- We spoke with Montreal tattoo artist Erika Doyon about tattoo trends, regrets, and what customers should never do.
- What's the worst tattoo she was ever asked to do? Has anyone ever requested a tattoo on their penis? We had to know!
Love them or hate them, you can’t disregard the talent that goes into creating the beautiful works of body art that are tattoos. There are so many uncertainties in life, and the permanence that comes with tattoos is what so many love about them.
Montreal tattoo artist Erika Doyon is the owner of Artease, a parlour located in Montreal’s Verdun neighbourhood. Her shop is known for its quality pieces and talented artists.
Artease is a tattoo parlour that exudes creative energy, just like owner Erika. The cozy decor gives the illusion of being in someone's home, making the painful process a little more comfortable.
Erika gave up her office job lifestyle for the world of body art over fifteen years ago and considers herself to be lucky to have found this career path. As she was getting an intricate back tattoo done in her twenties, Erika talked her way into having the artist mentor her and she has been working in the field ever since.
I got the chance to chat with Erika about certain curiosities that have always lingered in my mind, including getting ink on specific body parts and the biggest tattoo trends throughout both Montreal and North America at large.
Below, questions are in bold text while Erika's responses are in standard text. All questions and answers have been edited for clarity.
What should someone look for in a tattoo artist?
I sometimes send people home with homework because I think it is so important to look at the portfolios of the artist and not necessarily go with the person who your friend got tattooed by. It is important to find someone whose art speaks to you, someone who does what you are looking for often.
What is your specialty?
I am very lucky because I can create a range of pieces. But, I will have people who come to me for geometric, which is a very line-centric style. Similar to how some people can’t do portraits, my brain is not wired to do geometric, repetitive patterning.
Clients who come to me for a consultation will get an apology from me, along with a list of artists that would be a better match for them. I make sure to tell them to look at the work of each artist and to go with the one that suits what you really want. It makes sense in theory, but so many people don’t do it.
What do you notice people do before getting a tattoo?
A lot of people price hunt. They will come in and tell me everything that they want and expect it to be at a cost that they see fit. It is not about the price, it is about what you want and getting the right person to do it so that it is done properly.
First, pick your artist, then talk to them about your budget and let them know what you have in mind. Allow them to create something that makes sense for you.
What is the weirdest tattoo trend in our city?
There have been so many, but it is hard to pinpoint ones to our city. Because of the internet, trends seem to be all over North America. I will talk to friends in different parts of the continent, and we have all seen our fair share of clocks and roses. When something gets popular online it tends to become popular in Montreal, and every other North American city.
Do you find there is a difference between North America and Europe in regard to tattoos?
Funny enough, geography has a lot to do with what is popular. Germany is all about black and grey, dark realism is so popular there. But, if you go to England, they are more inclined to traditional old school tattoos, same with Italy. A lot have their fortes, so it is interesting to see during your travels.
I was in Moncton for a tattoo convention, and one thing I noticed is that a lot of local tattoo artists were doing black and grey pieces.
Do you work more with colours or black and white?
I do a lot of Japanese colouring, and a lot of black and grey because I do a lot of realism. I am pretty lucky that I can do both styles well.
Have you ever said no to doing a tattoo?
Yes, yes I have.
What is the worst tattoo you have ever been asked to do?
I don’t know if you remember Brad Pitt in the movie Snatch, where he is a bare-knuckle boxer. Well, when you see him without a shirt you will notice all those poorly drawn hand tattoos. One of these is a profile of a woman’s face, that starts at his collarbone that travels down his torso. A client came in wanting exactly that, and he was convinced of it.
Thankfully, I was able to talk him into a better-looking profile of a woman, with better linework of course.
That was a close call, it almost came down to me refusing to do the tattoo, which is what I think made him change his mind and let me draw something.
What is your opinion on people who want to get their significant others named tattooed on them?
It's bad luck, honestly. 15 years into this, I have seen so many come back and cover up those names, some of which within the year. Superstitious or not, it is bad luck and that is what we tell people.
It is truly touch-and-go with each person. When you see a couple in their forties, who have been together for years come in and want to get their names on each other, we are less reluctant. On the other hand, I did have one eighteen-year-old come in and wanted to get his girlfriend's name tattooed on his neck. We said no, and he wasn’t too happy about that.
Have you ever done a penis tattoo?
I never have, however, I did have a man come in one day and book an appointment for it. But he never showed up.
Do you feel a sense of responsibility knowing that these pieces of art will be on your clients' bodies for the rest of their life?
Yeah, I think it is hard sometimes. At our shop, we have to have a parent sign if the client is between 17 and 18. For anyone coming to see us, we won't do hands, front of the neck or face tattoos, unless you already have a significant number of tattoos.
I feel like up until the age of 24 or 25, many don't see the vision of their life long-term. At this point, their adult life has been so short that the idea of having something so permanent is a little foreign, especially at 17.
Do you see a change in the younger generation? Do you feel like they have less concern about the idea of permanence? Or has the number of young people wanting tattoos decreased?
No, I find it has increased. It is a beautiful thing in a way, I see a lot of more youngsters getting fun tattoos that aren’t “stupid” or something I can see them regretting later on. A tattoo doesn’t always have to have some big significant meaning, it is the getting it that is sometimes the memory that you cherish most.
The feeling you have of getting it done with friends, or the little moments you spend with your artist, it is all part of the meaning.
Do you feel like the placement of the tattoo is as important as the tattoo itself?
Sometimes, what I would do with a younger client who is really into it, is that if they are getting smaller tattoos I will put them in smaller areas. I will discourage them to put in right in the middle of their forearm because if you do end up getting big tattoos, it is unfortunate to have used such a big and beautiful spot for a tiny piece of work.
What do you think of Montreal’s tattoo scene?
We are spoiled in Montreal. We have so many amazing tattoo artists from all over the world in Montreal, and because of the multiculturalism here, there is a wide range of artists to pick from. And, to add to it all, it is so inexpensive to get tattooed in Montreal as appose to anywhere else in the world.
Is there anything that your clients don’t know about? Any dirty tattoo secrets?
We don’t like the term “tat,” it is not a gun. When people say that you will notice artists gently say “this piece” or “the art,” or simply "your tattoo!"
If you want a little insight, there is an Instagram page @Monday_malarkey that posts things that we relate to a lot like clients who are on their phone the entire time or those who are moving around a lot.
Remember kids, you wear your wiggles!
What is the best advice you can give someone who wants to get a tattoo? Relax, get a good night's sleep, don’t come on an empty stomach, just and just stay relaxed.
Do you believe in just getting a tattoo on a whim?
You know, those are fun to get. Sometimes the ones with the least amount of buildup to them are the ones you like the best. When I go to conventions, I do big Japanese sleeves as well as portraits, but I also have this flash sheet with about 300 cute drawings of anything you can imagine. The clients who don’t expect to get anything, end up getting a piece of body art that becomes their favourite piece on their body. So sometimes, those little last-minute ones are a lot of fun to get!
Why do you think tattoos are so popular in Montreal?
It is one of the few ways that we as humans have to feel unique. The expression of individuality is a big part of it.