Sticking n’ Poking with Kevin Elijah Tan

source: Kevin Elijah Tan

Kevin Elijah Tan, or K-Dizzle as we’d like to call him, is a 27-year-old Engineering graduate who finds inspiration between the pages of a comic book, turntables, poetry, science, and needles – the kind that doesn’t give you bad teeth. K-Dizzle has been a stick n’ poke artist for the past two years, and his workspace is his bedroom. JUICE invades his personal space to pick his brains about meaningless tattoos and whether he’d poke someone’s butt… with a needle. Perverts.

Why did you decide to pick up stick n’ poke? Were you running out of paper?
The world’s running out of trees but there’s always a constant supply of human skin, so why not? I’m kidding…

In 2013, I was dating someone and thought it would be “romantic yet badass” to tattoo each other. We headed to a tattoo supply shop to get the equipment and realised we had absolutely no idea how to operate a tattoo machine. So instead, we got the needles and ink. We started simple by poking dots on each other’s wrist. I got a braille tattoo and she got three dots.

You didn’t have a mentor like most ‘professional’ tattoo artists, how did you teach yourself?
It helped that I had friends who were interested in getting tattoos, so I had ‘canvases’ to practise on. However, I knew that this wasn’t enough to improve my skills, so I put word out on social media that for a limited time I would be doing free tattoos. The response was great; I had at least three random people coming over every week to get tattoos done. I took every opportunity I could to polish my techniques and widen my artistic capabilities. While I constantly try to push myself to do more complex designs, I had to know my limits. I don’t take on designs that I can’t execute perfectly, seeing that [tattoo] is permanent, after all. It was very much a constant state of departure whilst always arriving at a farther destination. With the right approach, hard work, patience, and determination, it’s really paid off.

Do you consider yourself to be a professional tattoo artist?
I mean, I do get paid for my tattoos and I take my work very professionally, but a professional tattoo artist? That sounds hella serious. I consider myself as your friendly neighbourhood tattoo artist.

Is there a particular design that you wouldn’t tattoo?
I’d probably say no if a guy asked me to tattoo his butt. I don’t think I’m ready for that. I would however suggest against getting your girlfriend/boyfriend’s name tattooed on you. If it’s your wife’s or your kid’s name, that’s fine. I’ve had a friend who tattooed his girlfriend’s name on his arm and after they broke up, he told me he was having trouble finding another girlfriend named ‘Julia’.

Everyone constantly asks if this method hurt less than the machine. We say it depends on the placing regardless of the technique. What’s your take?
I’ve to agree with you on that. I’m guessing stick n’ poke hurts less ‘cause it’s easier to control how deep the needle penetrates the skin when poking by hand.

How do you feel about tattoos that have no meaning to it?
Perfectly fine as it’s really up to each individual. Some people like tattoos with something that serves as a constant reminder while others want something that simply looks nice. I used to prefer getting tattoos on my body that have deep meanings but I recently decided I’m going to get one that’s funny. Something along the lines of ‘LOL’ tattooed on my inner lip.

We could only lol at that. How did you transition from engineering to being a tattoo artist to also being a DJ?
I’ve always had a passion for both science and arts. However, in the earlier part of my life, I learnt mostly science and engineering subjects. It was only when I was working as an engineer that I realised I wanted to pursue my passion in art as well, I decided to switch my focus to learning how to draw, write, and sing better. To satisfy my music needs, I perform in an acoustic band, DJ, and perform spoken word poetry. I wanted to be a DJ ‘cause I love sharing music and thought it would be a good way to learn about digital music. I believe it will help contribute to my goal of writing an album in the near future, which mixes both digital sounds and analogue instruments.

What sort of music do you play?
My DJ partner and I select songs that lean away from most of the mainstream electronic dance music. We play mostly indie music and all kinds of rock remixed with electronic dance beats. We’re called Ape No Kill Ape.

Which career do you see yourself pursuing more? Or is there something else you want to venture out to?
I would love to pursue both fields equally. I don’t want to limit my creativity. I also love writing. Mostly short stories, lyrics, and poems for now and since I’m big fan of comic books, I would eventually like to venture out to illustrate my own graphic novel.

What’s your favorite JUICE?
Mark Zuckerberg and Jesse Eisenberg.