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Life & Work with Xiaoling Li

Today we’d like to introduce you to Xiaoling Li.

Hi Xiaoling, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
I am a tattoo artist in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York, where I create original custom and flash designs. I graduated from the School of Visual Arts with a bachelor’s degree in illustration. I began tattooing during my senior year at the School of Visual Arts in order to build my portfolio, and I fell in love with it. I decided to pursue a career as a tattoo artist. I began my career as a professional tattoo artist after being invited to join Lovers & Killers, Ele’s tattoo parlor.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
No. When I began my tattooing career, the pandemic struck hard. Every tattoo parlor was closed. Nobody knew when they would reopen. I was also required home quarantine because of the Covid. Compared to surviving financially, it was more difficult for me mentally. I was forced to stay at home by myself and confront all the unknowns. I was helpless and depressed for a while, but I recalled that my dream and objective is to become a great tattoo artist. I shifted my focus to enhancing my tattoo skills, and I spent the majority of each day drawing and developing the style and aesthetic of tattoo designs I envisioned wanting to create; this helped me feel significantly better during this difficult period. During this time, I was able to discover my own tattoo styles, and I also experienced a substantial increase in mental strength.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I create fine art and contemporary tattoos in my own unique style. Thanks to my illustration background, my distinctive tattoo design style has been a success. People love and support my style so much that I’ve only ever tattooed my own original designs since I began. I frequently get three types of tattoos. First, ikebana-inspired vases and floral designs. second, blackwork-style goddesses third, ornamental charms and Chinese knot patterns. My ability to draw as a tattoo artist distinguishes me from the other tattoo artists. What I mean by “ability to draw” is the ability to create very stylish, original drawings that touch people’s emotions, as opposed to tracing, copying, or belonging to any established tattooing styles i.e. traditional American style, traditional Japanese style, etc. I believe that tattooing and fine art will eventually merge in the future. I will endeavor to advance my style and continue depicting the fantasy world I’ve created with tattoos. I am a member of a new generation of tattoo artists who do their own thing instead of adhering to existing, unimaginative traditional styles.

Risk taking is a topic that people have widely differing views on – we’d love to hear your thoughts.
I do not consider myself a risk-taker, but I am willing to take risks to pursue my passions. I believe that taking calculated risks is crucial and the key to success. Now, I am a successful tattoo artist in such a highly competitive art world due to my willingness to take risks. I took a chance and decided to become a tattoo artist, rather than only being an Illustrator. When I first started, I attempted to display my portfolio in tattoo parlors despite not knowing whether I would be rejected. Luckily, I met my Ele, my mentor and also a great tattoo artist. I took the risk of trying out. I simply relied upon my intuition and his humanity. I took the risk of performing my first tattoos on myself despite having limited tattoo experience. I fell in love with this art form right away. Tattooing and illustrating has a lot of things in common, in that I picked it up so fast. I took a chance by continuing to invest in and pursue a career as a tattoo artist despite the sudden occurrence of the pandemic, which effectively closed down all tattoo shops and made my future appear bleak. I relied on myself and accepted the risk of pursuing it regardless. During the darkness shutdowns, I keep practicing and creating tattoo designs with my own style which makes me outstands from other tattoo artists. Once the shops back to normal, I was so wanted due to those original designs and my name was known to more people. Life is full of surprises, so I believe people must be willing to face the unknown and take risks for the things they truly desire.

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