Chiwon An


We recently had the pleasure to chat with Chiwon An who has built himself a solid rep as a world class tattoo artist, right here in Western Canada. He has had a more difficult road than most to make it as a tattooer, check out his story and his AMAZING work below!

Where are you from originally and where are currently based?

I am from South Korea originally. My current shop, An Tattoo Inc. is located in Calgary, Alberta. I came to Canada in 2006. There was a bit of culture shock for me at first because everybody was really open to tattoos. In Korea where I am from, tattoos were taboo and basically illegal!

Who influenced you as an artist, both early in your career and now?

It was mind blowing to me when I first discovered a tattoo artist by the name of Khan, owner of Khan Tattoo Studio in Australia. Not only did I have  very little knowledge of tattooing at that time, I also had never seen any realistic tattoos until then. That really inspired me! After that, I was influenced by many other artists, especially Nick Chaboya, Shige, Jeff Gogue, Randy Engelhard, who I then collected tattoos from.

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What would you be doing if you weren’t tattooing?

I have no idea what I would be doing if I wasn’t tattooing. Maybe performing dad duties full time!

Do you practice any other mediums of art?

I used to do little bits of everything. I was really into pencil drawing, pencil crayons, and even acrylic painting in years past. Now I’m into oil painting as well; I’ve done a few new oil paintings in the last few months.

Do you have any crazy stories from your tattooing career?

Well, it was definitely not easy to make tattooing a career for me. Not only is tattooing is technically illegal in Korea, but my family works for the Korean government! So, I had no choice but to leave my country in order to pursue my tattooing career. My family was totally against my decision to become a tattoo artist, and only in recent years have come to accept it. But the hardest part for me was actually having to do the ‘normal jobs’ that weren’t tattoo related such as banker, kitchen worker, and janitorial work in order to obtain the qualifications for immigration; just to be able to continue to pursue tattooing. It took years, but somehow I made it- and now I’m only tattooing!

What style of work do your prefer to do? Is there a style you would like to start doing more of?

I used to do tons of Asian style tattoos; but at this stage of my career I’m really into doing black and grey realism, so that is my focus. But I also like mixing styles such as realism with Asian style, as it exhibits all my artistic background.

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Do you have any other interests or hobbies outside of tattooing and making art?

Aside from tattooing and painting regularly full time, I am also a dad to my two-year-old son! So, my spare time is spent with him and my wife. But I manage to find time to collect dead things on the side. Gotta love skulls!

Do you have a message to anyone who aspires to be a tattoo artist?

Being a good artist is important but it’s also important to appreciate the tattooing culture and experience itself. Your clients go through the experience of pain, time, and money; so it’s also very important that you share that experience so you can understand your clients.

How do you feel about the huge growth in the tattoo industry over the last few years?

I think it’s great – we are not freaks anymore! Haha!

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Is there anyone you would like to thank or give recognition to?

There are many people I would like to thank. I’m always most thankful for my wife, being my supporter. I also am a member of a group of friends and fellow artists, the “Realism Club”, which includes Glen Decker, Saga Anderson, Memento, Benoit Delongchamp. We alwaysmotivate each other to become better artists. I’m also very fortunate to have good friends like James Denny, Trevor Jameus, Randy Engelhard, and Lindsey Pergentile, who inspire me daily at my shop. I also give thanks to all the people who’ve tattooed me, they have all been great experiences!

What can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?

As an artist, I’m always interested in different things as time goes by. Right now my focus is black and grey realism which you will see more of. But who knows what style might intrigue my interest in the future! I will always be tattooing though.

Instagram: @chiwontattoo

Main Image Photo: Doc Chainsaw Photography

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