The Tattoo Art of Chou Chou Incorporates Enigmatic Eyeballs

realistic eyeball tattoo with flowers on arm

Chou Chou’s mother stated that during her childhood, she had no other interest besides drawing relentlessly. She completed her secondary education in art and subsequently earned a degree in Western painting from a Korean university. Her initial job was teaching high school pupils art as they prepared for collegiate entrance exams. Afterward, she instructed middle school students as they geared to enter high school. Despite the positive influence it had on present and future adolescents, teaching was not her ideal profession. Determined to become a tattoo artist, she studied the fundamentals of coil machines and needles and put in the necessary time and effort. She began working professionally as a tattooer in 2016, and today, her creations are known for their refined subject matter, with hints of European imagery influencing specific compositions.

Chou Chou has done guest spots in various tattoo studios to gain more experience and interaction with colleagues; she explains in this interview where she has been and where her name derives from.

Above: A mysterious floral ocular tattoo made by Chou Chou.
pink roses with wing-insect tattoo on thigh
A thigh tattoo depicting a winged insect and pink blossoms.

You worked at the renowned Chronic Ink studio in Canada; what was the experience like, and what did you learn?

After I had done guest work at Chronic Ink in Canada for about a month, they proposed hiring me. Since the company provided a work permit, I could stay comfortably in Canada.

Chronic Ink generously provided me with many supplies to ensure my work was supported. In particular, they allowed me to obtain and experiment with new color inks, enriching my color palette. It wasn’t a one-time guest arrangement, so getting feedback on my work (healed checks, touch-ups) was easy. I had the time to create the flash designs I wanted and explore various subject matters in tattooing. I am confident I achieved significant growth thanks to my years of working there.

jewlery tattoo on arm by chou
Chou Chou crafts jewelry (similar to royalty) using fine-line needles and ink.

What other studios and cities have you guested at?

I have visited Singapore and Taiwan. Singapore was hot, but I need to remember the delicious food there. Taiwan is a country where the kindest people live. I used to visit Taiwan at least twice a year. Also, Chronic Ink in Canada has two locations, one in Vancouver and another in Toronto, so I used to travel between these two cities. Among them, Vancouver is the city where I want to live for the rest of my life! Right now, I’m writing this interview from London. I work at Sans Patrie. London is an exciting city with lots to see and do. From April, I’m planning to go to Germany. As a university student, I stayed in Germany for about two weeks for an art exhibition as part of a short-term exchange program. I have very charming memories of the art culture in Germany. I plan to visit Mommy I’m Sorry, Hood7, and The XX Tattoo. Especially if it weren’t for Tommy, the owner of The XX Tattoo and manager of The Art of Tattooing, recommending Germany, I wouldn’t have planned to visit it. He is a genuine friend for whom I am grateful.

Every city I’ve visited has given me good memories and impressions. Those experiences linger in my subconscious and have a lasting impact on both my work and life. If I try anything, big or small, it becomes an asset.

Chrysanthemums have evolved into a timeless tattoo motif
Chrysanthemums have evolved into a timeless tattoo motif.

Vancouver rains a lot, so what aspects of the city do you admire?

Yes, it rains a lot in Vancouver. While I enjoy the rainy weather for its cozy ambiance, I like the mild temperatures and environmentally friendly atmosphere in Van overall. Additionally, being close to the ocean is a bonus. I love water! (Sea, river, valley, swimming pool, Evian, anything!)
My hometown is also a marine city, but the difference from Vancouver is that Busan has many mountains, mainly alleyways and uphill paths. Hence, there is much traffic, and it is complicated and narrow. However, Vancouver is peaceful, with plenty of dogs, flat terrain, and many trees and parks. It has a more comfortable environment.

coverup tattoo by chou chou, red flower
Cover-up tattoos are commonplace for Chou Chou, as seen above.

Does the fact that you use dark pigments like burgundy and navy blue help you do cover-ups?

Sometimes, using a dark shade of green or blue rather than black can help cover up tattoos. However, no matter how much color you apply to black paper, you can’t achieve the same effect as white paper. Similarly, in my experience with cover-up tattoo work, while it might not be visible fresh, the original tattoo tends to reappear over time.

horned human skull tattoo
A horned skull could symbolize fortitude.

When you speak about your interest in “Flow,” does it also relate to how you gracefully compose different elements into one, like animals with flowers?

I’m more focused on how the tattoos I design fit onto the body line. That is my definition of “flow,” which I always contemplate. Moreover, what my clients desire is symbolism and meaningful memories. Animals play a significant role in expressing such symbolism. Of course, it’s entirely possible to convey symbolism without animals, but plants and animals have qualities that positively influence each other, which brings about aesthetically pleasing effects. Everything from nature is an excellent subject for expressing “flow.” Natural elements are alive, fluid, and possess curvilinear qualities. Depending on their arrangement, I can create compositions that cover the entire body or adorn small areas.

Including realistic eyes and flora is an unbeatable combination, tattoos
Including realistic eyes and flora is an unbeatable combination.

You have a giant dragon tattooed on you; who did it?

That’s a tattoo from my first mentor (@tattooer_kingz). He has many clients in Busan, South Korea. When I requested this dragon on me, I asked for it to enhance my body line and be able to show or conceal it as I intended. Despite my demanding request, he beautifully completed it according to my wishes.

kevin the minion with past-century european art
Kevin the Minion poses with artwork from the past.

Are there other tattooists you admire that you want to get tattooed by?

There are many tattoo artists from whom I’d like to get tattoos. I want to get a delicate geometric style tattoo from t.a.e_t, from my left knee to my ankle. Then, I’d like an ornamental tattoo from Mico behind my right calf. Lastly, I’d love to get a small wisdom tooth between my collarbones from G.ghost.

faberge egg, chinese porcelain egg tattoo with flowers
A porcelain egg in the manner of the Chinese dynasty. Another possible resemblance is a Faberge egg.

What are your hobbies?

I usually enjoy resting at home. On days off, I watch Netflix all day long. Before bedtime, I enjoy reading books, particularly psychology books. When I’m working, I listen to many novels using audiobooks.

Here is one of my favorite quotes found on the Internet, translated from Korean:

“The only necessary condition for making significant decisions well may be the courage to love oneself rather than knowledge of economics. It is the attitude of always taking care of the past self and not blaming oneself for the decisions made that turns significant decisions into minor ones and allows us to see what is truly important in a chaotic world. Whatever decision you make, I only hope that you won’t easily judge it as right or wrong. I wish for you to fill each moment with intense contemplation while loving and valuing each of those moments.”

rabbit tattoo with flowers
A flower-adorned white rabbit.

Have you truly learned to appreciate and treat yourself with kindness?

I always strive to prioritize myself. I want to share a few tips:

  1. Do not compare yourself to others. Only compare to your past self. We always grow at least a little from the past.
  2. Events happen to everyone. However, we can decide whether this event becomes a problem or not. So don’t be afraid and don’t worry either.
  3. Treat oneself like you would treat a beloved partner or family member. Treat yourself as you would the most precious person in the world.
  4. You may learn from the outcomes of every decision you make. It will provide you with the strength to take on new challenges.
tattooer chou chou with her black poodle
Tattooer Chou with her dog, also named Chou.

Concerning yourself, what do your online viewers not know?

People who see my work often think I’m highly feminine due to my sophisticated and elegant color schemes [like I am just super delicate]. However, I’m playful and have a friendly, mischievous personality.

Additionally, I have a dog whom I love, like my child. Her name is Chou, and my artistic name is Chou. I feel the most peaceful and secure when I’m with her. I want to take this opportunity to introduce her to all of you. Haha.

artist chou chou with her beloved dog
At the beach with her best friend (poodle Chou).

How old is Chou, and what breed?

Yes, she was born in 2015. She is a standard poodle, a breed from Germany and France. Unfortunately, she can only speak Korean. She should learn English at an English-speaking doggy “kindergarten.”

Photos © Chou Chou