Tat2X: How long have you been involved in the tattoo business?
Heather: I just had my 15th anniversary!
Tat2X: What made you decide to become a tattoo artist?
Heather: I was in art school, and realized that tattooing was something I wanted to try. It seemed like an interesting medium with a lot of potential. The tattoo world was changing and I started to see artists really pushing the envelope of what tattooing could be.
Tat2X: How did you learn the art of tattooing? Did you apprentice?
Heather: I did, at a street shop in Edmonton, Alberta. Lots of things I had to unlearn from my apprenticeship, but I had a lot of fun and made some lifelong friends.
Tat2X: Are there any artists tattoo or otherwise that you admire?
Heather: Steve Moore, Nimit Malavia, Ekundayo, Justin Hartman, Karrie Arthurs, Sam Smith, Frida Kahlo, Kelly Vivanco, Massimo Rao, Shaun Tan, Esao Andrews, James Jean, Chiara Bautista, Beksinski, Henrik Uldalen, Jeremy Mann, Emily Rose Murray, Herakut, Kaspian Shore, Jeremy Geddes, João Ruas, Cody Eich, Teresa Sharpe, Christo, Richard Serra, Marina Abramovic, Andy Goldsworthy, and lots more.
Tat2X: Has any individual in particular influenced your career?
Heather: My Mom- she encouraged and supported me from the beginning. There have been so many people who influenced me over the years in diverse ways, small brief encounters and long life changing relationships. I’ve learned from a lot of great and miserable humans.
Tat2X: What would you say is your favorite part of the job?
Heather: Three things. 1. Drawing alone in my studio, when everything just fades away and you vanish into the zone, and 2. Crossing paths with interesting people who share their stories with me, including my coworkers, and 3. feeling like i’m contributing somehow.
Tat2X: How would you describe your style?
Heather: This is a tricky one! Well I don’t know what my style is graphically… but I am influenced by surrealism in tattooing, and gravitate towards pieces that have an illustrative style to them, and tell a story. Most of my paintings use the human figure to illustrate what’s happening in the heart.
Tat2X: What’s the most unusual request for a tattoo design you’ve ever had?
Heather: When I first started tattooing I used to get a few requests for tattoos on or around guys’ crotches. I never did any.
Tat2X: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists tattoo or otherwise?
Heather: Work hard and be nice to people. Put the bulk of your energy into your craft and the rest will follow. And don’t forget to take breaks. Input is needed for output. You need to recharge.
Tat2X: What kind of music do you like to listen to?
Heather: There’s no specific genre, I’m all over the place. Lately its been a lot of Radiohead, Niki and the Dove, Tool, Tegan and Sara, Katy Perry, Kate Boy, Atoms for Peace, Explosions in the Sky, Florence and the Machine.
Tat2X: What are your favorite foods?
Heather: I love anything straight out of my garden. I try to eat the least amount of processed food I can, but chips and crackers are still my kryptonite.
Tat2X: What do you do to relax when you’re not at the studio?
Heather: Ride my bike, read, spend time outdoors and hang out with my family.
About Canadian Tattoo Artist Heather McLean:
To see more of Canadian tattoo artist Heather McLean’s incredible work you can visit HBomb or Heather McLean Artwork. You can also follow her on Instagram @heathermcleanartist.