Published Oct 07, 2020Canadian pop artist Lights has several prominent tattoos, and, as a talented illustrator in her own right, it's a natural extension of her interests for her to launch her own side gig as a tattoo artist. She's not a professional — not yet, anyway — but she's been tattooing friends for free, and she has big plans for where she might take this hobby in the future.
Having recently released her high-energy, dance-oriented Dead End EP — produced by metal-turned-EDM artist MYTH and inspired by a 2019 stint touring with deadmau5 — Exclaim! caught up with Lights to learn about her budding tattoo biz and see some of her work.
What first got you interested in tattoos and inspired you to get your own?
I got my first tattoo the year I moved out on my own, at 18. It felt like a symbol of freedom, of doing what I wanted with my life. I drew up some sparrows because they represented that, no matter how far you wander from home, you always know how to get back. I also didn't know that you don't have to draw up your own tattoos! I walked into a hole-in-the-wall place on Queen Street in Toronto and got a really botch job for cheap. They're kind of ugly but I love them.
How did you take up giving tattoos to others? How does one get a Lights tattoo — are you open to the public?
I felt like I was a pretty decent visual artist and love tattoos and how they augment a body, so I figured it would be easy. I was wrong — it is very hard — but once I started I couldn't give up. I asked my main tattooer, Derek Lewis, to teach me everything he knows, and he has been a great mentor. So far I'm only giving tattoos to people I know and not charging until I feel like I can deliver a wicked product. Someday I'd love to open a shop.
What are your favourite styles of tattoos to give?
I'm still finding my niche, so I'm not fully sure what I'm capable of yet, but my personal art style is very comic-esque, so most of the stuff I've given has been line art.
What's your process?
Usually we'll text about some ideas and my "client" (friend) sends me reference pictures and I'll mess with some designs till we decide on something they love and I can do. Then I print on stencil paper, we place the stencil, I set up my sanitized station, and we zap!
Have you ever had any tattooing mishaps?
I still laugh about the first tattoo I ever gave because I really didn't know what I was doing. I kept wiping with alcohol pads (you normally use paper towel, alcohol burns the hell out of raw skin!). It was his first tattoo as well so didn't realize it was hurting way more than it should've. I've never made that mistake again. It definitely healed like a prison tattoo.
Could you share photos of a few of the favourite tattoos you have given?
This is a Carl Sagan quote on my sister, some of my cleanest text!
Here is an elk on my buddy's leg, he brought me a deer skull (found in the forest) as a gift for this. Some of my first shading work.
This image speaks for itself. I drew her dog and it looks almost…identical??
Memories for a passed away parent on a good friend of mine.
Hockey reaper on my husband. First time experimenting with traditional style.