We had the good fortune of connecting with Lee Youngwook and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lee, how do you think about risk?
1. What was your thought process behind starting your own business? I worked for ten years at an ordinary steel company. I did not want a life in which I could see my future while working. Consequently, I constantly felt compelled to experiment. I decided in 2008 to become a tattoo artist because I have always enjoyed drawing since I was a child. For the sake of my children’s happiness, I was also motivated to achieve success and improve my own future.
2. Social impact: how does your business help the community or the world?
I believe that assisting and directing individuals who wish to learn or perform tattoos is what makes the Korean tattoo community more vibrant. I have mentored and instructed a significant number of tattoo artists and students. It is also a pleasure to convey the coolness and gentleness of the East to Westerners.
Tattoos, in my opinion, are not only a form of popular art but also a form of self-expression. I design tattoos based on my clients’ specifications. I create tattoos that are exactly what they desire. It is also a means of tattoo industry promotion.
3. Risk taking: how do you think about risk, what role has taking risks played in your life/career?
A life devoid of danger and adversity is analogous to a ship without sails floating on the open sea. It is foolish to simply stand there and look left and right without a destination as the waves flow. Regardless of the future’s destination, I must set sail and leap over the waves. If my destination is on a road with obvious dangers and difficulties, I must traverse it with all my strength. It made me realize that dangers and challenges fortify me.
4. If you are parent, what do you think is the most important thing you’ve done as a parent in terms of the impact on your children?
My children have been raised without their mothers since the age of three. I believe a father could raise his children on his own to be upright and healthy, and they have been doing well so far. When my children were sick, I had difficulty sleeping at night and was required to work during the day. Frequent fatigue has no effect on my devotion and affection for my children. In addition to providing my children with the best possible care and affection, I set a good example for them by working hard.
5. What is the most important factor behind your success / the success your brand?
Similar to constructing a structure, a solid foundation is necessary. My paintings are the most successful in terms of their composition. The majority of tattoo artists reference existing drawings in order to continue the tradition. Clearly, that is acceptable, but I desired something else, so I shifted my focus to design. Now I am able to create new designs in my own style. My tattoo style is a combination of traditional Korean motifs, cultural elements from the East, and my own painting style. It has its own individuality.
6. How to know whether to keep going or to give up?
There is a subtle distinction between persevering and being compelled to surrender. Giving up is not always a negative term, as it is sometimes expedient to do so. I can choose whether or not to give up based on my level of desperation and confidence in my ability to succeed. If you are dedicated to your objective, quitting is not an option.
7. Work life balance: how has you balance changed over time? how do you think about the balance?
I leave for work at 7:00 a.m. and return home at 6:00 p.m. to eat, rest, and sleep. It used to be difficult for me, but now that I’m a tattoo artist, the concept of rest and work seems more essential, and I’ve grown accustomed to this routine. Moreover, I believe there are numerous definitions of work-life balance. Isn’t it a sign of a well-balanced existence if I take a restful nap today in preparation for tomorrow? I don’t believe that all office workers are unbalanced; rather, I believe that they will maintain their own equilibrium.
8. What makes you happy? Why?
My family brings me joy. They are my inspiration to continue and pursue my career. When I return home from work, I am overjoyed to see my children’s smiling faces. Whenever I see them, my fatigue vanishes immediately.
9. What did you pursue an artistic or creative career?
My specialty as a tattoo artist is oriental designs. I’ve always been fascinated by oriental customs, and although it’s difficult to incorporate them into my own aesthetic, it’s a lot of fun. I strive to combine traditional Korean patterns and folk tales with other themes to create harmony. In addition, I am contemplating the significance of white space and the beauty of Korea, with the intention of incorporating these ideas into my style.
10. How do you define success?
Human greed has no limits. Success as a concept is frequently questioned by me. I have worked diligently up to this point, and I will continue my journey until I reach my goal, regardless of how many times I fall. If you ask me to define success, I am at a loss for words because the possibilities seem endless. Nevertheless, I have worked very hard for my family, and I enjoy my career. Considering the above, I believe I am successful. I am a caring parent, and my children are healthy and content in my care. Work-related, I have participated in a number of world-class tattoo conventions to promote cultural exchange. In Japan, Vietnam, and Italy, I was invited to tattoo exhibitions where I won first place in three categories. In Korea, I instructed a large number of students on the appropriate tattoo values, design techniques, and tattoo techniques for their respective work. I contribute to both my family and the tattoo industry.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I used to be a Japanese-style artist, but as I continued doing it, I felt its limitations and began to increasingly resemble other artists. When the notion of seeking comfort began to predominate, I chose a more challenging and distinct path. It was difficult to escape the Japanese-style frame. I had to listen to a variety of voices from numerous individuals. Some questioned my style, and others disliked my change; however, I did not pay attention to these voices and continued to pursue my goals. I was eventually able to overcome stereotypes and discover my own design aesthetic. My tattoo style is to find uniformity in irregularities and complexity, to create a distinct subject, and to use curves and Oriental motifs to create softness and individuality. Combining traditional and contemporary color matching techniques comes naturally to me. Using the conventional color-matching method, I illustrate the changes in layering with the contrast of various colors. Additionally, I enjoy incorporating legends, ghosts, and folklore into my tattoo designs.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The best locations are Haeundae Beach in Busan and Oeosa Temple in Pohang. If I am traveling with my close friends, I will introduce them to Pohang first. In Pohang, there is a temple called Oeosa, and I believe it is the best place to find inner peace. It has preserved nature, and the lake and trees are in perfect harmony. We will then travel to Homigot, where we will be able to view the sunrise over the East Sea of Korea, enjoy a seafood dinner with the sea as a backdrop, observe the sunset, and view the sunrise the following day. We will also enjoy various performances and gourmet tours in Gwangalli.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I like to believe in myself rather than mentioning or mentoring something.
I believe that if I continue to work hard and achieve more, I will be naturally recognized by other tattoo artists and major tattoo publications, such as Tattoo Life and Tattoo Energy Magazines, Tattoo, Inked Magazine, and others. However, my top priority is to be acknowledged by my family, particularly my children. My family makes me happy. They motivate me to continue pursuing my career goals.