Love yourself and then everything else/others. It’s like on an airplane: provide oxygen first to yourself and then to your child. So, in creativity, if you take care of yourself first your creativity will thrive, and will impact the quality that you give out on the leather / paper / canvas. If I had known this earlier, I would have drawn less at night and would not have spoiled my eyesight and posture. It’s just easy to hide behind the creative sacrifice and it’s a comfort zone for an artist. But no matter how pleasant it is, you need to take time for yourself and for yourself.
As a part of our series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist” I had the pleasure of interviewing Lina Shuliar.
Lina is a sought-after, award-winning tattoo artist who has been tattooing for over a decade and drawing for as long as she can remember. She went to art school from age eight through 16. After school, she studied design and architecture, where she continued to draw a lot and did everything by hand. She decided to pursue tattoo arts to have a personal connection with individuals and let her creativity thrive.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I was born in the Asian part of Russia. Asian culture has always been an influence in our home, from food to cultural traditions. I was the only child in the family — my parents were constantly working, and they often left me at home alone with markers and pencils. I was never an active child who liked running and playing with other kids; instead, I preferred my own company.
My father worked in Japan and was always away from home, but when he returned, he brought me all sorts of cool toys, coloring books and souvenirs from his travels. Most likely, this served as a great formation of my worldview and specific taste as an artist.
When my parents moved to the European part of Russia, I had already begun to absorb a new culture and I had many new interests. I was quite a “weird” child and stood out from the crowd — many people did not understand me, so art school became a real salvation for me. It was a place where I could express myself and practice a lot without the typical school hustle.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I can’t call it a career. This is my calling. I got on this path by accident. I never planned to be a tattoo artist, but I have always been a fan of tattoos and from a young age I made small tattoos on myself with needles by hand and went to tattoo parlors. To become a master — for me at the time, it did not seem realistic. After they finished school, my friends started getting into tattoos and they didn’t understand why I didn’t become a tattoo artist. According to them, I was perfect for this role, so I decided to try. I flipped a coin with the question of whether I should start my journey in tattooing. I was torn because the artist must be very responsible, and the role requires much more investment than just art or architecture. This is work with people and their hearts. And the coin said NO. I remember seeing the “no” caused a storm of emotions, that somehow some kind of coin will say what I can do and what not, and the next day I became a student in the nearest tattoo parlor. And to this day, when I’m in doubt about something and I need to decide from the bottom of my heart, I pull the same trick with a coin, and it always works!
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The most interesting people came to me when I moved to the northern capital of Russia, St. Petersburg. There I met different people who believed in aliens, hid from them, and made protective tattoos so that they would not find them, people with mystical abilities and all sorts of shamans.
Perhaps the most unusual was a woman named Natalya. Before the session, she asked me for the opportunity to bring a magician to charge the ink with special energy before I would start the tattoo. It was like a show. She came to the session with a man in black. He was tall and dark. He went into my office and began to carry out strange manipulations with his hands on the walls and drew something on pieces of paper, put up protection, and so forth. He did not comment on anything in particular; he only made strange sounds from his throat. He did not pay attention to me the whole time and only looked at me once to say that my energy is very strong and stuck some piece of paper on me so that I would not interfere with their process with my presence. The tattoo on Natalya was large and took 4 sessions (it was a dragon on the entire back), and the magician came every time and performed the same manipulations in my office with my client. Later, she said that they are in a cult, and they help people with their magical abilities. I am very grateful that she chose me as her artist and that I got such an experience.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am working on a book that will bring together tattoo artists of the same style and direction. It will be called Darkwork, just like the style itself, which I specialize in. It is so voluminous and so far no one has labeled it as a style. I am very excited about this idea and growing a community of people who are connected. I love it when people get together for the same purpose and everyone enjoys the process.
Also, soon I plan to launch sales of my author’s clip toys/ figures, which are still in the initial stages of creation and require a lot of effort and investment. I hope to present them to the public in the beginning of 2023.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I have a lot of talented people who come to me for a tattoo. One of them was John Secolo, former guitarist for the bands “The Pretty Reckless” and “End The Stars.” Another client of mine was Josh Planz, who worked on the scene in “The Boys” as a 3-D animation artist. I’ve also worked with many graphic designers who exhibited periodically in local galleries. I love working with both artistic people, as we are on the same wavelength, and with ordinary people who are not in a hurry and give themselves to the process as much as I do.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Can you share a story about that?
I draw inspiration from people who come to me. Even at the consultation, I get a powerful charge of positivity and excitement about a project that has not yet been drawn — I think this is the best “food” for me. In addition, I draw inspiration from the fantasy and folklore genre. I adore everything supernatural, history films and animation — everything that only exists in human hearts and not in everyday routine.
I also love various events such as concerts, exhibitions or special events. For example, I draw inspiration from the annual Oddities Flea Market in New York, where you can meet the same people as you, and find special items — a lot of skulls, stuffed animals, and expensive antiques, which are often made by hand and are one-of-a-kind. Traveling also inspires me and I visit many conventions and tattoo shows in different states. I like to see the differences in climate and culture and the characteristics of each state and people. Before traveling around Europe, I experienced something similar, but on top of everything else, it’s also different languages, currencies, and huge cultural differences.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I hope I can do something useful and good for people who come to me for a favor or advice. I see this world from a different angle, so that when communicating with a person, I can offer them a viewpoint that they may not have paid attention to before and can suggest how to direct their gaze in the direction they need.
I do not live the usual life familiar to many. I have experience traveling the world and living in different countries that most do not have, and I willingly share my learnings with people. I have a knack for inspiring people to be who and where they want to be.
I often hear words of gratitude from my clients and fans. They are grateful for the advice or just for the conversation that led them to a decision. I am sincerely interested in how their lives have changed because I like to know what kind of life my tattoos live. In other words, what role do they play and how do they change people. Tattoos may seem like just a whimsical drawing, but the way I work to develop the meaning of the message requires so much more effort than just a drawing without a soul made for commercial purposes.
I don’t consider myself some kind of great artist and creator with a capital letter, I just do what I can, with what I have, where I am. I do not have any higher goal to transform the world, because the main thing is to be in the moment with a specific person and give them what is important to them now. And it is very important to be aware of these small-looking things, because a person can get lost and confused in their daily routines. And I am grateful to be a part of the path of everyone who comes to me.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Do not do what the person wants if you do not want it. It is very important for an artist to remember what they are and why they do it. And artists do it for themselves first, and thus brings joy to others. If you follow social media and trends or people who strongly advise you on what to make, you will get lost and lose the spark of your creativity. I realized this when, after 7 years, the style and direction of the tattoo which I desperately developed was not true for me. I just made money and did everything just to give people a wow effect. But it did not please me as much as what I’m doing now. I am very glad that I was able to hear myself and listen to what I want, and not to others’ opinions.
2. Believe in what you do unconditionally. This is difficult, but again very important. When I changed my style I lost my usual client base. I was left without a job for a while. And it was a very difficult period mentally and physically — luckily my husband was with me then and took on a leading role in supporting the family. He reminded me that I need to pull myself together and “bend my line,” to not to be led by panic and believe in myself that, with time, I will succeed. Of course, he was right.
3. Go beyond, do not obey the rules. Art schools teach us not to be ourselves but to do according to the textbook. It is very important that if you have art school experience, to learn not to follow everything that you were taught there. All you need is the mechanical plow that is in your hands, and you know how to draw; the rest is just in your head. And this noise should be turned off. No matter how it sounds, I rarely use my head in my work.
4. Travel more, don’t wait for special times and opportunities. I started traveling in 2017 and when I first discovered this world, I was amazed at how it changed my worldview and all of me for the better. If I had known this before, I would not have wasted my life on so much work. I believe that expanding your horizons and consciousness is so important for self-development, more so than just practicing your art.
5. Love yourself and then everything else/others. It’s like on an airplane: provide oxygen first to yourself and then to your child. So, in creativity, if you take care of yourself first your creativity will thrive, and will impact the quality that you give out on the leather / paper / canvas. If I had known this earlier, I would have drawn less at night and would not have spoiled my eyesight and posture. It’s just easy to hide behind the creative sacrifice and it’s a comfort zone for an artist. But no matter how pleasant it is, you need to take time for yourself and for yourself.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I dream of creating a way to expose and penalize dishonest tattoo artists for terrible tattoos and mistreatment of customers. I have seen so many cases where a tattoo artist without experience and some sense of style does poor work and also takes money for it. And then, sooner or later, the customer realizes that this is a bad job and masters like me spend time on consultations or covers, and sometimes the client has to go through a laser, which is not at all pleasant … it’s terrible! Art should not bring disappointment; an artist should know the limits of their abilities and be responsible and honest to the client.
We have been blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this.
I am a big fan of Marilyn Manson; his work saved my life more than once and pulled me out of the darkest corners of my mind as a teenager. I learned English thanks to him in order to understand what he says in the songs, so I would like to say a huge thank you to him from the bottom of my heart. I’m looking forward to when he starts concerts again; I dream of seeing him live, at least from afar.
Also, after reading Ozzy Osbourne’s autobiography review, I began to immensely admire this man, his life path is the wildest and most unbridled that no one has experienced. I always thought that tattoo artists were like rock stars: they travel on tour, communicate in their own circles, live an expensive, crazy life. In a way I have done the same, but without bats in my mouth. I would also like to thank him for being still alive and never ceasing to please his fans with something interesting.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Lina Shuliar: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.