I remember stumbling upon Nomi Chi’s old blog on live journal while I was still in Japan. Her work was right up my alley. Full of creepy creature skulls and animals made out of wonderful brush strokes. I was smitten. Nomi Chi is one talented lady, and they seem to start young these days. She started tattooing at age 15 and has already contributed artwork to various gallery shows, including one curated by Audrey Kawasaki. This year she begins art school, all I can say is: watch out world!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
The internet knows me as Nomi Chi, and I make things.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
It’s difficult to say, these days I function on a whim and for the most part my hobbies are short-lived. At the moment, I am a full-time student. So when I’m not creating things I’m either writing essays or I’m in the shower.
What first made you want to become an artist and how did you get started in art and tattooing?
I don’t remember what propelled the beginning of my art career, I think it had something to do with my wanting to become an anime artist (I was 12) and it evolved from there… thank god. Before then I had wanted to be a scientist. My tattoo career story isn’t very interesting. I was an awkward teenager who wanted in with the cool kids, and I figured, hey tattooing is cool right? And I can draw, right? By some freak accident there happened to be a tattoo artist living down the block from me. I didn’t intend to fall in love with tattooing as a medium, but I did, and here I am.
Please describe your creative process.
I get asked this a lot, and I don’t know how to answer. For one thing, it’s different for every piece. There isn’t much formula to it, I have habits just like everyone else but I when I’m really making art that I feel strongly about, I just do what feels natural. Put the colours where I think they should go, smear paint on the canvas until I think it looks okay. It’s a lot of trial and error (mostly error) and frustrating and messy as fuck. I wish I was more eloquent or in touch with my inner artiste, but that’s all I have to offer. Oh and I drink a lot of coffee… if that helps.
Where do you do your work? Can you send a picture of your workspace and describe it.
I do my tattoo work At The FALL in Vancouver. It’s hip with the kids I hear. My traditional work I do in my ‘home studio’, aka my bedroom and there’s no way I’m showing that to anyone. Imagine an explosion of gym socks, used plates, Styrofoam coffee cups, dead animals (I collect them), books books books, panties and oh! Art supplies.
Do you work from life, from photographs or from imagination?
For the most part I use photographic references from my own collection or my best friend Google Images. I admit I need to do more life studies, I think it’s becoming painfully obvious in my work that I don’t know what a human body looks like, or what a light source is, or how perspective works etc etc etc. Kids… life drawing is good for you.
What influences you? Do you have a favourite place or person you visit when you need inspiration?
Influences hey? Well they’re just as varied as anything else, the list is a long one. If I’m really stuck in a rut, I try to get out of the studio and try something new or go explore some place new, anything to turn the little gears in my head. Or – okay, I know this is super cheesy – spending time with my boyfriend is always inspiring. He’s always chock full of crazy suggestions and energy :) it’s fun to ping pong ideas in someone else’s head.
What technique/s do you use?
The “Do whatever I can to make this picture/thing look good in the end” technique. ;)
You also created awesome creepy toys, can you tell us about them, do you still dabble in toy making?
I love my dollies! They started as a silly project to teach myself how to use a sewing machine. Right now though, illustration, school, and tattoos eat up all of my time so my new batch of monsters will just have to marinade in my head for a bit longer before they can come out and be real.
You tattoo, where, when, and do you have a favourite tattoo you have ever created or favourite tattoo story?
I tattoo at a fancy tattoo shop full of amazing people, and I’ve been tattooing there since the beginning of my tattoo career. My Favorite tattoo and tattoo story involve the same piece. A client of mine had undergone extensive corrective surgery for various reasons, and was left with scarring on her torso and one of her breasts. I tattooed some simple flowers over the scarring and the end result was so beautiful and natural, and she was so happy. Experiences like that more than make up for all the crap people I deal with.
You have taken part in a few exhibitions, what has been your experience and the response to your work?
It’s good, it’s been good… I’m actually trying to get out of the habit of hating everything I produce, and it feels nice to exhibit with and showcase for people who really appreciate the work that gets put into art, any kind of art. I find it interesting to see how people connect with my work without having known me beforehand. And it even feels good if people don’t like it – I never intended to collect praise. I’ve curated a few shows too, and I hate it. Have you tried directing more than 20 artists? It’s hell. Kidding. Kinda. It’s not my scene that’s for sure!
Are you interested in becoming a full time artist?
I am a full time artist :) Actually I’m a full-time student and part time artist. Or like… full time artist and full time student?
Do you promote your work and if so how?
I use the internet mostly! And most of my close friends are charismatic extrovert loud mouths, they’re a useful networking tool.
What advice would you give to a young artist just starting out?
Wow you’re asking me? Really. Okay, well I myself am a young artist and I’m pretty much making this ‘art career’ junk up as I go along, so take my advice with a grain of salt:
Be professional. Just because you’re an artist doesn’t mean you can get away with not bathing, or showing up to a job interview high on mushrooms or not having a resume. Handle the business end of your career like you would any blue collar job, save the crazy stuff for when you’re in the studio.
Eat lots of fruits an vegetables… they’re good for you.
I think it was Harlan Ellison who said, “You must never be afraid to go there”. So don’t be afraid of drawing things that are ugly, or things that go against all the art rules they teach you in art school. I don’t think there’s a point to being an artist unless you intend to push the envelope in some way, either on a personal level or a global level or a galactic level! So make stuff, and keep making stuff, that’s all the matters.
Who are some of your favourite artists or creative people and why?
There are way too many to list. I should say that the one of the biggest influences on my art for the past few years has been the musical group(s) Fever Ray and The Knife.
Name your top five books/ movies/ musicians/ websites. ( you can pick one category if you like)
Ohhhkay, I’ll try.
Book: “American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis
Actor: Steve Buscemi
Movie: It’s a toss-up between Rosmary’s Baby, Antichrist, and kung-fu panda
Brand of boot: Fluevog
Cheese: Marble cheddar.
In ten years, where would you like to be?
I can’t even imagine. And that’s the beauty of it :)
Have a look at the rest of Nomi’s artworks on her website, she also occasionally writes in her blog and does internets here (you can find older archives here), if you are interested in purchasing print or artworks, send her an email. Nomi, thank you so much for answering all my questions, good luck with your studies, I can’t wait to see what you create next!