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Q&A with Chinatown Stropky

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Vancouver-based tattooer Yi Stropky has become well-known in the world of tattoos for his minimal black line work and boxed-ink designs. His work seems to capture everything from whimsy, erotica, feminism, nature, and everything in between.

Yi recently designed an collection of semi-permanent tattoos for inkbox, which you can check out here.

 

We loved the collection so much, we invited Yi to Toronto to guest spot in our new tattoo studio, where he tattooed about a dozen designs from his flash. 




However, tattoos are just one of the many outlets for Yi's art. Read on to get to know the artist behind the work.

When did you first consider yourself an artist?
Every time I ask myself this question, the answers are different as my understandings of art changes through time. I think that everyone is an artist in their own way. But I also think that “artist” is a title that should be given to the artist by the audience who are inspired by the artist.  I believe that artists can be their own audience and can be inspired by their own art; however, I feel shy to call myself an artist. Maybe I am a shy artist. 

What's the first form of media that you loved expressing your art through?
In specific terms, my answer would be drawing. I started taking drawing classes at a very young age.  In broader terms, I would say it’s performance as I believe that art practice itself is performative, and drawing can also be a type of performance. 

How has your art developed over time?
I feel that I have gained more freedom in art making as my understanding of art has expanded. I've tried different styles and forms of art making, since each style and each form has it unique characteristics in terms of expression. Through experimenting with different mediums such as drawing, painting, animation, film and performance, I have got more options for artistic expressions. I hope my feeling is right. 

So how did you get into tattoos?
I started to tattoo when I was going to art school. I needed a part-time job, ideally an art-related part-time job. And you know, tattooing is fun!

Tough question: Favorite tattoo you’ve ever given?
It’s really difficult to pick one or a few favourites from all the tattoos I have done. Personally I try not to have much attachment to the tattoos after I have tattooed them on my clients as I believe that they belong to the people who wear them. And I hope the tattoos I have given to people will be ones of their favourites.

Favorite tattoo you’ve ever received?
It’s equally as difficult to answer as the last question. I like all of my tattoos. I wanted to say that I like the latest one maybe a little more than the rest just because it’s the newest. Then I realized that I also really like all of my other tattoos equally, because they all had once been the latest one. 

What’s the meaning behind all of the boxed-in designs you tend to be drawn to?
I started tattooing the boxed-in designs about four years ago when I was studying Animation in Emily Carr University. At first, the boxed-in designs were all from my story-boarding drawings for animations. Then as I kept tattooing more of these boxes, it became a style of tattoo that my clients would specifically ask for from me. Since then, I have had a very intimate relationship with the box. I think one of the interesting aspects of visual art is its openness to interpretations. So instead of telling what the boxes mean to me, I would keep the meanings being open to you. Please allow me not putting a box around the boxes this time.

If you could tattoo anyone in the world - who would it be?
I think it would be interesting to tattoo Yayoi Kusama. At school I learned that when she was younger, she painted dots on naked people in shows/parties as a part of her performance art practice. I would like to put some of my boxes on her as a performance inspired by hers as her experience of art making has always been a huge inspiration for me. 

If you could tattoo anywhere in the world - where would it be?
Everywhere. The world is a quite specific location, isn’t it? I am also open to tattoo somewhere else in the universe if possible!

Why do you think some people want to test out their tattoos before getting them?
In regular tattoo sessions (there are very rare cases where the artist does not show the drawing to the client before the tattoo is done), customers would see the stencils on them before getting tattooed to make sure it’s the right image, the right size and the right placement.  I think it’s natural for people want to try in on or test it out before making a purchase or a commitment. Like there are trailers for movies, there are trailers for tattoos - and inkbox makes the trailers extra long for the audience.

One tip for tattoo for first-timers?
 Relax and enjoy the whole experience 

Check out Yi's work on his Instagram and see his inkbox collection here!
- Deborah Oomen