Meet Quyen Dinh, The Queen of Tattoo Flash!
I am delighted to introduce Quyen Dinh, the cult pop artist Queen of Tattoo Flash herself! Quyen’s work featured in The Quintessential Grooming Guide for the Modern Gentleman and her image ‘True Gents’ graced the cover of The Fawcett Times, Issue 6. It was an absolute honour to share her simply superb art in this very special series of bespoke collectible Illustrated Covers by guest artists. Fawcett correspondent Cate caught up with Quyen speaking from her California studio.
Quyen Dinh (pronounced Quinn Din) is known across the globe for her unique take on Americana, celebrating contemporary pop culture in the time-honoured style of Tattoo Flash. Using bold, distinctive images characterised by clean black outlines and a bold colour palette of red, green, yellow and blue, her work is, in part, an homage to the legendary tattoo artist Norman ‘Sailor Jerry’ Collins. Yet Quyen combines those classic old school symbols (such as pin-up girls, hearts, anchors, lucky charms, swallows and roses) with current themes from cinema, cartoons, horror and, of course, the vintage aesthetic beloved of today’s barbershops.
Fawcett’s roving reporter, Cate, caught up with Quyen via a sequence of top secret Trans-Atlantic telegrams…
Good afternoon! Or rather, good morning! It’s a dark, foggy winter evening here in the UK. Where are you right now?
I am in sunny Southern California! I grew up here and am blessed with an amazing work-live loft in the heart of downtown Orange County. It's barber town down here!
Barber town? That sounds rather cool!
Haha. Barbers weren't as cool back in the day as they are now. When I started cutting men's hair, when I was only a kid, barbers were older men in their white smocks in small shops on city corners. Now barbering is a culture adopting a vintage aesthetic of curly staches, dapper fashion, and tattoos. What's not cool about that??
Agreed! Is it through barbering that you came to love tattoos?
I'm pretty sure I was 8 when I decided I was going to be heavily tattooed and ride a motorcycle from watching bikers on TV. The latter never came to fruition but it's never too late!
Who knows maybe the Barbersride will come the US one day! At least you’ve achieved your tattoo ambition. How many do you have?
For years now, I just say I have 1 tattoo as I just consider it as one large, connected tattoo that covers most of my body because I've, honestly, stopped counting. My favorites are the ones on my hands.
How would you describe flash vs custom tattoos and where does your style of art fit?
Flash would be the existing designs on sheets you can choose from versus something you want customized by the artist. I guess my work is both those things. I have my own existing sheets and I also take commissions for custom designs as well.
Do admirers and tattoo artists ask for permission when they want to use your designs on skin?
Oh yes, all the time. It's a great honor.
Your skill is remarkable. And you’re completely self-taught! For aspiring creators who might not have the means for art school, do you have any tips?
I am self-taught, yes. I enjoy the process of researching and discovery. My advice is to be self-efficient and resourceful. If you want to know what materials work best, use them all and see what works best. Don't take anyone's word for it as there is no right or wrong, but rather what's right for you specifically. Think and create outside of the box. Create your own techniques and tailor it to your own preferences and style. When creatives have this approach, they don't need to ask questions or ask for tips as the answers just comes as they experience and discover.
The Captain Fawcett brand evolved in much the same way - play around and see where it takes you! As an artist you’re skilled in the use so many materials from digital drawing to sculpture. Do you have a preferred medium?
I have a favorite for the time being. It's sculpture and dioramas now. Hopefully, I'll get bored of that soon so I can finally move onto (or back) to film!
Oh yes! You studied at film school. The Captain’s Right Hand Man spent many years in the film industry - another thing you have in common with Fawcett! Some of your most popular work is inspired by film, TV and cartoons - what do you watch again and again?
I am currently obsessed with the movie Krampus by Michael Dougherty. I honestly have watched it at least once a day for the past month. Don't judge. Some of my other favorites that I like to put on repeat in the background as I work are Aliens, Predators, Splinter, Coraline, Spirited Away, Paranorman, Charlie Chaplin classics, etc. There are many more that widely range in taste and quality lol!
When you were at film school Hollywood wasn't ready for you! Now there are more platforms for showing work, do you think you might make films on your own terms? What areas interest you?
Yes, I think that's my ultimate goal. There is one story that is significant to tell and that hasn't been told yet in the format of a feature film is the plight of the Vietnamese boat-people. My father's experience alone* is better than most dramas produced nowadays. You've got pirates, you've got engine failure, you've got holes in the hull and the rationing of food and water. You've got drownings, but then a divine dream that foretells a dramatic rescue. Unfortunately, for a movie like this to get produced... I may need Hollywood.
Another potential film would be a dark stop motion short film. This is way more feasible for little old me and You Tube.
What an incredible story! We’ll be queuing round the block - come on Hollywood, we need Quyen Dinh to make this film! So your family escaped Vietnam in the 1970s, after the Fall of Saigon. Does your extraordinary heritage influence your current work too?
I don't believe my own Vietnamese heritage influences my work; rather, it is my love for everything antique and vintage that does. Visually, vintage illustrations have that simplistic aesthetics of boldness and color that I am naturally drawn to and the Americana tattoo style definitely reflects this.
Your love for antique and vintage…sounds familiar! So is that where a certain Captain Fawcett came in?
Haha. Yes! Everything I love about Captain Fawcett loops back to what I said about barbers. The vintage aesthetic, curly staches, dapper style and tattoos. Captain Fawcett is definitely cool!
I second that! Let’s hope this mad world allows a real life meeting one of these days - it’s been a weird couple of years. As you know, the Captain’s motto is ‘Keeping A Stiff Upper Lip Regardless’. What helped you find positives during this crazy pandemic?
I’m fortunate that in my case, the pandemic hasn’t affect me significantly; but, in general, a constant source of peace and joy comes from my faith, family, my work, and just staying true to myself outside of societal and social pressures.
Hear hear! The Captain seconds that quite superb advice…stay true to yourselves chums!