Jay Freestyle - Peep The Technique
Growing up Chinese in South Africa, and later moving to Amsterdam, made for plenty of inspiration for tattoo artist Jay Hongknown in the Amsterdam tattoo circles as Jay Freestyle.
Coming from a conservative family, in his teen years, Jay decided to stray from the mentality of those in his family. His liberal and freethinking ways lead to Jay's interest in body art.
He began his career in body modification by becoming a piercer. His piercing mentor, who was also his cousin, convinced Jay to give tattooing a chance. Due to not being able to find a mentor in the art of ink slinging, Jay went the self-taught route. And, since no one was there to teach him how to apply a stencil, Jay decided to freehand his work, which actually helped in creating his own unique style of tattooing.
Four years later, Jay continues to work on his craft. He explained his style as, "Taking any image and bringing it to life with an avant-garde feel by rendering the image as a watercolor painting." When he isn't tattooing at Dermadonna Custom Tattoos in Amsterdam, Jay travels the world, searching for inspiration and learning from other artists, all in an effort to push the limits, and to one day master the art of tattooing.
REBEL INK: You're of Chinese background, but were born in South Africa and then moved to Amsterdam. Are there any influences that you may have picked up from each of these distinct places that you use as inspiration for your art?
Jay Freestyle: The biggest influence on my work at the moment would definitely be Chinese ink paintings and brush strokes. A lot of what I do is based off of creating an image with a single or very few brush strokes. I think the geometric elements and bright colors I like to use derive from my South African upbringing. Growing up around so much nature and wildlife, African art is so bright and colorful I like to bring those lively elements into my work. We are, after all, known as "The Rainbow Nation." Amsterdam never really appealed to me; even though I currently live there. So it's never really influenced my art. It did, however, influence me as a person. It made me very liberal and open-minded, which actually, come to think of it, has influenced my art in the way that I'm a lot more receptive and appreciative of different art styles.
Youíre a self-taught artist. Is there a reason why you went the self-taught route as opposed to getting an apprenticeship?
After being turned down by a couple shops, I was like, "Screw them! I'll learn by myself." I'm one of those who believe success is the best revenge. In a way, I'm glad I couldn't get an apprenticeship, because that's had a huge influence on the way I work and my style.
Would you advise up-and-coming artists to take the self-taught route?
If you're lucky enough to get one, take it and appreciate that sh*t. Nowadays, nobody offers that to anybody. At the end of the day, apprenticeship or self-taught, it doesn't really matter. It comes down to you either have it or you don't.
Some clients get shaky when an artist goes freehand on their design as opposed to using a stencil. How do you get a client like that to trust in your artistic ability?
Clients who are referred through existing clients are generally aware of what they're in for because they've already heard from their friends how I just drew on them and went at it. Clients who don't know my work can see my style and it's either for them or not. The type of clientele that I attract are people who are looking for a piece of art from the artist, and they generally understand that in order to get the best result they need to just give an idea and let the artist run with it. I think every artist will agree that the more freedom they have, the better the tattoo will look, and that's what I tell my clients. It's all or nothing - you either trust me to do what I do or find someone else.
I noticed that you have portraits in your portfolio. Portraits are typically about precision. How do you achieve this with your freestyle way of working?
Portraits I do using a stencil. I wish I was that good [laughs]. I would say about 80 percent of what I do is freehand. Portraits and realistic stuff, I need to use a stencil.
How would our readers in the USA be able to get work from you if they can't make it out to Amsterdam? Do you work conventions or guest spots in the States?
Yes, I'm there twice a year usually. I only started traveling two years ago, so I still have a lot of places to go on my list. I'm often in Philadelphia, doing a guest spot there at Northern Liberty Tattoo. So, one of the "for sure" conventions that I do is the Philly convention. I've done a couple shows around the East Coast area. I promise I'll come down to the West Coast as well in the future. I'll be adding New York to my go-to area in the States now that I have some buddies there. If customs weren't so difficult to get through, I'd be there more often. I love it out there.
How long is your current wait time for appointments?
It depends on how much I'm traveling, but roughly one to two months. I'm not that famous...yet.
Dermadonna Custom Tattoos
1012 CW Amsterdam
Phone: +31 64 911 0919