Meet the first Indian tattoo artist in Hong Kong, Krishna Wadhwani, who is transforming the local tattoo scene, as she inks her way into the industry, and your hearts! Fascinated with art and creative anomalies for most of her life, Krishna narrates her journey of finding passion and creative self through her craft!
Rough beginnings carve the best paths! Jumpstarting her career in Hong Kong as a tattoo artist and the creator of Ksquared, Krishna Wadhwani, in the face of the ongoing pandemic, was met with an unexpected route, one filled with hardships and challenges. While traversing the industry, she found her calling and persevered to work her way to establishing herself as a trailblazing Indian tattoo artist.
Krishna actively tackles collective misconceptions that reside in the local tattoo scene, as she advocates for a change within the community to make the space more welcoming and candid for clients and emerging artists alike.
Hive Life chats with Krishna as she walks us through the inspiration behind her creative expression and tattoo art, and how she is leaving more than just permanent ink behind!
Can you share a little bit about yourself with us?
I am Krishna Wadhwani, an Indian tattoo artist based in Hong Kong and the creative behind Ksquared. Other than my passion for tattooing, I have taken upon multiple creative outlets as a form of self-expression, and to mix it up a little in my workspace. My long list of creative jobs includes makeup, illustration, animation, and my love for tattooing!
How did you start out as an illustrator, tattoo, and makeup artist?
Contemplating on my origins as an artist now, I cannot think of a single occasion where I did not have a pencil in my hand.
I first started my journey with special effects makeup, inspired by the work of Guillermo del Toro. He is a movie director well-known for creating creatures without using much CGI, and working mostly with makeup to execute his visions. I was truly amazed by what makeup could achieve, and its transformative properties.
I then began experimenting more with beauty, fashion, and commercial makeup styles. As I worked with different people’s faces, I found real value in my work as a makeup artist, using the features we have and being able to help people feel beautiful and express themselves through such an art form!
I later studied animation at university and specialised in 2D style, mostly executed through drawing frame by frame. For my final year project, I animated a character who I fell in love with. I wished to commemorate and carry her with me for the rest of my life, and decided to get a tattoo of her. Under the needle, I had this epiphany and realised that tattooing was the perfect expression for me to connect all of my creative pursuits together. Working with people, making them feel their best, and drawing! From then on my path was set.
What is your creative process like?
For personal projects, my creative process is very spontaneous- I normally listen to a variety of podcasts or perhaps music, as I get into my headspace and sketch whatever flows. Eventually, I will land on something plausible and start fleshing it out as I draw.
While tattooing, it varies a bit more depending on different clients or projects. For larger pieces, we start off with a consultation where a client will bring over references, express their ideas, and we do measurements of the area they would like tattooed. Thereon the creative process begins as I develop their ideas into tattoo designs.
How would you describe your personal artistic style?
I consider my artistic style to be quite experimental. I like to switch it up every now and then and gather inspiration from different subjects and styles.
However, I have found that I often gravitate towards line art, from solid black and heavy linework to refined thin coloured lines. I like to use black and grey as base shades, with the occasional pop of bright colour.
What does your work mean to you?
To me, the value and meaning of my artwork come from bringing my clients’ ideas to life and giving them art that is one-off and personal to them. As a tattoo artist, many of my pieces are based on conversations and an understanding of what my clients have wanted and envisioned for a long time. Being able to bring that vision into reality and execute it smoothly is what I find meaningful artistically and professionally!
What have been your biggest artistic influences?
I derive a lot of inspiration for my artwork from different cultures and their concepts. For example, I have always been attracted to the interesting visuals behind Japanese manga and animation. Although they are illustrative, they opt for deeper, more complex narratives than those witnessed in Hollywood animation, which is majorly directed toward young children.
Another influencing factor would be my love for mythology, creatures, and celestial beings. While researching mythology, I often come across stories of beings that I like to intertwine with my personal design aesthetic.
How does one get into the industry?
The most prominent way to enter the industry would be to be well-acquainted within the tattoo community and to get yourself an apprenticeship with an established mentor.
Before that, I must say how important it is for individuals to understand that tattooing is a profession that is to be taken seriously. Your clients trust you with their skin and bodies and there is a lot that can be done wrong- spreading diseases, infections, and scarring people- so build a form of respect for the art form as you go into it, and make sure to do your research!
Another useful tip would be to create a portfolio with a variety of artwork styles beforehand, for your potential mentors to better comprehend your skill level and see that you have a genuine interest in this industry. Keep your fingers crossed, they might just love your work and take you on!
Do you plan on taking on your own apprentices in the future?
Yes, in the future most certainly! However, as of now, I believe I still have a long way to go in terms of my personal goals and growth in the industry.
How long does it usually take to complete a tattoo piece?
It really depends on the size and complexity of the piece we are working on. For smaller tattoos it could be around 1-5 hours. While bigger ones, such as a full sleeve, could take days to finish and is usually split into multiple sessions.
The tattoo process is different for each individual person depending on a myriad of factors, including the client’s pain tolerance, design, and other variables.
What are some of your favourite illustrations from your portfolio?
I have a lot. One of my favourites is the half sleeve I did on a close friend, the “Portrait of Death,” it is one of the biggest projects I have worked on so far.
Another would be “Bubblegum Girl,” which was the first heavily coloured tattoo I ever did!
But my all-time favourite has to be “Dahlia,” I even got her tattooed on myself. I was scribbling on paper while going through a difficult period in my life and wound up seeing her in the mess of lines I made. While drawing her, I experienced an emotional release through my creation, to me she symbolises the beauty and light that can be found in darkness.
If you had to pick one, which would it be- tattooing or makeup?
If I really had to pick one it would be tattooing as it is a combination of everything I love in my creative career. Drawing, meeting new people and discovering their stories as well as creating art that is individual and catered to each individual to make them feel more confident in their skin and Express themselves!
As an Indian tattoo artist in Hong Kong, how has your experience been in the industry?
Staying committed to the process and working extra hard helped me achieve my goal of becoming the first Indian tattoo artist in Hong Kong!
A difficult one nevertheless, I think it has been one of my biggest challenges. My language skills acted as the main hurdle in my search for finding an apprenticeship in Hong Kong, as many local artists had felt that communication would be a problem.
I did however manage to overcome it through a mixture of hard work, and a slight bit of luck. I must say my portfolio was a great help, and I did manage to land an apprenticeship with one of the local artists. It was quite unconventional in regards to our communication and training process. Additionally, I put in quite a few hours a day to self-train and research, and sometimes would even tattoo silicone slabs, to later share work with my mentor to gain a few pointers in regards to my progress.
Through your tattoo art, what impact are you looking to make in the space?
I truly aspire to transform the tattoo scene in Hong Kong by creating a welcoming, inclusive, and informative space to bridge the gap between clients and tattoo artists. In my previous experience, many of my clients mentioned how they have never heard of certain norms and considerations when it comes to getting a tattoo.
For instance, tattooing an art piece found online is a common practice for some tattooists, however, raises questions of the authenticity and creativity behind the artwork. Also, there are certain sizes that work best for some designs and some colours don’t age as nicely on some skin tones. It is our job as tattoo artists to communicate and keep our clients well-informed on what they are getting and what they can expect.
Through my work here, I hope to educate people better on tattoos, the process, and for the artform to receive more recognition. Hopefully, individuals would look at it as a long-term investment, while appreciating the amount of work and effort that goes into the design and execution.
For first time tattoo-getters, what advice would you like to share?
First and foremost, consult with your tattoo artist on what best suits your wants and needs, and listen to what they have to say since they do know the process inside and out. If you are unsure of your pain tolerance, I would recommend going with a smaller design placed on areas with more fat and less bone- avoid the ribs, knees, etc.
Additionally, simply stick with black instead of going for a coloured tattoo, as many clients have expressed that it is less painful in comparison.
So we heard you have a new studio launching soon, how has it been coming along so far?
It has been exciting planning and executing this new venture! I am currently in the middle of the process and will hopefully announce my launch date soon!
For my soft launch, I will be initiating a new set of flash tattoos, of which a percentage will be donated to the Hanuman charity in Hong Kong, as an initiative of giving back to the community.
How can potential customers get in touch with you to book an appointment?
Interested parties can simply book an appointment through my Instagram page @ksquared_tattoo, direct message me, or visit my website at ksquaredhk.com for more information and email me at [email protected].
Aside from the new studio launch, is there anything special coming up you’d like to share?
I recently launched The Daruma Project, inspired by the Japanese daruma doll, which is now commonly used as a souvenir that represents good fortune and the achievement of goals.
Like the concept behind the infamous semicolon tattoo, I wanted to create a symbol of solidarity within a community, and to encourage people to take action towards achieving their dreams. When purchased, the daruma comes with no eyes, and the buyer fills in one eye to symbolise the setting of a new goal. Upon successful accomplishment of the goal, the buyer fills in the remaining eye. Similarly, the tattoo will be done with one eye initially and finished once you achieve the goal you have set for yourself.
It acts as a constant reminder to encourage people to always work towards their life goals. Furthermore, it builds a sense of connectivity within the community, as you see people with a tattoo just like yours and know all of us are trying our best and working towards achieving growth!
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