From Soccer Professional to Tattooist in Los Angeles

Dino oriental s snake and flower tattoos
From Soccer Professional to Tattooist in Los Angeles 81

Dino’s success with 10KF Hollywood, Los Angeles tattoo shop 10KF Hollywood is no surprise. Many Americans love his modernized Asian style and large scale. The arms and legs are adorned with red and black inks and have reappearances of Hannya masks and snakes as well as flowers and flowers. His favorite theme is dragons, as he states, the scales drive me crazy (…) as I have to make hundreds of scales, but he appreciates their challenge and complexity. He draws inspiration from Japanese art, but he also includes elements of South Korean culture.

Interview with him covers his past as a soccer star, his decision for tattoo art, his inspiration and his life in Los Angeles.

Above: Flowers, snakes and other animals are great choices for tattoo themes.
peony tattoo, red white and black tattoo
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A Peony. Dino can only be found in three colors: red and black.

What year did you start tattooing?

As a professional soccer player at the age of 19, I was recruited to the South Korean national soccer team. Six operations were necessary to fix my left ankle. It was a serious injury that prevented me from playing. It was a terrible injury which left me devastated and brought on many months of misery. In mid-2014, I was able to leave the hospital and start tattooing. I started tattooing at the beginning 2015 in a tiny apartment.

dragon tattoo sleeve in red and black
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Dino loves dragons, as I already mentioned.

When did you begin working at 10KF Hollywood, and how would you describe the studio’s environment?

In the summer 2021, I moved to Los Angeles and started working as an employee at the studio in August. Each person has their own artistic style. There are many people working in the studio. It is exciting and rewarding to work with them. 10FK Hollywood’s offices in Los Angeles and New York allow staff to freely travel between the two cities. Manu, the studio owner, works hard to create an environment that supports artists. Our professional management team takes care of us so that we can focus on our work.

tattooer Dino at a convention
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Artist completed a backpiece at the 2021 Golden State Tattoo Expo.

Hollywood is different from other US cities. What are the pros and disadvantages of living in Hollywood, California?

It is amazing that so many tourists visit the country. Celebrities are even seen on the streets and at restaurants. Korea did not have the Hollywood sign. It was only visible on YouTube and TV. It’s incredible to see it from far away. It is amazing that I live in Hollywood. Hollywood is a beautiful place. However, there are many stores and people here. Hollywood can sometimes seem overwhelming due to the number of incidents and events that take place.

fu dog tattoo on hand by dino
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“Fu dogs” are mythical, lion-like creatures that act as guardians.

Los Angeles is a wonderful place to live, work and play.

It’s so easy to get around in this area. The cold is not something that I enjoy. I love bright, sunny skies. Los Angeles weather makes me smile. I’m also social. Cali’s people are welcoming and friendly, which makes it easy to make friends. Cali is home to many different cultures. This makes it easy for people to make new friends. It’s exciting and valuable to be able reflect each culture and their meanings in every project. I’ve only been in LA for about 18 months, but I’m happy and enjoying every minute of it.

engraving like eagle tattoo on arm
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This eagle tattoo is in woodblock style.

You stated at the beginning of your career that you were a traditional American tattoo artist. How did you get where you are today?

Because I wanted to create a unique and simple tattoo, I decided to go with traditional American tattoos. Traditional Japanese tattoos are adored by Americans, as well as American tattoos because of their uniqueness. I assumed the American style would be more easily accessible since I didn’t have formal tattoo training. My first tattoo was blackwork. I started with an American foundation. Then I fell into a slump. I was a student at the London Tattoo Convention. It was known for being the best convention in the world. I met Gakkinâ’s tattooed client there. The client’s tattoos look amazing and are beautiful. Tattooist Gakkin uses strong, black tattoos that are contrasted with stark colors. This gives the tattoo a strong, but elegant look. I was inspired by many famous tattoo artists. I attended many conventions and learned blackwork techniques in Japan to develop my style. Horimaroo, who I met after putting in a lot of work, has influenced my current work.

hannya mask on back, tattoo
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Jose Moreno and Dino created this back piece.

Continued discussion on your Japanese art inspiration.

Horimaroo was the one who introduced me to Ukiyoe when I first met him. History and the various representations of history was something that interested me. Although Japanese artists use similar styles and expressions, their interpretations are different. Every artist used different terms for describing a dragon drawing. They used lines and shading. This was very fascinating and inspired me to create my own color scheme. It was fascinating learning the meanings of each subject and their stories. The Ukiyo-e appealed to me as it was two-dimensional but still had great detail and beauty. They are beautiful. [and relevant] It is a great time to be alive right now.

dragon face, close up in black and white ink
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Black and white ink for a freehanded dragon.

Are you a stenciller?

Both are acceptable, but I prefer stencils. I prefer a stencil to draw the overall outline of my design. I prefer to draw details or backgrounds, such as flowers, freehand. I use freehand to fit the dragons and snakes better on my clients’ bodies. To draw lines, I use a brush pen. It’s elegant and classic. It is more precise than pencils, but drawing with a pen on the body gives it a fluid look and feels more natural. It is because I try to not be rigid when using them, depending on each design and the size of my body.

tattooers miso and dino at taiwan i love tattoo convention
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Dino and his spouse received an award from Taiwan I Love Tattoo.

As you know, I have many tattoos on my body. My tattoos were mostly done by friends who are tattoo artists and my wife. Is your wife also a tattoo artist?

We did almost everything together for almost ten years. Miso is my wife. We work together at the 10KF studio. She was a friend during my soccer season. She was there for me when I started tattooing and played with me. After five months of self tattooing, I was finally able to teach her. At the time, I was still a novice and it wasn’t easy to show her. We watched YouTube together and visited many studios together. We own our studio in Korea and have taken part in conventions together. We also learned from one another and traveled together. We hope to continue this. Being a tattooist together is my greatest joy. We are artists who understand each other and offer support during hard times. It’s an incredible pleasure to work alongside her. She does ornament-style tattoos which use more black ink. Her work reflects her punctuality.

geisha tattoo by dino oriental
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A Geisha Tattoo is placed on the client’s upper arm just below the shoulder.

What is the most surprising thing you know?

I’d like to try many other things. I have been tattooing since 2008, but there is still much to be learned. I was awarded 5 awards in various categories at convention contests. [K-Subcon, Singapore Ink Show, Taiwan I Love Tattoo Convention, Chiangmai Tattoo Fest, and Philadelphia Villain Arts Tattoo Convention]I want to learn more and do more in my professional life. I was able participate in the Philadelphia convention, as well as other conventions throughout Asia and Europe. Together with other talented tattoo artists, I’ll be opening a Los Angeles workshop for tattoos in March. Korea has two art studios that I manage. There tattoos are still illegal. A medical license is required to tattoo. It is not easy because not all doctors in Korea are qualified to perform tattoos. Many artists are not protected by the law and are vulnerable to sexual harassment or threats. It is illegal to pay taxes and it makes you ineligible for benefits. Many Korean tattoo artists are involved in international conventions. Some achieve extraordinary yearly scores. However, Korean tattoo artists are still subject to the law. I hope to see Korean law restructured in a way that tattoos can be recognized as cultural entities and tattoo artists treated with respect.

Photos © Dino Oriental

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