Marina Inoue Interview | Highlark

We got to do a little Q&A with another one of our favorites, Marina Inoue! She has a really great classic yet unique American Traditional style with some modern color schemes. Marina enjoys a lot of outdoor activities and her work often reflects that as well. She will be doing a guest spot at Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn soon so shoot her an email at to schedule an appointment.

Marina Inoue Interview | Highlark

Q 1 || How did your interest in tattoos come about, and were you interested in becoming an artist in general or were you always pretty certain you wanted to tattoo?

I grew up in New York City and started going to punk and hardcore shows at a pretty young age.  All of the older people in the scene were heavily tattooed, and I always thought it was cool.  I knew from my very early teens that I wanted to be tattooed- not necessarily be a tattooer myself, but at least be a part of that subculture.

Q 2 || Tattoos in Japanese culture are still looked down upon and being that I’m Japanese my parents had a tough time accepting my tattoos even though they are great parents. Did you experience any difficulties with your family because of tattooing?

I’m also Japanese on my father’s side- so yes, I definitely did.  He was very, very angry when I got my first really visible tattoo, told me to get out of the house, that it was disgraceful.  He’s from Japan and lived there until he was a young adult, and to his generation, only Yakuza got tattooed- and women definitely did not.  My mom was never angry, I think she just thought tattoos were weird and creepy and didn’t understand it.  But they came around- I’ve been working in the industry for ten years now and have never asked them for anything, so by this point they understand that I made a decision for myself that worked out for the better.

Q 3 || I think it’s amazing how tattoo artists keep creating great images year after year based off of client’s requests, is there ever a time when you feel like you’re out of ideas and how do you keep the creative juices flowing constantly?

There is an endless resource of reference material out there, especially with the internet.  I genuinely enjoy getting into a black hole where I’ll just search and save images in a folder.  I also love spending time in antique stores and book stores, and I’ll either buy or take photos of all kinds of things I think are interesting to look at.  That being said, this year I’ve taken a lot of time off from work, went on an extended road trip from January until June, and spent most of my time rock climbing.  I wasn’t burnt out on tattooing at all, but I was psyched on doing something different and living in a way that I wasn’t able to do when I was apprenticing and first starting out.  It was a really good experience for me, and definitely made me miss and appreciate the creative part of my life and career.

Q 4 || I think most artists especially early on know they are good but at the same time question if they are good enough. Was there a specific moment in your career where you felt confident in calling yourself a professional artist?

I mean, there’s never really been a point where I’ve felt like I was “good enough”.  At this point, I’m confident in my skills to give someone a solid tattoo that they will hopefully be stoked on, sure, but good enough in the bigger picture?  Definitely not.  I’m never 100% happy with what I do, and I always want to try to continue to improve with each tattoo.  To be perfectly honest, I end up spending a lot of time criticizing what I do, and sometimes I feel like I don’t really deserve the bit of success I’ve gained through my career.  I’ve worked hard, but at times it tends to be difficult to feel like I’ve worked hard enough, if that makes sense.  I’ve gone through a lot of phases in my career, learning, plateauing, drawing influence from different sources, over simplifying, over complicating.  It’s a constantly humbling endeavor.

Q 5 || Who would you get your next tattoo from? And do you have any ideas in mind as far as design?

The last large tattoo I got was my back from Brian Bruno.  I have plenty of space, but after getting that finished, I feel a little maxed out on getting tattooed- so I don’t have any current plans for anything big.  Just a little souvenir tattoo here and there most likely.

Q 6 || What’s next for you? Any projects, or guest spots we can look forward to in the near future?

I’m currently living in Colorado splitting my time between the outdoors, working part time at Dedication Tattoo in Denver, and traveling for guest spots.  So far this fall I’m planning to work at Saved in NYC, Oliver Peck’s Friday the 13th shebang in Dallas, and hopefully make it to San Francisco as well.


| Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr |


Power your creative ideas with pixel-perfect design and cutting-edge technology. Create your beautiful website with Zeen now.