Interview with Joa Antoun

  Hello Joa Antoun! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. Please start by telling us something about yourself and your background. Do you have any formal art training? Hello, I’m Joa I’m a tattoo artist from Lebanon, I was born and raised in a small village. After finishing my elementary school, I went to the city to attend university majoring in graphic design. Growing up I didn’t have access to the tattoo world due to my parents being protective like most Lebanese families. When I started attending class at the university I started seeing people with tattoos and I got intrigued it was something new for me and I got into the field. I travelled to Istanbul and learned how to tattoo there and then I attended a seminar in Florence. I started tattooing as a side hustle after graduating from graphic design as my main job. After a couple of years I switched and started tattooing full time, it’s been almost 8 years now.

Q: What inspired you to start tattooing?

A: To be honest, it was something new that I wasn’t aware it existed and seeing people express themselves on their skin made me fall in love with it, especially that I used to draw a lot when I was younger. I made my first realistic portrait when I was 3 years old, my mom still has it at home. I used to draw a lot on the walls during winter and then during the summer my parents used to paint the walls again and I had a new empty canvas. My love for art started when I was younger and I didn’t know that I could actually draw on people. This is what got me into the field and I am grateful.

Q: How long took you to learn the basics?
A: I started tattooing as a side hustle during 2014 and switched to full time by the year 2017 till now.

Q: You have a very interesting style. The designs seem simple but I believe at least some have a powerful message, symbolism, am I right?
A: Each design has its own meaning, its own story to tell, each client wants something different, it might be the same design sometimes but for the client who is getting the tattoo, it means something completely different. No one has the same point of view. Each one has his own character, own style and thoughts and I try to interpret these things into the design.

Q: Would you give your style a name?
A: Micro realism and geometric style are the ones I prefer the most, but I can work with any design from dot work to realism, ornamental, floral, manga, water colors, lettering. You can work with anything and everything as long as you feel like it's something you can do it perfectly.

- What do you like the most about your style?
The diversity in my style allows me to have more inspiration and more love for the work that I do. I feel like there is no limitation to what I can achieve and that makes me want to learn more.

Q: How do you prepare the designs? Do you draw for each client or do you use Photoshop, procreate etc?
A: A little bit of both, depending on the design. Sometimes I draw, for other designs I use photoshop. If I design a big piece with different elements, I use photoshop to combine it all together and then draw the outline for the stencil. It depends on the design and what the clients wants.

Q: As a tattoo artist, you have the opportunity to meet all kinds of people. Many reveal the meaning of their tattoo, which sometimes can be really touching. I saw some really cool designs on women who went through surgeries and cancer treatments.

- Hearing someone going through such difficult time, coming out of it as an ultimate winner and getting a beautiful piece of art it is a real life changing experience. I admire those womens' strength! How was the feeling to tattoo them? 
A: Working with breast cancer survivors and hearing each one of their stories have a special place in my heart, each story is similar yet completely different, and I can feel everything they are talking about. Some procedures are longer than others some clients have a different point of view, different support system. Every time it's different but with the same intensity and heartfelt real emotions.

Q: Did you help them chose the design?
A: I prefer to leave that to them, because they are going to have it permanently on their skin so the least I can do, is to let them to choose something they like.

- Was it like a scar cover up? Was it painful?
A: Covering up the scars for breast cancer survivors is a little different than other scars most women lose the sensation in that spot because of all the procedures they go through, the sensation is back after around 4 to 5 years for most women. So, tattooing on those scars is basically not painful at all. We have different type of skin, the original one, the one with the scars, and the grafts so working on these different types is a bit challenging because sometimes they will need a retouch because the colors change depending on the skin type. Some women feel a tingling sensation in a completely different part of their body, some don’t feel anything at all and some feel ticklish, it varies between each client and how long has it been since the last procedure.

Q: I bet it's an honor to do these types of tattoos because you are changing their perception of themselves and getting their self esteem back! How they react when you finish their tattoo? You know that very first look at the mirror in your studio...
A: During the tattoo session, usually I don’t let them to see the results till the very end just for them to see their body image restored and whenever a client cries, I cry with them because in that moment the emotions are so intense that you can’t just watch them without feeling what they are feeling and it makes me happy that I am able to help them in the least possible way. They are always chocked surprised and happy, a mix of emotions so intense that it fills up the room.

Q: You are traveling a lot. I bet traveling and working as a guest spot artist can be a great experience. You can learn a lot from other artists. Where are you currently and please let us know your availability in the upcoming months. Are you available for bookings?
I am currently in Abidjan, Ivory coast till the 12th of November, then going to Dakar, Senegal for a week and then tattooing in Paris, France as a guest spot, then going back to Lebanon for December. Attending Rouen tattoo convention in France and Deauville tattoo convention, as well as Berlin tattoo convention and a lot more. Planning to go to the USA along next year as well. For bookings or more details about my trips I will post them on my page. They can contact me on: Instagram (@joaantountattoos)
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Q: Where do you feel the best? Any favorite county to visit again?
A: I have been traveling frequently to Africa and Europe, I can’t say I have a favorite country but I am planning on visiting all of them at least once in my life.

Q: Who are the artists you would like to collaborate?
A: All the artists that I know and have met in my career are really the best and I would love to collaborate with each of them.

Q: In few words, what do you like the most about being a tattoo artist?
A: The art, the inspiration, always having something new and never getting bored of what you are doing.

Q: Would you change something, maybe trying a different style?

A: Honestly, I am always up for something new, learning something new and challenging myself to get better at what I do.

Q: Your advice for the new artists?

A: My advice, is always keep practicing, whenever you have the time pull up some fake skin and practice on a design. Don’t stop attending seminars or taking courses or even taking apprenticeships with other artists and never be shy to ask tons of questions.