That piece has a lot of meaning. It’s tattooed on my boss at Forever Young Ink. I won 2 awards with it. Roy Jones Jr reposted it on Instagram. And I feel like the piece was very vivid. I can see his expressions and the breath he was taking in the photo. It was a challenging piece that also paid off for me.

Tattoo gallery:

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