June Jung is an extraordinary tattoo artist and painter whose vibrant watercolor designs transcend paper and skin.
Raised in Busan, South Korea, June had started a career in accounting before she leapt to New York City in pursuit of a dream. Without many connections but a penchant for drawing, she found a tattoo class on Craigslist, which sparked her interest in the trade. A few years and an apprenticeship later, June had ascended NYC’s tattoo scene.
The artist caught wind of a rising trend: creating loose, colorful, free-handed designs that pass as paintings. The style captures a fine art watercolor aesthetic, and rejects the traditional style that typically begins with a thick outline. Today, June has become a leader of the technique, and she and her husband Rob run June Jung Art in Highland Park, Los Angeles.
In anticipation of her first published collection of fine art paintings, we spoke to the artist about the expressive qualities of watercolor and coping with quarantine.
1xRUN: Can you tell us a little bit about this collection as a whole? What is unique about it compared with your other work?
June Jung: I like to evoke emotion with my art. In Garden of Emotion, I exclusively used the human form and botanicals as my way of doing this. I love using the outline of the human body to suggest movement and feeling. Flowers and plants are also naturally emotional, so I had a lot of fun pairing the two.
I really wanted this series to be thematic by limiting the works to botanicals with the human form. That pushed me to be very careful with little details, like the pose of the body or the expression of the lips.
1x: What role does wildlife play in your life? What draws you to watercolor?
June: I live in L.A. and it’s a great area to find many different species of flowers. I love taking pictures at botanical gardens and on walks in my neighborhood. A lot of my inspiration comes from that.
Watercolor has an unpredictable effect that surprises me in many positive ways. The whimsical, abstract shapes in moving water are representative my painting style.
1x: When was the first time you realized that you could transform your talent for art into a career?
June: I’ve loved drawing and painting since I was a little girl, but I was always skeptical that I’d be able to turn it into a career. It wasn’t until I started working as a tattoo artist about 12 years ago that I realized I could earn a living with art. I feel very fortunate that I’ve developed as a fine artist in addition to tattooing.
1x: What has changed about your creative process since quarantine? In what ways has it impacted you positively?
June: Since quarantine, I’ve had more time to go through my past work and think about what I really enjoy to draw and paint. That helped me focus and create this series. It’s a sort of distillation of my aesthetic sensibilities.
1x: How is June Jung Art coping with the city shut down? What are some things that the community can do to support you?
June: Like a lot of tattoo artists, I’ve been working more on paintings and prints. At our shop, the other artists are doing the same thing and using their free time for their creative interests generally. One artist is releasing a punk rock record. Another was commissioned to paint some murals in LA.
Our community has been showing up to support us by purchasing art and putting down deposits for future tattoo appointments. We really appreciate it.
1x: Have any exciting creative opportunities come your way recently, despite the crisis?
June: Since the quarantine I started focusing on creating artwork and I was able to sell a lot of them. That was a great opportunity for me to show people my creativity side. I hope I can tattoo more of my original illustrations in the future.