Jess Yen aka Horiyen

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Jess Yen

My Tattoo and Piercing – Alhambra, CA

My name is Jess Yen, but people also know me as Horiyen, because I started as a Tebori artist (Japanese hand-poked tattoo method). I work at My Tattoo and Piercing in the City of Alhambra, California. I am mostly self-taught, but I did have an official tattoo apprenticeship for roughly six months back in the 80’s. It was in Taipei, Taiwan, at a place called Lin Tattoo. Back then, being an apprentice meant watching and cleaning. There really wasn’t much teaching at all, as the resources for learning about tattooing in Taiwan during the 80’s were limited. In conclusion, as I always say, I am an apprentice for life, under arts, because there is no limit to learning, no matter how old I get.

What style do you specialize in, if anything in particular?

People know me for Oriental Realism or Illustrative Oriental; I think I was one of the pioneers in that style actually. Using an electrical machine allowed me to add elements of realism and materialism into my work that could not be achieved by a Tebori method. Oriental style has a lot of mythological creatures, and by adding elements of realism, I can bring them to life. Through my work, I can create the sharpness of a dragon’s claws, the texture of its snaky skin, the fuzziness of the hair on the back and the vivid eyes that re ect the story of the work. The main subject character pops out and has a 3-dimensional effect. Despite my recent focus on realism, I do not think less of Japanese traditional style tattoos. It is where I started, and many people, like me, still love and appreciate traditional Japanese style tattoos.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I get my inspiration from traveling, everyday life, and from my students. When I wake up in the morning and take my first breath in different parts of the world, a new thought or idea can ow into my mind. Sometimes it can be as simple as walking down the street and noticing an old tree that gives me a new concept of ow for a dragon design. Reading my all-time favourite novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, by Luo GuanZhong, can give me great stories and scenes for my next project as well. I also like Hiroshi Hirata Sensei’s comics and art books. I know him personally and have been visiting him in Japan. Visiting him at his house and seeing how he does his artwork is very inspirational; it encourages me as an artist to create and draw more. Another art master I really like is Hua San Chuan; he is best known for his detail figure paintings of beauties which I appreciate greatly. Lastly, teaching my students can help refresh my art knowledge, and at the same time help me re-imagine art on a different level; so I think I am always learning from my students, not just teaching them.

Your mentor or favourite artist?

Master Horiyoshi III Sensei from Yokohama, Japan, is not only my mentor and favourite tattoo artist, but is also an idol to me. I have the utmost respect for his discipline, tradition, and level of artistic skills. Another person who significantly influenced me in the arts was my interior design teacher, Otaken Sensei. It is well known that I was an interior designer before becoming a tattoo artist. Otaken Sensei taught me about perspective and texture, and those skills were quite valuable when I became a tattoo artist.

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