So we started out talking about the number 4.
4 is the most inauspicious number you can have in Chinese culture — it basically represents death. My birthday is April 4, so 4 + 4 = 8, which is the most auspicious number. I like to think that adding the 4s cancel each other out, bringing me the good luck of the 8.
What do you do?
I’m an artist and illustrator, and I love making short-form comics. I’m also a novice self-taught tattoo artist; I started learning about one year ago! My day job is in graphic design and video production, and I like to have a finger in every piece of creative pie. I also like to dabble in music, copywriting, and making puns.
Humour and lightness is a common thread in my creative pursuits. I like to be cheeky, I like to have plays on words and idioms. I tend to have a cheeky quality to whatever I pursue.
You're passionate and you do a lot of things, whats' at the heart of all this?
My community is always inspiring me - my friends, my family, and getting to know new people. Having a sense of a community has been the reason why I’m able to create art and make things.
Are you overbooking yourself again since lockdown has lifted?
I’ve re-filled all the books with tattoo appointments :) I think I am always going to struggle to find a balance because I enjoy the work and process so much. I take things on because I like them.
How does this personal reflection on work/life balance translate to your work?
I am making a comic about a fear of mine - the snowball effect. I’m scared of the snowball getting too big, so sometimes I try to keep myself small so I don’t get overwhelmed.
I’m holding onto the snowball right now and not letting it roll down the hill yet. I’m apprehensive of letting it grow too big, although I know it would ultimately be something good for me.
Is there something in your life/work right now symbolic of this snowball?
Tattooing. I haven't actively learned much in recent years or wasn't challenging myself enough, but over the last year I started to tattoo. Picking up the skill of tattooing is completely uncharted territory for me.
The permanency of tattoos is terrifying, but also extremely honouring that people want to have a piece of my art on their bodies.
Any other mediums you're working with?
Over Christmas I want to paint. I used to work with ink and watercolour in my youth so I want to get back to that again.
So we know you at Space through Matt Hanns, which eventually led to JAM and now Soft Hands Studio. Tell us more?
I met Matt at Young Ideas through the Gordon Neighbourhood House in the West End where we were planning events in the community. We became really good friends, and Matt was a member at Space at the time.
I was invited to vend at an event at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, which is where I met Amelia and connected over shared interests (and an interest in learning to tattoo!) At this point, I was keen to increase the size of my snowball and get my very first art studio, so the three of us moved into a corner of Space as JAM (Justine, Amelia, Matt) before starting Soft Hands Studio.
Soft Hands originated in conversation with another incredibly talented tattoo artist, River, who found a spot in the Dominion Building and invited us to join.
It was wonderful to have Space as an environment to foster and create things through open facilitation and new forms of collaboration.
Jam Night was fun...
The JAM Space studio warming was so fun! We had playdough, a paper-covered table to draw on, and we doodled all night - I miss partying.
How have you improved lately? Whats improvement look like in tattoo? You say that tattoo is quite physical, so do you have a favorite go-to snack?
My goals with tattooing are to have clean and crisp lines where you can't see where I pick up up a line and start another, and to ensure I don’t have wobbly lines. I want to have the fills be super black and heal super black. I’m always very hungry after I tattoo. I usually pack snacks; most recently I’ve been having almonds, fruit, and Want-Want Senbei rice crackers.
2020 is over. What are you putting behind you?
This year has been amazing for self-reflection. Things came up that I really didn't realize or expect to happen. I am making a concerted effort to let go of expectations and timelines. I had these ideas of what I should be doing at a certain age and I’ve had to let go of where I thought I should be as the years pass by. I’ve taken a step back to realize so much of this is all made up. Timelines and most everything are self-imposed, and a lot of what I thought would make me happy is not going to bring fulfillment. I’m just trying to be content in the present moment.
Any words we should live by? A sneak peek of your next comic?
Quote of the day/your life?
“Comparison is the thief of joy”
Should we have Matt Hans as our next interview? What's a question we should ask him?
How fatherhood has been both inspiring and challenging as an artist...