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21st Century Schizoid (Wo)man: Tatiana Kartomten

The illustrator and tattoo artist talks inspirations, drugs and being a woman against authority


Californian illustrator Tatiana Kartomten’s drawings are enchanting, mystical things, with enough details to keep the viewer endlessly captivated. The London-based artist’s intricate illustrations also have a spiritual, psychedelic vibe reminiscent of ’60s and ’70s album cover art. Little wonder, then, that Kartomten’s career includes designing the covers for Ty Segall’s bands Slaughterhouse and Fuzz. As well as creating mind-blowing prints, Kartomten lends her skills to the ink and needle, turning her distinctive drawings into tattoos. Her work was recently on display at the Girls Only show in London, where visitors could also get a stick-n-poke tattoo from the artist herself. Cool Hunting caught up with Kartomten to talk about inspirations, drugs, embroidery and being a woman against authority.


How did you get into drawing, and what do you normally use when you draw?

I’ve been drawing ever since I was little. I wanted to be a fashion designer so I have books filled with fashion designs from when I was a kid. I broke away from that when I went to high school hella stoned and just drew weird shit in my classes all day. I use fine micron pens, usually .005mm, and any paper.

What, or who, influences your art?

My friends, Black Sabbath, marijuana, King Crimson, my boyfriend and the art he shows me (lately a lot of art brut/outsider art), psychedelic mushrooms, Sleep (the band), not being able to sleep, my friends’ music, Mississippi Records mixtapes, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, LSD, alchemy, Abner Jay, hermeticism, the language of tarot, but mostly marijuana and good fucking rock’n’roll.


Could you tell us a bit about working with Segall and how music inspires your work? Are you creating any more album covers?

I met Ty through my best friend Judy and we were all in the same friend group in San Francisco. I worked on a fold-out insert for a 12” for my then boyfriend’s punk band Culture Kids, and I think Ty saw that and a few other illustrations, so he asked me to do the Slaughterhouse cover. It was cool—he gave me the tracks to listen to and said he wanted a crazy screaming face in space without eyeballs. I listened to the album the whole time while drawing the cover.

I feel like music makes life so much better, so I get really into it and there is a weird symbiosis that occurs when I am drawing and listening to music I am really into. That is how the Fuzz cover came about, I was so ecstatic about their music, I guess it inspired me to draw the cover—pre being asked to do so or to use it as the cover. I’m not working on any music covers at the moment, the last one that came out was The Meatbodies 12”.

When did you start tattooing people, and how does that compare with drawing on paper? Your illustrations are so detailed—is that something that you carry into your tattoo work, or is it a different beast completely?

I started tattooing about five years ago when me and my friends in SF would get drunk and do tattoos on each other. We would just use sewing needles and India ink and just stick-n-poke whatever. It’s totally different to drawing on paper, but I do carry over my attention to detail with the tattoos. It’s mostly different because there is another person there and they are fleshy and you’re poking a needle into them.


Anyways I’m a “21st century schizoid (wo)man” against authority.

There’s a retro, ’60s/’70s psychedelic/rock/metal feel to your art, is that an aesthetic that especially appeals to you?

I love the ’60s. I did mushrooms when I was 16 and truly felt a bond with the hippie movement, not to mention I was born in Northern California and my dad loves pot. I spray-painted Bob Dylan’s face and “Chaos is a friend of mine” on the top of my mashed-up Volvo. It also had painted flowers on the side of the car like flames, and a psychedelic space scene on the trunk with Karl Marx as an eagle, the hood was tied down with a huge metal chain. I thought I was a communist and was on a pretty solid diet of pure ’60s psychedelic music. The first time I went to Burning Man, when I was 18, probably solidified my hippie-ness, and it strengthened when I lived in my VW Van for two years and drove around the world. I don’t get why people hate on hippies, I don’t even think they know what it means. Anyways I’m a ’21st century schizoid (wo)man’ against authority.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am doing a lot of embroidery on vintage fabric, basically just putting my illustrations into color thread textile versions. It takes forever.

Images courtesy of Tatiana Kartomten


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