Léa is French, although she works in Brussels, the capital of Belgium. Léa is young, although she is already one of those artists in demand now, both in tattoo and in more traditional art, as we may call it. But, above all, Léa is natural and genuine. Someone you are glad to know.
Born in Paris, Léa Nahon was introduced to tattoo at a very young age, from picking herself with a sewing needle at 15 to her real professional start as a tattooist at 19. She is part of the contemporary art dimension of modern tattoo, and, more precisely, of world-renown and highly watched tattoo shop (and also art gallery) La Boucherie Moderne.
Outside the parlor, her art is also exhibited around Europe, swapping the pounding of needles to the caress of pens. This « blue girl » (a tattoo term to describe her body, fully covered with ink) has developed her very own style, alloy of sketches, stencils, collage and sometimes texts, with a dominance of black ink and hatching. Her illustrations, essentially portraits, share a sense of gentleness, treating the bodies with finesse, purloining instants, moues and postures and giving them a precious, subtle and moving identity. More poetic than politic, and more enigmatic than melancholic, her compositions, with their incomplete aspect, are beginnings of many stories the beholder could seize and own. Just like tattoos.
If Léa Nahon’s work seems to show up out of the blue in the world of art, no pun could summarize her talent nor the possibilities that are waiting for her.
Could you introduce me to the different facets of your personality?
I guess I’m mostly the artist as I’m constantly drawing, or tattooing… But there’s indeed another Léa, who doesn’t think one second about tattoos and drawings and grows seeds in her garden. This would be my main occupation when I’m not working, growing things.
How did you get into art and what led you to become a tattoo artist?
I guess I started drawing the day I was old enough to hold a pen. Drawing what’s in front of me has always been an obsession, so I could say I fell into it pretty early! Then the tattoo was an opportunity. I never decided I would do that when I’d grow up, but I believe it was all about meeting the right people at the right time. It’s just a different media compared to other kind of artists, but at least a way to draw every single day for the rest of my life.
I came back to very few different techniques. I used to paint, acrylic or watercolor, now I mainly draw on paper with Rotring pens, all black and white. So no shadings anymore, just pure lines and Indian ink. It might change again later, but right now, this technique seems to work better for me and can be tattooed easily too, so it’s perfect!
And which ones would you wish to try?
I would love to work more with screen printing. We have a workshop at the Boucherie Moderne, but I don’t have enough time in the day to get into it. So for now, I provide drawings to the boys and wait for the result. Engraving also would be a blast, but, once again, there’s only 24 hours in a day and tattooing and drawing already fills my days!
Where do you find inspiration ?
Mainly in my everyday life. I take pictures around me, of people, mainly my friends. I also work a lot from professional photographer’s work, like Roger Ballen, Weegee, Anders Pederson and mainly from my friend, Thomas Krauss who takes amazing pictures.
Who are the artists that influence you ?
Those mentioned above… I never took a lot of influence from other tattooers but if I have to name some, it would be mainly friends. Not specially for their drawings cause we don’t have at all the same “styles” but for everything else, they motivate me, all in their own way… I would say Jean-Luc Navette, Piet du Congo, Bruno Kea, Joe Moo, and my co-workers of course. Every one of them is a kick in the ass to make me wanna go further than I already know.
You have made several portraits of your friends and colleagues, do you sketch live? Do you always have your pencils with you?
No, not live sketches. I would love that, but it’s hard to have someone stay still for even just a few minutes. So I take pictures all the time, even bad pictures can have a cool detail. I always have my pencils and sketchbook with me so I work a bit everywhere. When I’m waiting for a train, or someone whenever I have the time, basically!
Skin or Canvas : could you choose between the two and what would you loose if you should give up one or the other?
That’s a GREAT question!! I would maybe say canvas because that’s where I spend the more time, that’s where you can do whatever you like, you can work with friends or alone, everything is possible compared to the tattoo where there’s another person in front of you. A canvas will never complain that it hurts, it can be folded and turned in every way, it’s an easier support to work with than humans. But at the same time, I could never give up tattooing. It’s very addictive, every tattooer will tell you, for thousands of reasons. I guess I would lose way to much if I had to give up either one of them. I hope I’ll never have to make that choice!
I’m inspired by people, their look, the feeling you have when you look at them, a silly position or an awkward situation. Portraits are the best for me, I like humans. Everything that’s animal is not too much my thing except for the sea world, I still don’t know why, but it works. So everything that has hair or feathers, don’t ask me. I tried and it didn’t look good at all. I’d rather stick to something I know I can do well than try a thousand times and still do shit.
What are your next projects (exhibitions, conventions, travels, creations …)?
All of them. An art show in Strasbourg (France) in September, tattoo conventions and guest spots in October and November… The end of the year is gonna be busy as hell! I’m planning art shows for new creations for next year, mainly bigger formats and screen printing stuff… It just never stops, it’s tiring but it’s great!