Artist Behind The Art: He's One Of The Few Fine Line Tattooists In Singapore
STORY: Nicholas Yong
20 June 2022
For those who have them, tattoos are a way to mark a significant event in life, a form of creative expression, or something that's, well, cool. Whatever the reason, this form of body art is super personal to each wearer.
Needless to say, there are many styles of tattoo art, ranging from the bold look of the traditional method to the more minimalistic styles of the fine-line technique.
Christopher Sim, one of only a handful of fine-line tattooists in Singapore, uses only one thin needle to create detailed pieces - that range from sacred geometry to dot work art - on skin.
This micro-realistic technique can be as elaborate as you wish – if you are willing to spend the time with Chris, who can achieve the subtleties of shade and fine detail with just that single needle.
We speak to the 32-year-old about his journey into the art form, how he discovered a love for the fine-line technique, and being a tattoo artist in Singapore.
How did you get into the craft?
It was at about the age of 18 when my interest in the concept of tattooing peaked. I managed to get acquainted with a tattoo shop, and I did my best to learn as much as I could for about two years. With my humble tattoo kit, I started practicing on pig skin (that my grandma used to help me get from the market 😂) and on bananas and oranges. Not long after, I managed to work on my first client.
What’s the most complicated/challenging tattoo you’ve done and how long did it take?
I would say it would be a ship that took me 4 sessions of 3-4 hours to get all the details in and line work perfect.
What was the first tattoo you did?
It was a small symbol on the wrist in UV ink. After UV ink tattoos heal, they are invisible on skin, and only show up under UV light.
Who and what are your inspirations?
Corey Divine, Freddy Corbin, Mr. K, Dr. Woo, Grace Neutral, Big Sleeps, Gakkin, Eric Stricker... these are some of the main tattoos artists whom I draw inspiration from.
My biggest inspiration would be my mother. Growing up, I would always watch her sketch or paint with water colours. I guess I got my artistic genes from her 😂 She’s an architect. She used to teach me different shading techniques, which I still apply to this day with the tattoos that I do.
I am very grateful for her, she was my main role model, and she gave me the confidence that art can be learnt and developed- as long as you have the heart for it, especially as I don’t have any art background. She’s also one of my biggest critics 😂
You are one of the few masters of the fine-line tattoo method in Singapore. How did you learn the technique?
Fine-line tattooing using a single needle has been around for the longest time, just that its primary use was to do small parts of a larger-scale tattoo (to get in the details of the hair, eyes etc). So I always had [the knowledge] of it but never saw it’s true potential. From there, I gravitated towards the technique as I saw the benefits of it healing better, especially for very small delicate work.
What are the challenges behind it compared to modern tattoo applications?
It is harder to control and pull a line in general as compared to using a thicker needle for lining. For shading and colour, generally, a flat needle like a paint brush is used to efficiently cover a larger space, whereas shading with a thin needle would require more time and effort, but the amount of details and texture you can achieve in a tight space is greater.
What do you enjoy most about fine-line tattooing?
The healing and the results that come with it, especially when it concerns a small tattoo. It doesn’t smudge as much and retains very much of its thinness as compared to the same tattoo done with a bigger needle, where it could be heavily smudged. The possibility of doing miniature, tiny details that actually heal well, seeing how tattoos can be refined and delicate and stylish at the same time - that is what I’m after.
Feels like a lot of pressure not to fudge up a tattoo, since it's permanent! Have you made any mistakes? And how did you correct them?
I do take pride in my line work and the foundation of my tattoos. If any “mistakes” are made, they can be smoothened out if the foundation is good. However, in my earlier years, when I was starting out, there were probably tattoos that I did that weren’t the cleanest. But I guess that’s just part of the journey.
Many guys find themselves while doing national service. Did NS inspire you or your pursuits in any way?
I was a combat instructor in NS, and it was an 8-5 job. The beauty of it was that I had the opportunity to head straight down to the tattoo shop after to learn and get tattooed. On the weekends I would also be tattooing. My NS years were the heart of my tattooing journey.
What or who would be your dream project to work on?
I would take any opportunity in a heartbeat to tattoo Post Malone 😂. He’s a cool one.
What do you enjoy most about being a tattoo artist in Singapore?
A decade back, tattoos in Singapore were generally quite frowned upon, and it was a slightly more underground scene, which was great. Over the years, it’s been such an eye-opening experience seeing tattoos gain such popularity. I’m ecstatic to see not just youngsters wanting a tattoo but also the older generation. Even parents are getting tattoos with their kids. It is such a beautiful change.