Flowers and Butterflies: A Conversation with Tilda

Tilda is a millennial tattooist who is still relatively new to the field but has a strong understanding of contemporary art history and the direction of the tattoos she wants to execute. She imbues everything from flowers to butterflies with an Impressionist aesthetic sensibility. Brushstrokes, color, and light are all highlighted.

This interview is informative in that Tilda discusses why small tattoos are favored in Korea and her inspirations and ambition to create large-scale pieces.

Above: Hummingbird in nectar, tattoo by Tilda.
A butterfly colored and shaded in an Impressionist manner.

You earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Sungshin Women’s University in 2019 before delving  into tattooing in 2020. What led you to tattoo?

Tattoos are frowned upon in Korea because it is a Confucian country. I’m not sure how it is now, but my interest in “tattoos as art” was lower when I was in school. When I first saw tattooist Sol’s fine-line work, I was in my third year of college, and I was utterly blown away because he used tattoos to express the artwork of two of my favorite painters, Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet. Then I had the opportunity to learn to tattoo, but I turned it down due to the conservative attitudes of those around me. I worked as a fashion merchandiser for about a year after graduation, but it wasn’t a good fit. My desire to learn to tattoo grew stronger over time.

Van Gogh and Monet influence butterfly themes.

Why do you think Koreans like small tattoos and not large like foreigners?

Because tattoos are illegal in Korea, large-sized tattoos appear to be more stigmatized. Many women in Korea, in particular, prefer small-sized tattoos because they are less noticeable and can be worn as fashion accessories. Furthermore, Korean public officials, nurses, and teachers who work in conservative occupational groups in Korea frequently get tattoos on invisible body parts or small-sized tattoos. 

Micro tattooing is a distinctive feature of the Korean style.

So if someone asked you for a large back piece of flowers, would you be open to the challenge? 

Of course! I like small tattoos as well as larger ones. Flower tattoos or plant tattoos, in particular, I think are fantastic for connecting as if they are blooming along the body’s curve. Someday, I’d like to try flower tattoos that look like a vine wrapped around someone’s entire arm or leg. 

Teacup idea in the “Bridgerton” style.

And do you have any plans to do larger work in the future?

I recently worked on a 17 cm (about 7 inches) flower, one of the largest works I’ve done recently. There is no major work planned for the near future, but I would like to do it if possible. 

Tilda’s portfolio typically features vibrant purple tones.

You heavily focus on flower tattoos. Where do you get references from?

I use Pinterest or Google to draw designs, but I’m also inspired by vintage botanical art books and classic films that I find in thrift stores. Gardens recently inspired me, and character Daphne’s fashion and interior design while watching the Netflix series “Bridgerton.”

Digital collage compositions act as a guide for the final tattoo designs.

Do you get your color palettes from real flowers or from somewhere else?

I love the works of Vincent van Gogh, Auguste Renoir, and Claude Monet. I adore these artists’ color expressions. The combination of Gogh’s Starry (blue and yellow) Night, Renoir’s vase with red and orange warmth, Monet’s water lily pastel-toned purple and blue, etc. And I adore the soft pastel colors that refer to Daphne’s “Bridgeton” interior design, which expresses my favorite pastel tones in soft pinks, blues, and yellows. 

The butterflies are based on Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night.”

What is something that online viewers do not know about you?

My international followers claim that my tattoo will fade over time, but it hasn’t. Moreover, I usually draw flowers. People frequently assume I only draw flowers, but I can also do portraits, landscapes, and movie scenes.

Tilda, a tattooer, is hyper-focused on the nuances of her work.

You stated movie scenes. What are some of your favorite movies?

I enjoy movies of all genres, but my favorites are “The Notebook,” “Midnight in Paris,” and “La La Land.”

Photos © Tilda